Can we have a new thread about irritating people?

(49 Posts)
Devora Fri 23-May-14 00:16:08

Me, my kids, on the bus.

Random stranger: Where she from? [indicating dd2]
Me: I beg your pardon?
RS: She from Africa? What do you call her - half caste?
Me [flummoxed]: Er, she's dual heritage yes.
RS: Where from then? Africa?
dd2: I'm not from Japan!
Me: Um, no, from Jamaica [kicks self for engaging]
RS: My son is her age, he's half caste, but he's much whiter than her. Lovely pale skin.
Me: [speechless with anger]
dd2: I'm not from Japan!
Me [desperately trying to assert control over situation): That's right, dd, we're lots of different things in our family but none of us are Japanese.
RS: She adopted?
dd2: Yes, I'm adopted.
Me: I'm not being rude, but-
RS [interrupting, indicating dd1]: She your real daughter?
Me: They're both my real daughters. I am their real mum. And here's our bus stop. Goodbye, Random Stranger.

I handled it so badly - really weakly. Spent the walk home devising good lines to take with the girls: "I'm sorry but that's private", or just "Ask my mum". But I still find it a real struggle when strangers launch in like this: I find it so very hard to appear rude, even though I know I'm not.

But why on earth does anyone imagine this kind of conversation is appropriate? And on the bus? And in a very loud voice so everyone else listens in? angry

BeingAMummyIsFabulous Fri 23-May-14 00:34:26

I am totally amazed by this and disgusted at how rude and tackless people can be. I thought you handled this very well considering the constant bombardment of rude intrusive questions. I cannot believe still that people do not know when to be quiet and keep opinions to themselves. I do hope your two DDs are not affected by this. I would have acted no differently to how you did under the circumstance.

Lilka Fri 23-May-14 00:41:51

shock angry Unbelievable, and totally unacceptable

Sending much wine, cake, sympathy and a hug if you want one. What a horrid experience

Also, who even says "half-caste" any more?? People who think "lovely pale skin" is better than lovely dark skin, clearly hmm

It's really hard to handle these situations sometimes, don't beat yourself up about this. Your last answer to her was great! You can practice certain lines just in case but it's not the same as being put on the spot

On the intrusive "where's she from" question, what would you think to answering:

"Where's she from?"
"She's from London (or her county of birth if it wasn't London)"

you can say this in a polite and friendly voice (or not, as you please!) and then refuse to answer in any more detail. You can act bemused if necessary. It's a true answer but avoids engaging on anything more than a very superficial level

ScarlettSahara Fri 23-May-14 00:47:38

Hi OP. What a crass random stranger who probably did not intend to cause distress and whose brain does not check what comes out of the mouth! I agree with being a mummy you handled it far better than you think. Well done!

ScarlettSahara Fri 23-May-14 00:50:14

Good suggestions there Lilka smile

angry angryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangryangry

Devora I am gob-smacked!! On just about every level so offensive. I know it is so easy to say later but I think I would pretend I could hear my phone ringing and just say, 'oh I've got to take this call!' I know it is cowardly but short of saying 'F off you loon' I am not sure what else to say! I guess better to stop it early on...

RS: She from Africa? What do you call her - half caste?
Me: She's from here

RS: She from Africa? What do you call her - half caste?
Me: Where are you from?

Let's not spend the whole journey talking about me!

Or claiming a blocked ear -I can't hear a thing today!


Devora, sorry I just realised I copied that offensive comment out twice in my post, apologies! I do think you handled it well.

I just thought the blocked ear and phone idea might work too! My father once used a glasses cases as a pretend walkie talkie when driving to 'psych out' a bad driver and make them think he was a police officer! I am just into my props!

prumarth Fri 23-May-14 07:40:32

God! Why, why, why would anyone think that's an appropriate conversation? I'm not sure you can ever anticipate and therefore answer downright rudeness like this. Frankly the only response is "you are a knob"!

LastingLight Fri 23-May-14 07:44:03

Oh no Devora, I can't believe how insensitive people can be! I also think you handled it well under the circumstances. Another possible reply could be "How interesting that you think you have the right to ask that question".

combusti Fri 23-May-14 07:46:10

No surprises- there are people like this everywhere. OP you are right- you shouldn't have engaged.

RhinosAreFatUnicorns Fri 23-May-14 08:41:40

How insensitive can people be. I honestly don't know whether they think that is acceptable, or their brain just doesn't engage with their mouth.

I think you did handle it really well actually.

