Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Henry Looks American, His FATHER must be American …”

On one of our weekly diaper supply trips to Target, the checkout lady ooed and awed over my chubby little cherub.  People love babies.  They will smile, make faces, ogle, coo, jabber and even tickle a strange baby – all without ever making eye contact with the baby’s caregiver.  The interesting thing is that when someone does look at me, he or she usually has a confused or pensive expression.  Apparently, everyone thinks I’m Henry’s nanny.  The checkout lady was not any different.  She cocked her head, furrowed her brow and asked, “Oh, is he yours?”  She proceeded to tell me that Henry’s father “must be American,” because Henry looked American and didn’t look anything like me.  Isn’t it a requirement to tell a new mother that her baby looks just like her?  I politely smiled and chalked up the “American” comment to ignorance.  She meant well. 

That same day, I pulled into our garage and there was a vagrant loitering outside our stoop drinking a Busch Light and smoking a cigarette.  He showed me his toothless grin, and said “Hi Nanny.”  I was sure I had misheard him, and said “Pardon?”  He said, “You’re the Nanny, right?”  I was irritated.  Twice in one day?!  I sternly said “No, I’m the Mommy” and thought to myself, “if he doesn’t get off my stoop soon I’m calling the cops.”  I can no longer count how many times someone has looked at me with a cocked head and asked, “Wait, is he yours?”          

My parents emigrated from Taiwan, and I was born and raised in New Jersey.  However, throughout my life I’ve been approached by people speaking slowly and loudly asking me things like, “Dooo (pause) Yooou (pause) Knooow (pause) Wheeere (pause) Broooadway (pause) Iiis?”  Why would things change now that I have a son?  Hopefully Henry's resemblance to his "American" father will allow him to avoid these types of confrontations.  And if not, at least he'll have a few good stories to tell.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how if you are not of European descent some people don't think of you as American, without regard to whether you were actually born in America. I was at the doctors office a couple months ago holding my then newborn daughter when a lady standing in line ahead of me asked what my ethnicity was, well what she actually said was, "What are you?" which I then responded with my usual bewildered expression and response "excuse me?" because I get this question often and it never fails to amaze me that people ask me what I am and not what my ethnicity is. I told her I was Hispanic and she then looked back at my newborn child and then preceded to ask what my husbands ethnicity was. I told her he was English, German, and Irish. Her response was, "Oh, so he's American."