Daily Archives: April 15, 2010

A Conversation about Hair

So Mom and I play Mah Jong at a café in downtown Portland. It’s kind of on the edge of a fringy area and the clientele run the gamut from homeless folks, to hipsters, to young families. Frankly it’s not my most favorite place in the city. Mostly because it’s a bit loud and the bathrooms really do smell like crack cocaine (years of living in New York have helped me identify this smell. Trust me I know what crack smells like). We play with a very weird crowd. Some of these have become my favorite people in Portland. Some haven’t.  I was playing Maj with someone who is in the “not my favorite category” when a woman walked in with a giant head of dreadlocks. She was a kind of grungy looking white chick.

This is where I digress and talk ad nauseum about how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE locks. I am a white girl with lock-envy. Everybody who knows me knows this. I think they are beautiful! Beautiful. I would have dreads but frankly they wouldn’t work on me. My hair is crazy super fine and I might be able to muster up one single lock- and that would not work. Also you know how parents have these little fantasies about what their kid will look like and how they will dress? They think “I can’t wait to dress them up in little dresses” or to wear their favorite sport teams t-shirt. Mine mostly involves little kids with locks (of coarse at an appropriate age).

SO back to the story- this woman (again not my fav) started bitching about this woman’s locks. She was kind of going on and on and on about how she really hates them on everybody (not just the grungy girls). Her rant was making the table increasingly uncomfortable, because it had a bit of a racist bent. That’s when I thought to myself “how the hell do I make this woman Shut the Hell UP?!?” Also, she has no idea that we are in the process of adopting a kid from Ethiopia. I tell everybody these days-but I don’t think she knows. If she did she may have been more sensitive (or not).

For those of you who don’t know me- I am loud and bossy (but also pretty nice). This is how I reacted—I basically talked over her and said “oh my gawd you are SO wrong. I LOVE locks. I talked at length about how much I love them, bla bla bla. (with a giant smile on my face). then finally said I CAN”T WAIT to lock my kids hair…when they come home from Ethiopia!  The woman looked at me- seriously mouth agape. HA HA I shut her up in the nicest possible way.

It was a good test for me. I know I am going to have a ton of these kinds of conversations. My goal isn’t to show anger, because I would hate for my future child to misinterpret that, as he/she is the cause of that anger. My goal is to deal with it using humor and a smile.

Portland really is one of the least ethnically diverse places I have lived (other than maybe the town I grew up in and left as soon as I could). Consequently people can assume that it’s “okay” to make these little comments. It’s a nudge nudge wink wink kind of thing. I have always bristled against it. Portland’s lack of diversity really drives me fucking crazy. That and its totally overzealous arcane recycling rules are the two things that have made me not feel a little uneasy here. Really it’s the lack of diversity. The arcane recycling rules are just annoying.

My reaction to this woman’s comments would have been the same whether or not we were adopting from Ethiopia. Which to me, made me feel really good. I didn’t over react or under react. I was just a good way for me to test my reaction to these things. I would love to hear from other transracial families on how they react to ignorant comments from strangers!