Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three Months Later, I'm Still Awkward

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.


Margaret said...

I can totally understand your hesitation. I was sexually abused by a friend's older brother when I was 11. When I was 30 I was dating someone when the police contacted me about the case (it later went to trial and he was convicted). Anyways when the guy found out that I wasn't a virgin he dumped me. I was no longer "pure". I know realize he was a total jerk but I still see why you would hesitate.


Cami said...

It's hard never knowing how one will react. Just go with your instincts, and if someone likes you less for it, they are worth being your friend.

Hugs sent your way!

The Ogden's said...

you can't look at this as a lost opportunity - there is a learning curve to be considered, you are figuring out the boundaries of your feelings. Your choice and little Roo are too personal and too intimate a subject to not handle delicately. By not mentioning them you made a judgement call on what was appropriate, and that setting didn't feel appropriate to you. Who's to say that a more private conversation with T won't present itself and you can better explain yourself to him then, sans audience. Don't be so hard on yourself, you will have a lifetime of opportunities to tell your story and perfect your delivery. Every time it comes up is a chance for you to learn more about how far your willing to push yourself, take it and learn from it, don't beat yourself up it does no good and changes nothing.


Becky said...

I hardly ever comment, but I read. I don't blame you for clamming up. The vibe that I got from your post is that T might be able to tell that you lied to him but he didn’t want to push it, maybe he can tell you weren’t ready to say anything in front of a group. Maybe once, when you're alone with T if you really feel bad about not telling him about Roo, you can explain to him "You know, I feel terrible for lying about my necklace, I wasn’t ready to tell people in front of a group. I've told people the real meaning behind this and they've reacted badly and I don't want people to think badly about the person this necklace represents. I’m sorry for lying.” See if he says anything.

PS. I loved Elder Scott's talk too.

Kristin said...

Awww. This post and the other from Ireland make me really sad for you. You write so well, I can feel your mixed-up thoughts and feelings. I, too, can relate, on some level, to having such conflicting emotions about when/where/how to divulge personal information I know will change my relationship with people.

Here are some unsolicited thoughts from an internet stranger:
- It is not your responsibility to be an adoption advocate and educator. You have a good read on people, and a good sense, I believe, of knowing how relating your own story will be received. You aren't betraying your precious Roo, her other parents, or yourself by being selective in what you share.
- T sounds like a really great guy. If I were in your shoes and a comfortable moment came up, I would fill him in, including the part about your initial hesitation relating to how D responded. I know you would do this is a way that doesn't disparage D, but that show T how much a knowing supporter in this group of friends would mean to you.
- Every man you meet will not think less of you. The RIGHT man will realize its part of who you are, and love you even more for it.
Best wishes to you.

Savannah said...

I wish I could help. As a prospective adoptive couple, it can be hard to talk about. Why does everyone need to pass judgement so easily? Why can't they open their minds to the beauty that is adoption?
I had one thought while reading your post. Maybe you could say something like "R stands for a very special peron in my life." Maybe that will be enough to satisfy them. If not, then trust you're feelings. I think if Heavenly Father NEEDED someone to her your story to help them in their personal lives, you will know.

LeMira said...

It's only through these awkward moments that we learn and get the courage to speak how we really feel. You'll get there, you will.

Bellatrix and Narcissa said...

I almost cried :(

For what it's worth, I think you should tell T in private, maybe explaining that you were uncomfortable in the large group. It's such a precious thing--I think that would explain your "lie."

You will meet a guy that accepts you as you are (everyone has flaws and a past). You will have friends that love you despite that past, or even because of it... but you have to have faith in people, I think, and give them the chance to be those friends by letting them see the whole you. :)

Sarah Buttenwieser said...

Sometimes I tell people about Saskia & adoption (say when they say she looks just like me...) & sometimes I don't.
Ditto, sometimes when people think my boy is a girl b/c his hair is long I say, "boy" & other times I just let it slide.

I can't educate all the time. I can let things go sometimes unless I don't want let them go... You really aren't letting anyone down. And yet when you want to tell you know you can do.

{ Bethany } said...

Stumbled onto your blog in a roundabout way, and I had to post. I know how you feel...sorta.

I had my first baby really young...contemplated adoption, instead got married to the dad in a gunshot wedding, had another baby, and then promptly got divorced...all before I was 21. So I re-entered the YSA dating field with two kids and a divorce under my belt. And I had plenty of awkward moments when that little 'secret' would come out.

I had plenty of guys go silent, stunned, and then say "well, okay then, gotta go" and never heard from them again. I would think "Well, at least they let me know up front that they're an idiot" but it did hurt. There were group moments of "so what do you do?" question...and I'd say "I'm a stay-at-home mom" and the group would be like, uhhhhh....

Thankfully I had a couple friends who knew and would just laugh whenever it came up, so it helped lighten the mood a bit. My one guy friend thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world to see their faces, and was always anxiously awaiting the next big 'reveal'.

And, in another sorta way, I also know how it feels to wonder if you're disrespecting your baby by not telling about her, or keeping her a secret from some people, or even just waiting awhile to bring her up.

I've since been remarried (to a guy who never got the awkward face!) and have had two more children with was our little boy who died almost two years ago. So when people in public ask how many children I have, I pause and stumble through trying to figure out how I feel that day and if I can handle saying I have a child who died and answering the questions that may come after, or saying I have a child that died and then having the awkward silence and shunned moment, or if this stranger even needs to know, or if I just say '3' and leave it at that, or if its somehow erasing his memory, his life...if I don't shout him from the rooftops, or if he understands that I just couldn't say it out loud today.

After two years, I'm more adept at dealing with this. I've learned that I just take it one person, one moment at a time. I say I have 4 children if I feel like it. I go into details if I feel like it. I keep him locked in my heart if I feel like it. I keep him protected from those who won't understand or appreciate him. I protect MY heart from those who can't handle it. I seek out those who CAN and DO and LOVE me, and I keep them close around me.

So I just want to say...its never going to be a cut and dry answer. Its never going to be easy...and those awkward moments won't ever go completely away, even when you are 100% confident about it, and just fine. There will always be people who just can't handle it and will push it/you away.

But one of these days, it'll feel right to share her with someone, and he'll smile and ask more about her, and tell you he respects you so much, and that he loves you. And then all those awkward moments will be worth it. Just remember that all the rest of the idiots are saving you from wasting your time with them, so you can find the one who'll smile. :)

Also, I know you love your necklace, but maybe on days when you know you're going to be around a lot of people, and you don't feel like bringing her up, you could wear a different that still represents her, but maybe in a less obvious way. Like two hearts linked together, or her birthstone, or a pearl (since she's as precious), etc. If that feels wrong (which I totally understand if it does) then just ignore this. I just thought I'd throw it out there in case it helped. There's nothing wrong with protecting your sweet little girl, your pearl, from swine who would just cast her life and story away without truly understanding and caring. Some people don't deserve to know.

Mary said...

Divulging personal information IS tricky because, like you said, not everyone is going to understand and people can be judgmental. I think you should trust your instincts and tell T in private when the time "feels" right.