OurMiracle1106 Fri 23-May-14 09:57:33

Real daughter? They are your real child (and this is coming from a birth mum)

I think she was very very rude tbh.

Polkadotpatty Fri 23-May-14 09:59:17

Wow. Just wow. I am offering a less polite option than the above nicer posters:

Me to DDs: do you remember how we discussed not talking to strangers / always being kind to other people? (I would continue along these lines Very Loudly ignoring the random idiot and shaming them as far as is possible. It probably wouldn't sink in to the random, but it means your fabulous DSs hear your voice instead, and so does everyone else on the bus.)

Hugs to you, it sounds hideous.

MyFeetAreCold Fri 23-May-14 10:24:46

I like to think I'd have gone with a Lilka-type suggestion of a 'London' delivered so witheringly the RS was forced to get off the bus at the next stop.

But someone who thinks this convo is appropriate probably isn't about to shrivel up in the face of a hard MyFeet stare. I'm not sure anything you might have said or done would have stopped this fool.

How awful though.

CateBlanket Fri 23-May-14 10:30:15

Have a Dd adopted from overseas so I feel your pain. After much trial and error, I've come to realisation that there is no point being rude or sarcastic because our children pick up on this and can start to feel as though there is something wrong with them because of the way we respond rather than the Random Stranger's question.

So if a RS asks me where DD is from, I will give the name of the city closest to our village because that's where DD feels she belongs. I have cultivated a pleasant tone and brief smile which manages to convey that the conversation ends there. Practice in front of the mirror!

If RS asks if she is adopted, I reply "she's my daughter". No further engagement.

DD is 8 and I've discussed this with her; she doesn't want to respond to RS herself and is happy with my brief replies and knows that if the time comes when she doesn't want me to even give that much info, I will be happy to tell RS "that's a personal question".

TulipsfromAmsterdam Fri 23-May-14 11:07:33

Some people are just stupid and she sounds like one of them. She probably got of that bus and never gave the conversation another thought while you are left thinking about how you should have handled it differently and will for a while.
I have been in similar position when we were fostering our ds before we adopted. A nosy cow asked if ds was mine and as we knew he would be soon just said yes, she looked at me then said he must have been a suprise, how old are you. As a mature mum I found myself answering her honestly and then spent days angrily wondering why I even responded! Probably because we were in a lift so didnt want to be rude unlike her.....

fasparent Fri 23-May-14 11:42:52

Had two problems DS when too school in dreadlock's, sent home with letter from governor ( was tory MP letter written on Parliamentary note paper) too the effect that he was brought up in the UK his cultural hair style was in breach of school policy. We took it to race relations who ruled school was institutional racist. Thing is we knew the care and attention required by him for his hair style would be short lived, and would be his choice.

DD had problems with name calling off students , came home asked for a
ATLAS. Took it into school and gave a class assembly Geography lesson
as too where Pakistan and Jamaica were positioned and their cultures, she is very academic and no one's fool. Never had any problems from then on. Is now a Charted accountant

Barbadosgirl Fri 23-May-14 16:55:28

People actually scare me with their ignorance. It does worry me a bit how I will deal with it (I am white and my husband is black and my terror of people being racist or inappropriate with my future children began long before our adoption journey). When people say these things I sort of go into a 40 second delay because my brain cannot compute what I am hearing. A client once told me that the reason his tenant was being so difficult was because he was black and even "blacks did not want to rent to blacks, it said so on that BBC documentary". I just spluttered ineffectually. Lame, I know but I don't think my mind could accept that someone was actually saying something so utterly outrageous. I am usually known for my sharp retorts but there is something about that kind of talk which makes my blood run cold and stops me in my tracks. Nice tips from this thread. I like the point that you want to be no nonsense and brief in your responses without upsetting your children. My other fear is I will lose it completely and give them the full weight of my usual instinct to generally lambast and be withering!

Barbadosgirl Fri 23-May-14 16:55:47

Ps- half caste?!!!?!!!

Kewcumber Fri 23-May-14 18:52:31

DS was once asked when he was 3 by RS "Where are you from?"


She looked quizzically at me and I smiled and said nothing.

I find "why do you ask" works on many levels but to be honest she sounds so stubbornly rude and thick I think probably there are only two ways of dealing with people like, though both require props:

a) wet fished applied sharply to the back of the head
b) a blanket draped gently over someones head as they're talking does tend to shut them up - I gather it works with budgies too probably because they have similar brain power.

I would have been tempted to not answer her but instead to say to one of both of your girls - "Do you want to discuss this with this stranger or is it something we should keep private?"

