Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The "Me, Too"

"You know what's amazing?" Ben said tonight as he was ferrying the dinner dishes into the kitchen.

"What?" I said from my position at the sink, pink gloves up to the elbows in soapy water.

"How many people, when I tell them that we've adopted from Ethiopia, say 'You know,'" and here his voiced deepened with gravity, his face drawn long and ardent, "I'm considering doing the same thing.'"

I set the pot I was scrubbing down into the sink, struck with the realization. "Oh my god," I said. "You're totally right!"

It is incredible how many people, strangers generally, who, when they see a picture of our family or spot Mihiretu on the playground, divulge that they, too, might just adopt a child from Ethiopia. I want to say it's like thirty percent. I love to talk about adoption, both the general idea and our specific experience. I want as many people as possible to adopt if they think it's a fit for their family. I want to be a sounding board for anyone considering the idea. That said, most of the people who tell me they're considering the concept, while well-meaning and perhaps even earnest, are also aware it's a really right-sounding thing to say.

I was sitting at the local ballet studio a few years ago waiting for my little ballerinas to finish class, when I got talking to the mom next to me. One thing led to another and soon I confessed that we were in the process of adopting a child from Africa.

"Oh, I want to do that!" she said, her eyes wide and bright.

She told me that she and her husband have donated a "great deal" of money to the many needs of Africa. She said that they were debating whether to have another biological child or adopt. I, new to this game, immediately met her enthusiasm with my own. I offered the names of the agencies we were using, the details of the process, what I knew of the orphanages in Ethiopia.

"Well," she said, after the chitty-chat had gone back and forth for a good long time. "On the other side of the argument - you know, we got this dog from the pound once -"

Here she seemed to stumble, her confident, breezy stream of talk slightly stymied by this less attractive point.

"Well, the dog wasn't good. It was a mutt, you know, which was great, except that - well, it just didn't work out." She leaned in confidentially. "We had to take him back. And then we got a pure-bred - our dog, Lucky - and it was a WORLD of difference."

"Not that," she eyed my frozen grin. "Not that I'm comparing a child with a dog."

No, I thought, a headache beginning to pound in my temples, my jaw clenched. Of course you're not.

I somehow exited the conversation with my new friend and managed to avoid her for the rest of the class term. A year or so later I ran into her at the market. Mihiretu was seated in my cart, reaching for every can, every apple. She was serenely caressing her rounded belly.

"We didn't end up going in that direction," she said, with a lift of her chin at Mihiretu and a self-satified smile. "But what a cute boy you have! I love his hair!"

She reached out to touch his curls and simultaneously, Mihiretu, perhaps in self-defense, pulled a bottle of olive oil from the shelf and it crashed to the floor between us. She swept back her skirt to avoid the splash, her smile hardening on her face.

"Okay," she said, backing down the aisle. "Good luck!"

I don't know if she meant with the spill or my son. What I do know is that sometimes people are full of shit.


  1. This is spot on. I am far past encouraging anyone to adopt from Ethiopia and will gladly scare them with any crap I can come up with.

    Btw - how have I not known your blog before!!??

  2. Oh if only it had been a bottle of bright red hot sauce that just happened to splatter all over her perfectly ironed skirt...

  3. Love this post. We'll say a prayer for the small-minded woman.

  4. Fantastic post. Too bad the bottle didn't splash her :)