I've written before about my necklace. I love my necklace. I still wear it every day. I still fidget with it when I'm feeling thoughtful or anxious or if I just need something for my fingers to do.
I only wrote about the instance in Ireland, but I've actually had several people ask me about my necklace, or comment on it at least. I started a post almost two months ago about one such instance, but I never finished it. I meant to. But then I went to the FSA conference, and one of the classes I took was on who to tell, and when, and how. By tell, I mean, tell your adoption story. I was excited to take the class because of the time in Dublin when I explained my story so poorly. I was eager for any advice that I could get. And after the class, I felt empowered, and I thought to myself that I wasn't going to bother finishing the post, because the awkwardness I'd been writing about wasn't something to be repeated - I knew how to speak confidently about my story and my decision, and the next time it came up, I would look the person in the eye and tell them, with a smile, that I placed a baby for adoption a year ago.
I've known myself as long as I can remember. I should know myself better than to think that an hour of "People take their cues from you" would keep me from making a cake of myself.
I was with a group of friends (mostly guys) after a fireside tonight, and we were all sort of standing around and talking, the way that young people like to do when many of them are gathered in one place. I was shifting my weight from one foot to the other (because for me standing in high heels is more painful than walking in them), and had just become aware of a slight lull in the conversation when my friend T, who had been talking, caught sight of my necklace. I suppose when I shifted the light hit it just right for him to notice.
"That's a pretty necklace" he said.
It caught me off guard. I think that's part of the problem. After all, NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition.
"Oh, thanks," I said. Please, please, please don't ask about it, I thought. T is a nice enough guy that I think he would be cool about things, but it wasn't just T listening - there were probably six other people listening. Five of them were men. What was I supposed to say if T asked?
I did learn a thing or two at the class on talking about adoption, and so anymore, if it comes up, I will tell women a brief version of my story. Women feel safe to me. Even if they think I'm a dumb skank, they'll school their faces into polite smiles and pretend they like me just the same. But men? Men are much scarier. Men are unpredictable.
Don't ask, don't ask, I thought.
"Who's it for? Does it mean anything?" T asked.
He seemed genuinely interested. And he is a genuinely nice guy. The truth was on the tip of my tongue. My audience seemed like nice enough people. I was thisclose to telling him ... except that another guy friend, D, was a few feet away, in another group of people. And before I could explain my necklace to T, I remembered what had happened with D.
I wrote about it in my scrapped post. I was talking to D and two female friends, one of whom happens to be a labor and delivery nurse - MY labor and delivery nurse. Small world, right? Anyway. My nurse friend mentioned something about epidurals, and without thinking I blurted out that the hardest part is holding still for it in the middle of a contraction. D and my other friend looked puzzled.
"I had a baby last year, I don't know if you knew that," I said.
D had a look on his face like a pig that knows it's dinner. "I did not know that," he said.
And ever since then, for six weeks now, D has been distinctly awkward around me. He's a huge flirt, but he hasn't once flirted with me. The ease of our old conversations is gone. It doesn't seem to matter what I've done with my life in the past year, how much better I have become. It feels like D will never be able to get past the fact that I had a baby.
All this flashed through my mind in about two seconds while I formulated a response to T's question.
Does it mean anything? he'd asked.
"Um, sort of. I mean, no." I blurted out.
"What does the R stand for?" he persisted.
I don't know what happened after that. I just ... I couldn't do it.
"Nothing. It stands for nothing," I said. Liar! I thought. R is for Roo, sweet little Roo!
T turned to A, the only other woman in the group. "Is she lying?" he asked.
A shrugged. She didn't know. T questioned me with his eyes.
"The R stands for Richard," I said, picking on a guy to my left. "We're secretly married."
That got laughs out of a few people, and T said that if he were married, he wouldn't hide it, but that he wouldn't want to be married to Richard, because Richard is a man.
The attention shifted, and I breathed a little easier. But only for a few seconds. Because once again, I've let myself - and Roo - down. And the more I think about it, the more I find that I WANT to tell T. Because he is such a nice guy. He'd probably say something like, "Oh, that's so cool!" and ask me maybe two questions, and then move on to something else.
But I couldn't tell him. Because D seemed like such a nice guy, too, and now I think he thinks much less of me than before, and doesn't like me as much, and our friendship just isn't the same. I would hate it, absolutely hate it, if the same thing happened with T.
What on earth is wrong with me? Why can't I just say it? Why can't I just tell people the R stands for the name of someone I love very much. The person I love more than anyone else in the world. I wouldn't have to get detailed. I could even honorably dodge the question by saying the necklace was a gift from people I love dearly, and the R is one of their initials.
Argh. I am angry with myself. I had a chance to promote adoption - to maybe change people's minds, or to at least open them - and I blew it. I made Roo out to be something shameful. Why did I do that? Why do I STILL do that? I am not ashamed of Roo, or my decision. I love the former and I'm proud of the latter. Why can't I just tell people?
I wonder if it's too late. What if, next time I see T, I ask him if he still wants to know about my necklace? I could tell him, explain that I just didn't feel comfortable sharing it with everyone who was with us when he asked the first time. Would he understand? Or would my initial dishonesty keep shame as the most important thing? Will he understand why I didn't tell him when he asked? Or will he wonder why I didn't just tell him?
My problem is, I think, that I just don't know how people are going to respond. My problem is that I know that most guys can't handle it. My problem is that even though people might mostly react based on how I tell them (they'll be cheerful if I am, etc), they've all still got prejudices, preconceived notions.
I know I need to just let it go, but I think, the timing of being asked tonight was actually pretty good. The fireside that we'd been at was given by one of my church leaders, Elder Richard G Scott, and in his talk he had actually mentioned adoption specifically (I'm working on a post about it). So how perfect would that have been? I could have tied my story into what Elder Scott said about couples using adoption to find the spirits that were meant to join their families (it really was a beautiful talk, y'all should look it up - here's the *link*).
But I let the chance pass me by, and now I don't know what to do. And I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to get past this fear I have that every man I meet is going to think less of me for having had a child.