I quit my job but that doesn’t mean I quit my colleagues. Yesterday, I met two former-colleagues-now-friends for lunch at Chick fil-A. It was gorgeous out, so we hovered outside with our bags of crispy chicken sandwiches and fries until a trio of women took pity on us and cleared out. They were finished; they were just enjoying the 70-degree afternoon. While we ate our lunches and caught up on the past few weeks, Teddy entertained himself in his stroller. When my friends were finished, they took turns holding Teddy.
While we continued chatting, several passers-by stopped to comment on how adorable Teddy is and ask how old he is. Every time, I responded. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until one of my friends, who is black, pointed it out: The question was always directed at her. Which, when you think about it, is the logical conclusion in the given situation: Three women, two white and one black, are chatting while playing with a black baby–naturally the black woman will be presumed to be the baby’s mother.
Of course, my black friend did not attempt to respond to any of the queries, instead letting oblivious me do the honors. But she clearly felt awkward about it, as she commented later that she wished she were wearing a sign saying “She’s his mama,” with an arrow pointing at me.
I’m not bothered. However, I will likely be aware of it the next time I’m out in public with her or any other black friend.