Yesterday a 20 year old asked me if the children who were with me were both my own, and I told her, “I sure hope so. I spend enough time and money on them.” Then I thought about it, something I initially thought was laughable, and I realized it’s an honest question, especially in this day and age. In this era of rampant divorce, blended families, and dysfunction on every corner, to be an adult man who is married to the mother of his children, that’s a lot rarer than it used to be.
Which brings up another question. How often do we assume things based on appearance? I told someone the other day about a conversation I had with my mother-in-law’s husband, and she said, “You could just call him your father-in-law.” I looked at her like she had grown a second head, and I responded, “Uh, no I can’t. Because he’s not my father-in-law. He’s my mother-in-law’s husband.” I’ve since learned that I can call him my stepfather-in-law. But it all seems way too complicated, so I just call him George.
Assumptions rule the world, don’t they? I guess that makes me proud of the 20 year old, because she didn’t just assume that the children who were with me were my own. She wanted to make sure she didn’t make a mistake when talking to me about my kids, if they were in fact my kids. I was at first taken aback, but wouldn’t that solve a whole host of problems, if everyone was like her, if everyone asked the questions they wanted answers to instead of making wild assumptions?
I have spent the vast majority of my life not asking those kinds of questions, just going with the flow, figuring that what I thought I knew was actually the way things were. Instead of asking what I wanted to know, I rolled with it, and more often than not the things I thought were a certain way were not. Luckily most of the time those things did not come back to haunt me when they were eventually revealed, but sometimes they did. And it was at those times that I vowed never to assume anything again… until the next time, anyway.
A few years ago I was talking about my wife in one of my classes. Let’s face it, I talk about her a lot in class, but only to make points. She would be proud of me. Anyway, I was talking about her, and I said something about how she gets pretty red in the sun. All of my students looked at me with amazement. “Red?” they said in unison. “Um, how do black people get red?” And I said, “She’s not black.” They were stupefied, their brains blown because they assumed that because I’m black my wife would have to be. They had been led to believe by those around them, by the media, and by what they felt was common sense. And they had been wrong. It took a while for them to truly process that.
So I’m going to try not to assume, at least not as often as I’ve been assuming things. As much as I know there are few things people could assume about me and be correct on, I should always remember that I’m not an anomaly. Everyone out there has things about them that I shouldn’t ever assume to be true, not without getting to know them first, or at the very least asking those questions that may clear things up.
Oh yes, and I’m going to avoid asking any woman, “When are you due?” You know, unless the kid is kicking and I can see the imprint of the little foot against her stomach. Assumptions can pack quite a punch if we’re wrong.