Finally, the conductor collected our train tickets.
"Good. Everyone’s straight now," he said.
"I’m not," replied my mother. The conductor laughed awkwardly, then quickly moved on to the next passenger.
Living with two moms is nothing short of extraordinary. I get all sorts of looks, comments, and questions because I am an African American teenager raised by two white, lesbian women in a family formed through adoption. It has its serious moments and its funny ones. I always won the "yo’ mama" jokes in middle school, because people would say "yo’ mama," and I’d reply, "which one!" This always caught people off guard because they couldn’t think of a comeback.
I used to be embarrassed about my family because we stood out so much. When I was in middle school, if we were together in public, I told people that my moms were my neighbors. It was easy because they don’t look like me. But even though we don’t look alike, I soon realized that there are many things we do in the same way. I have the same sarcastic personality, signature, and anxious need to be on time for events as my mom Susan, but I have the same motherly traits, handwriting, and short temper with my sister as my mom Sara. When people meet us, they notice we are very similar. I grimace and think, Oh no, I’m turning into my mothers!
But being part of a diverse family has taught me important lessons, things I assumed everybody else knew. Most importantly, I learned to treat everyone equally and to respect, if not accept, our differences. I love people’s reactions to my family, the looks on their faces as they try to figure out how we’re related, the questions they’re too polite or too embarrassed to ask. It takes some people longer than others to ask me a personal question.
One of the most memorable examples occurred in middle school when a friend said, "Nina, are your parents Jamaican?"
"What?" I asked, thinking I’d heard him incorrectly.
He repeated his question, "Are your parents Jamaican?"
"No, they’re white," I replied, with the straightest face I could muster. I could see the series of questions going through his mind at that moment, but he just walked away.
I like it when people ask me questions about my family because it gives me a chance to educate people about what it means to be adopted. I know that not everyone is comfortable with same-sex relationships, and this has made me cautious of how and when I introduce my parents. When I meet new kids, I listen for gay jokes in their conversations. All of my close friends have always loved my parents, saying they’re the coolest lesbian moms they’ve ever met. In my high school, there is a student who is enamored of my parents because he thinks they are the coolest things since sliced bread and sincerely always wants to know how they’re doing. Many of my high school friends have become more accepting of my moms than before. I, too, am more accepting.
Having two moms is a complex and rich experience. I am proud to be my moms’ daughter.