Recently at work I was asked one of the most ignorant things I have ever been asked by a customer. I have a tattoo of a date on my forearm and lots of people ask me if it’s my birthday. One day I was ringing a woman through and she asked me what the date on my arm was for, I told her that it was the date of my adoption.
Here’s a little context: My sister and I are from Taiwan, we were adopted separately and just by coincidence, we are blood related. My sister was born in 1988 in Taipei where my parents adopted her and brought her back to Holland where they were posted. Three years later the woman who set up my sisters adoption had a cancelled flight and was stuck in Holland. My parents put her up for the night and expressed their interest to adopt another baby. When the lady flew back to Taiwan she had lunch with one her friends who also worked at an agency and just so happened to know a family who had to give up a baby. That baby was me. Turns out the family had already given up a baby three years before and that baby was my sister. So of course my parents jumped at the opportunity to adopt me and raise me with my sister.
I told the story to this customer and when I was finished she stood there silently, putting her credit card back in her wallet, looked up at me and said “what was it like growing up without a real mother?” I was taken aback by this question because no one has ever asked me that question before. I just stood there with my mouth open wondering if maybe I heard her question wrong, not sure if she was actually expecting an answer. She eventually walked away from me, I suppose the awkward silence was too much for her.
My parents raised me and loved me like any parent would with their children. They gave me a life my “real” parents couldn’t. I think back to that day and think about what I should have said to that lady in my store. I get rattled and angry when I think about how this woman has such nerve to go up so strangers asking these ignorant questions and not even realizing that it’s rude. I find myself getting upset even writing about this. Should I have responded? Would I have gotten in trouble if I got defensive and upset because I should be professional at work?
My question is: how would you have handled this situation while at work?