Right before I got out of work on Thursday, I had a conversation that both baffled me and made me want to smack someone at the same time. Luckily it happened a few minutes before 5:00, which is when I leave. See, I have a photo of Arianna on my desk. It's been there since the day I started working at this company, and I love having it there. It makes me smile throughout the day. Every now and then someone will walk by and say "she's adorable, who is she?" and I usually just say "my daughter," and for the most part, they keep it moving. I went back and forth about whether or not I should keep the photo there, because (a) simply saying "my daughter" leads them to believe that I am raising her, and there is a huge risk of someone asking me something later on down the road that I cannot answer... (b) it is usually not the time nor the place to go into the 'adoption' discussion because I've realized that people either give you that sympathetic look, become extremely awkward and don't know what to say, or a mix of both... and (c) I refuse to lie and say "my niece" or something along those lines. I'm proud of her, I love her, and I feel that if I want to have a photo of her on my desk then I will have a photo of her on my desk. I don't discuss much of my personal life at work - I'm not really friends friends with any of the girls there, so we usually keep it professional and we don't have much time for joking around anyway.
So - back to Thursday. A woman, who is probably in her late 40's/early 50's, came over to my desk to ask me to look up a case on my computer. As I was doing it, she said "who is THIS!? She is beautiful! Look at her hair!," and I said thank you and told her it was my daughter. (This is usually followed up with - "oh, what's her name?" or "how old is she?" and that's that.) This woman said "I didn't know you had a daughter!" I just sort of smiled at her and kept looking for the case. By that, I mean, I just let her talk, because she was talking so much I couldn't get a word in anyway. She was being so nice, talking about how cute her smile is and just throwing compliments out left and right. She asked me how old she was; I told her one and a half. She asked me her name, I told her the name that her a-parents gave to her. After all, that is her name now. She asked me what her dad looked like, because she didn't look much like me. Meanwhile, thoughts were spinning around in my head because I kept thinking, 'I need to tell her...but I'm so afraid to make it awkward..' but before I could even say it, she says "Is she really your child!? I just never knew you had a baby. You never talk much about her at all - like, you never say 'motherly' things!" and then she leaned in and whispered, "plus, you look too young to have a baby, you know?" That right there sort of flicked a switch in my head and I got defensive. I am 24 years old. Is that on the young side to be a mother? I guess so - ideally I wish I had waited til I was 28 or maybe even 30 to have my first child, but that does not make me too young to have a child. I know plenty of girls my age that have 6, 7, 8 year olds. I didn't even know how to respond to her, other than to use that as my opportunity to tell her the truth. I told her that my little girl was adopted, and we are not raising her. The look on this woman's face went from judgmental to 'oh shit' in 10 seconds or less. She apologized up and down for the things she had said; and I told her that she did not need to apologize, because she didn't know. I knew she didn't know, so it was fine. She kept saying she never would have pushed the issue of me not talking much about her, had she known. I told her not to worry, and I meant it. It would have been one thing if she had known - but how could she have known? She never would have said those things if she had known. I knew that. So I told her over and over not to worry.
She carried the conversation on, asking me if her dad (she meant birth father) is still in my life or not, etc. I didn't go into much with her...I just told her that he and I speak when it has to do with her, and that's it. She asked me how I get the pictures, and I told her that we keep in fairly close touch and talk regularly. This is where the conversation gets stupid. She asks, "how do you keep in touch? I mean, how do you communicate with them?" I told her, "Facebook, email, phone, and skype, for now." After I said this, she gave me this crazy look and made that infamous 'hummmpf' noise and said, "Wow, that's odd. Usually they want the parents to go away, and I can see why...so they can really raise them as their own" and she sort of giggled. My blood instantly started boiling and I know I was bright red. I did not even know how to respond to her. Do I try to educate this woman on how ignorant she is being? I didn't really want to go down that road, especially not at 4:58pm. I wanted to leave, right then. I get that she is older, and when she was my age (or younger) a lot of adoptions worked that way. Women signed the papers and never heard from the adoptive family again. I also realize that I am probably naive to a lot of things that others are passionate about and could innocently say something that could be portrayed as ignorant simply because I honestly don't know any better. But I don't see any excuse whatsoever - whether you aren't familiar with a certain subject, or you truly believe what you are saying - to look someone in the eye, someone who just told you they placed their child for adoption, and tell them that it's odd that they are kept in their child's life because you wouldn't want that person in your child's life if you didn't birth your child.
Maybe she meant no harm by the comment, I don't know. I can't see how she didn't, but whatever. I will never look at her the same way again. I was cursing myself the whole way home, because I brought it on myself by having her photo on my desk. I promised myself I would take it home with me the next day so I wouldn't have to deal with stupid comments anymore. Then I realized that, no, I would not be taking the picture down. No, she isn't "mine" mine, but she will always be mine. Makes no sense, right? Except it does make sense. I should be able to have her photo there, in the privacy of my own desk, if it makes me happy...and it does make me happy. Regardless of the stupid, ridiculous comment she made.