I was waiting for an elevator in an office building today and this older Caucasian woman asked me for directions. I gave her directions and she studied me in this critical but not unfriendly way and then burst out, "You're very pretty!"
I said, "Thank you. So are you." But then she asks, "What is your nationality?" I was floored but she was an older person and she wasn't being mean-spirited, so I kept myself cheerful and smiling and friendly and replied, "I'm American." (Yes, if you're wondering, I knew what she MEANT but I was answering the literal question put to me).
The woman said, "But what nationality are your parents?" I smiled and said, truthfully, "They're American, too." The woman ploughed ahead while I pushed the elevator button again, saying, "But what is your BACKGROUND?" The elevator doors finally opened and I stepped in and said, "You mean racial or ethnic type background? French, Chinese and Irish." All of a sudden, the woman met my eyes and it was like a light bulb went off.
"American," she said slowly as the doors began to shut. Just before they closed, she smiled at me and said, "Of course. American."