September 19, 2006

We Assume

Have you ever tried to guess someone’s ethnic group? This is especially dicey when it comes to Asians. I am half Asian myself, so I’ve often been on the receiving end of this, but I’ll never forget the time I mistook a Korean woman for Japanese. My excuse is that I have one close friend who is Japanese, but have never had a Korean friend. These two countries may have similar cuisines, but neither are flattered when mistaken for the other. There’s a long history there and past deeds of one country toward another that still colors the manner in which these two peoples perceive and relate to each other in present day.

How does this relate to being childfree? It’s really about assumptions. As Laura’s most recent post points out, we, Purple and parent alike, operate on assumptions every day. It’s an ingrained habit. It can help streamline daily communication, potentially expedite tasks. But what happens if our frame of reference is not the same as someone else’s? It all breaks down. Sort of like working in a corporate framework that uses a lot of acronyms and then transferring to another industry that uses an entirely different set. All of a sudden we are not communicating, even worse, we offend.

We can’t expect someone to know everything about us by looking at us.
I’ve often joked with my fellow CFers that we’re just like serial killers, we’re not really purple, we look just like everybody else! It’s fun to poke fun at it, but often not fun to be on the receiving end of the assumption. And we all know what assumption does…, it makes an ASS out of U and ME (ASS-U-ME, get it?).

Do Koreans get mistaken for Japanese? Yes. Will perfect strangers continue to assume that I have children? Yes, as least for another decade or so. How we handle the response can either enlighten or enshroud. Do what’s best for you in the moment. Sometimes you just don’t have time to educate every person you come across.

There are other ways to make an impact. Laura has decided to focus on her energy on creating documentary about childfree couples. That should enlighten a few people.

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MotherPie said...

No, we shouldn't make assumptions but unfortunately our cultural "frames" make us mentally use preconceived notions to navigate our world.

That is why the either/or consctruct is the most simple to communicate and understand.

It isn't easy to think. Never was, never has been. Shortcuts are the easy way...

Cocacy said...

Excellent blog. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Libby said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for having this blog. I have chosen to be child free and I am always looking for other women who have made that conscious choice.

I also am an American of African descent (black) who most people think is white. There's always the people who try and guess or want to touch my hair, or when I say, Hey, goofball, I'm black, they insist that my mother has to be white. YIKES!!!

Anonymous said...

On this subject (at least a bit!) lately when I told a Muslim parent of one of the children in my class that my (Egyptian) husband is Muslim too not long after that I was asked "Do you have any children?" It may not have meant anything to do with the religion but I wondered if she thought 'Oh he's a Muslim man, I hope he's got offspring.' That may not have been it at all, might have been a huge assumption on my part but I couldn't help but wonder!
Also another Muslim parent when I said hubby's Muslim too said "Oh, are you converting?" (To Islam/becoming a Muslim.) I told her the truth, No, and then told them about a friend of ours who is. The assumptions anoyed me a bit. It was more religous than racial I know but still! My hubby is the first child-free Muslim I know of! (He didn't mind either way, kids or no kids, I didn't/don't want any and he said oh OK that's fine!) but I'm SURE he's not the ONLY one!!! He also knows I'll never convert and accepts that.