There's a woman across the aisle from us, she's maybe a few years older than we are, mid thirties perhaps. She's watching us from the moment we take our seats and and sit William down snugly in the space between us. She gets up several times, walks up and down the aisle slowly.
A few hours into the flight she leans over, asks us, "Where are you going?" "We're going to visit my family in Canada." "Oh?" she turns her lips down and asks in an intimate tone "Out of duty?" There's a pause while we consider what that even means. "No, not out of duty, for a visit." "Where do you live?" she continues. "Norway." "Oh Norway! Lovely! And tell me, how do you feel living in Norway where it's so rich when there are so many suffering people in the world? And have you seen the Northern Lights?" "No, not where we live..." is our puzzled reply. Her eyes widen and she stares at us and says in an innocent voice full of disbelief as though we were lying, "But...I thought you said you live in Norway! Oh! What a beautiful child you have!", she continues in a flash smiling sweetly at William, "Where is he from?" "Sri Lanka", we reply cautiously. Again her eyes widen, this time in exaggerated delight, "Sooo...how did that work? Did you just go there, pay his mother a lot of money and take her child away from her? How wonderful that you did that!", she says in a bright, falsely sweet voice.
Obviously something is very wrong. (We probably should have stopped the conversation dead in its tracks but easier said than done.)
"No, we adopted him legitimately."
She puts her hand under her chin and leans forward as though we're old friends sharing secrets over tea and asks in a voice dripping with honey and sarcasm, "But how did that feeeeel for you? Taking him away from his mother like that? What a good thing you've done! How selfless you are!" She shakes her head in a parody of exaggerated admiration.
I sigh. This feels overwhelming and is made all the more difficult by the fact that she is so manipulatively sweet and not blatantly hostile which is a world easier to deal with.
After about an hour of conversation in this vein, we turn away and begin to feed William, hoping this will signal an end to this bizarre, invasive and dark conversation.
But nothing deters her and she stands up and comes over and sits down beside Per, almost clapping her hands together in mock pleasure and says in a bitter, cloying voice "I just had to come over here and witness this beautiful little moment of perfect family happiness!" She carries on "So what was wrong with you anyway? That you couldn't adopt a child from one of your own countries? What sort of marriage do you have anyway?" Finally I say "I don't want to answer those questions. Why don't you tell me what sort of view you have on adoption because you sound very negative about the entire issue." She gasps in surprise, as though entirely taken aback at my rudeness and answers sweetly "No, no, no! It's only that I admire you and what you've done so much!" And then she mumbles something that sounds as though she is asking me if I am religious. So I answer hesitantly, "I am religious..." And she looks at me with such naked dislike and says in an ugly voice "I didn't ask you if you were religious but since you feel the need to talk about it, go ahead then, tell me..." I reply, "Actually I don't want to tell you anything. We need to lie our son down now, would you please go back to your own seat?"
My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking in my lap and I'm hoping she doesn't notice. She stands up and says very loudly "Well, it's just that I think your little boy is so beautiful and that what you've done is so wonderful...imagine that, ripping a little child away from its home and its mother! It's so absolutely wonderful! Look!", (she says while gesturing to people in the seats around us), "Everyone's smiling at what you've done, they're just so happy you've taken a little baby away from it's mother!"
I reply, "We didn't do it for anyone else's approval."
She smiles condescendingly "I know, I know, you're so purely selfless! Such a good person! Well let me just tell you one thing before I sit down and that is that there is no one, absolutely no one on this plane who cares at all about you and what you've done. Alright? No one cares."
And that was that. This went on for well over an hour and there was far more to it than I want to write but that was the gist of it. I think it's the only time in my life where I have genuinely felt harassed and it was so overwhelming that all the logical responses (as in, stop talking to her altogether, ask a flight attendant to intervene, etc,) just flew out the window.
But live and learn, right? If we ever have to deal with such an atrocious person again, we'll be much better equipped. ;)