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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Are you going to tell her?"

I'm a Stay-at-Home Dad who doesn't get out much. I have everything I need at home: computer, video games, TV, food and beer. I'm not big on social events and I'm lousy when having conversations with strangers. The world will continue to spin whether I'm involved in it or not. On the rare occasion that I do venture out of the house, I have been subject to some awkward situations.

The first thing people see when my daughter Elena and I go outside is a giant white dude with a Chinese baby. I get stared at a lot. Especially by unsmiling, older Asian women. People sometimes come up to me and ask about her origins. These are the social situations that I respect and enjoy. It's a subject that I'm comfortable with and can talk at length about. I don't mind discussing it with strangers.

So a few women (they are always women) have asked me "Is she yours?" or "Are you the Mommy today?" (as if I couldn't possibly be the primary caregiver since I'm the wrong gender...but that's another gripe that I'll get to in a future blog.) One lady asked "What country did you adopt her from?" Perfect. Right to the point. Look, it's obvious that the kid wasn't designed with my DNA. Anyone that puts it this bluntly is going to win more brownie points than someone who dances around the subject because they are afraid of being "offensive."

It is very difficult to offend me. But a hair stylist came close...(question - If a hair stylist only charges $15 for a haircut, do I still call her a hair stylist?) A few months ago I went by myself to get a haircut. I had never met this particular hair stylist before, although I had often been to the shop. She looked to be in her early fifties and Middle-Eastern. Nice, welcoming smile. Looked like she'd been cutting hair for a long time.

I sat down in the chair and told her how I wanted my hair done. Before the scissors even touched my scalp her mouth opened.

And so it began:

"Do you have any kids?" she asked.

I smiled politely and replied "Yes I do. We just adopted a baby from China a few months ago. She's 13 months old now."

"Really?" She stopped cutting my hair. "Why did you adopt? You can't have your own children?"

"Well..."

"You are still young. You should have kept trying."

"It's okay. We really love our baby."

"Hmm. You should have your own child next time."

"Next time?"

"Your next child. You should have it naturally"

"I don't think we're going to have anymore kids. We're happy with just this one."

"You cannot have just one baby," she said, wagging the comb in my face. "It's not right. You must have at least two. Have you tried any medicines?"

"Uh...."

"You know where you should go to get treatment?" Uh-oh...and remember, she had only just STARTED the haircut.

"Listen, I really don't need any..."

"India."

"I'm sorry?"

"India has the best Fertilization Clinic in the world. You and your wife should go there for a month or two and..."

At this point, I think I burst out laughing. She looked REALLY pissed off, but this conversation was just getting too weird. So I tried again. "Look, we're fine with one kid. We don't want anymore."

"You should have adopted from Russia then. They have better kids there."

"We're okay."

The hair stylist went back to cutting my hair. Both of us were quiet for about 10 minutes. I could tell that she was seething and really wanted to ask me something.

And then she did.

"Are you going to tell her?" she asked, finally.

"Tell her what?"

"That she's adopted."

"Um, I don't think I can hide that from her since I'm a big white guy. My wife is Asian, but I don't think..."

"You cannot tell her."

"I don't think it's fair to keep that a secret from her."

"You said your wife is Asian, right?"

I nodded.

"Just say that your wife cheated on you with an Asian guy. Or tell her that your wife was married before."

I laughed again. "So it's better to tell her that her mother's a prostitute than to tell her the truth?"

"Yes. Your child should never know. It's not right to tell her."

This is a true story. And the haircut sucked.

NOTE: In the future if my daughter ever asks you who her "Real" daddy is, tell her "Some Asian guy." Furthermore, if YOU happen to be an Asian male and my daughter ever calls you "Daddy" just roll with it.

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