June 28, 2009

My Asian Au Pair

For the past couple of weeks, my family has been graced with the presence of my twenty-five-year-old sister Amy, who just finished up her first year of graduate school. Among my sister's many unique attributes is the fact that she was adopted into our family from South Korea when she was an infant.

For some strange reason, an adult Asian with white parents and siblings is a concept that most people cannot seem to wrap their minds around. People are used to seeing Asian babies and toddlers with Caucasian parents, but they can't quite come to grips with the fact that these same children grow up and, when they do, they actually stay Asian.

I was reminded of how the world sees me and my sister when we were at the park the other day with my kids. I sat at the opposite end of a long picnic table occupied by a woman I didn't know, while my sister did her auntly duty of taking my boys to the bathroom for the second time in ten minutes.

"I'm thinking about getting an au pair," the woman said, leaning over to me.

"That's nice," I replied and scooted a little closer to the edge of the bench. I wasn't exactly sure why a complete stranger felt the urge to tell me this, but I felt pretty sure it wasn't because she was normal.

"She sure seems great with your kids," the woman continued, gesturing to my sister.

"She is," I stated, and began digging through my diaper bag for the vial of pepper spray I was sure I had put in there before we left.

It wasn't until the woman asked me what agency I used to secure my foreign babysitter that I realized that she thought my sister was my nanny.

When I corrected the error, the woman threw back her head and let out a loud bellow. "You two don't look anything alike!" she laughed.

A few minutes of awkward silence ensued before my sister returned and plopped herself on the bench beside me. After demanding a swig out of my water bottle, she informed me that one of my sons had urinated on the toilet seat in the public bathroom and that she refused to wipe it up. "That's your job," she reminded me and snickered.

As I dragged myself off the bench, I couldn't help but steal a glance at the woman occupying the other end. Her mouth was agape in horror at the insolence of the hired help.

It's a good thing my two other Korean siblings weren't in town as well. In particular, I can only imagine what the poor woman might have felt compelled to say or do upon overhearing my thirty-year-old brother/butler tell me to shove it when I ask him to kindly retrieve my sweater from my locked car.

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