I have often been caught out but try to practice my response afterwards because you just know it will happen again sooner or later.

Devora Fri 23-May-14 18:54:02

She was black, Barbadosgirl (btw my other half is Bajan). Which shouldn't make it harder but it does.

Thanks for excellent advice and much-appreciated sympathy, everyone. It is of course doubly hard when dc are there because it is of course even harder for them to work out how to respond. So dd said she was adopted, and I couldn't then find a way of closing that down without implying she should keep it a secret. But she was upset when we got off the bus: not so much by the adoption thing, but by the woman trying to guess her ethnic origin. She said, "I didn't like the lady asking where I was from." She's only 4, FFS. I hate it how often my kids are put in the position of explaining how they can be sisters when they've got different colour skin, how can two women have babies, why didn't dd2's mum want her etc etc. Other children I can understand (or rather, try to force myself to understand); adults I could cheerfully murder.

Barbadosgirl Fri 23-May-14 19:18:32

Note to self: ensure always carry wet fish in bag for slappage. Love it!

Ah, Devora, lovely to have a Bajan other half, no? I feel like I have been given this lovely gift of a second home and culture as well as an awesome husband.

Sorry to hear your children got upset. I just wish people understood the effect of the things they say!

CateBlanket Fri 23-May-14 19:21:16

Debora - have you heard about the Wise Up work book/course to help adopted children work through their feelings and chose their responses?

namechangesforthehardstuff Fri 23-May-14 19:54:54

It's so hard to think of a response when your brain is going 'is this person actually SAYING this?' One of DH's colleagues used the 'n' word a few months ago and he had to go and speak to him afterwards because at the time he was just gobsmacked and couldn't react. Don't beat yourself up because of her rudeness.

And in answer to your thread title, yes, let's do that because I am telling MIL this week smile

KristinaM Fri 23-May-14 21:35:11

Devora , you need to do the wise course

LOL at " we are lots of things in our family but none of them is Japanese " . So true ....

TheLastThneed Fri 23-May-14 22:39:34

People can be so bloody rude and thoughtless sometimes...

Wolfiefan Fri 23-May-14 22:47:14

Yes Thneed has it right. This is not irritating. It goes way beyond that!
Half Caste? WTF! Anyone else love the poem of the same name? (Not a racist poem but the poet talking to someone who called him this. I love it!)
You are a family. Who needs more info?!?!

namechangesforthehardstuff Fri 23-May-14 22:54:17

Is it by John Agard? I LOVE him. I've seen him read his stuff live. He is AMAZING.

namechangesforthehardstuff Fri 23-May-14 22:56:39

Excuse me
standing on one leg
I�m half-caste.

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when Picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather?
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem don�t want de sun pass
ah rass?
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony?

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah looking at yu wid de keen
half of mih eye
an when I�m introduced to yu
I�m sure you�ll understand
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu must come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
an de whole of yu mind.

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story.

MissBlake Sat 24-May-14 16:45:29

I am furious just reading about this, can only imagine how you feel.
I am not at all suprised at the ignorance though. I volunteer at a childrens charity working with children with down syndrome. I once heard a mother asking her child to step away from us as "she might catch it". We encounter this sort of attitude alot.

Its so hard to remain calm in this situation, its so stressful. I always try my best to avoid any kind of conversation because we all know how nosy these people can be. They think nothing of how devastating it is for the child, who despite what they think is listening to it and taking it in. It is so wrong.

Even though this a different situation to yours, the end result is the same. People need to take some responsibilty for thier ignorance.

Lilka Sat 24-May-14 17:06:31

I love that poem. Seen videos of John Agard, he is fantastic

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 24-May-14 17:19:21

I always think of the correct riposte about 2 mins after awkward situations - I'm usually too gobsmacked that the inappropriate conversation is actually happening...

angryangryangry On behalf of your and your DD

Kewcumber Sat 24-May-14 17:25:26

MissBlake shock that anyone seriously thinks you might be able to catch Downs SYndrome - thankfully you can't catch stupid either though sometimes I am convinced it contagious

CalamityKate1 Sat 24-May-14 17:32:19

"She your real child?"

You (enthusiastically) "No! She's actually a hologram! Isn't it marvellous?! You'd never know, would you?!"

Devora Sat 24-May-14 18:38:33

Calamity, that's brilliant!

Trooperslane Sat 24-May-14 18:44:23

Fucking HELL. How rude! thanksthanksthanksbrewbrewbrew And now winewinewine for you OP.

FFS. Arseholes.

Devora Sat 24-May-14 19:18:33

I'm off to google Wise Up - many thanks for that lead. First just tipping my cap to John Agard - much loved in this house (along with country and western music blaring out of rum shops, sundowners on the stormy East coast, and the buffet at Atlantis wink to Barbadosgirl).

Devora Sat 24-May-14 19:20:31

OK, I googled Wise Up and got all kinds of interesting things (handrolled cigarettes, Julian Assange, community projects in Northants) but nothing about adopted children. Any advice on how to find it?

CateBlanket Sat 24-May-14 21:18:51

"The 'W.I.S.E. Up!' tool: empowering adopted children to cope with questions and comments about adoption.
Singer E.
Author information

Families of adopted children and the children themselves are not strangers to intrusive questions about private information, such as "Is that your real child (or mother)?" and "Why did your mother give you away?" While the questions may be benign, they can be uncomfortable to handle and harmful to a child's self-esteem. To counteract this, The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) in Maryland has developed an empowering tool for adoptive children and their families. The "W.I.S.E. Up!" tool is based on the premise that adoptive children are wiser about adoption than peers who are not adopted. The tool uses the acronym W.I.S.E. to teach children four options for responding to uncomfortable questions: W (walk away), I (ignore or change the subject), S (share what you are comfortable sharing), and E (educate about adoption in general). Nurses can assist adoptive families by introducing them to this empowering tool"

Devora - the book is available on Amazon for £57 (gulp!). I have a copy and if I can dig it out will be happy to scan it in and email it to you if you're interested.

CateBlanket Sat 24-May-14 21:26:17

You can have a quick look here

It's published by the Center for Adoption Studies and Education - you can buy it from them for $15 and they ship to UK.

Kewcumber Sat 24-May-14 21:39:41

I know OASIS do wise up courses occasionally I hope to send DS on one as he is about the right age for it. I think DD2 probably too young but I'm sure it's informative for parents too.

CateBlanket Sat 24-May-14 22:26:03

Do OASIS still do them, Kew? I went on one when DD was a baby - it's where I got the book - and it was useful for me. DD would benefit from it now but I let my membership lapse.

MerryInthechelseahotel Sat 24-May-14 22:43:14

devora I am so going to steal that line I'm not from Japan!

RS where's he from?
Me he's not from Japan
RS his skin is half caste
Me he is not from Japan
RS is he adopted?
Me not from Japan

Anything any RS says just deny any connection with Japan not that there is anything wrong with Japan grin

Kewcumber Sat 24-May-14 23:05:22

I haven't seen one recently but they certainly had one a few years ago aimed at children. Perhaps I'll contact them as I feel DS would probably benefit from it prior to starting secondary school.

Devora Sat 24-May-14 23:37:18

PMSL @ Merry. Strangely, dd2 has a weird fixation on Poland at the moment. She's never been there; none of us have ever been there; there's no family connection. But she tells me earnestly that it's her favourite country in the whole wide world.

Today was a better day. dd2 asked to go through her memory box and I ended up telling her about her half-siblings. dd1 was very upset to hear that dd2 has half-siblings: "She'll love them more than she loves me!" dd2 leant over to dd1, patted her knee, and said very seriously, "dd1, I will ALWAYS love you". So sweet [sniff]

Devora Sat 24-May-14 23:41:28

Wow Cate, that's a very generous offer to scan and email the book to me. Are you sure? I would really love to read it - it would also be very useful for dd1, who is not adopted but who of course also gets constantly questioned about her family. And as they are at the same school, we need a shared approach as a family - no point dd2 being all discreet if dd1 is going round the playground telling all and sundry.

I will PM you...

Lilka Sat 24-May-14 23:41:45

Oh that's so precious, what a sweet sister DD2 is <slight sniff over here!> So true of course smile

Barbadosgirl Sun 25-May-14 09:18:27

Oasis are a nice bunch, aren't they? I went to the Dan Hughes seminar the other week they did and they are super nice. I almost felt like a bit of an imposter as am adopting domestically but they were all so lovely and welcoming. They kept saying "don't let this put you off, this is all worse case scenario" and they told me stories about their children who they were all so in love with, even where there were terrible problems there was so much love. It was really, really good. Dan Hughes was fab too, obviously.

I digress, thank you for the book tips. Devora- you are making me second home sick! I LOVE the Atlantis!

Kewcumber Sun 25-May-14 09:47:58

I really wanted to go to that, unfortunately it clashed with something else - we are indeed a very nice bunch! wink

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