Since we've been discussing converting specifically for marriage this last week (See Why on Earth Would Someone Convert to Judaism and Taking a Shyne to Judaism), it reminded me of a funny story. (I'm not sure if it's funny weird or funny haha!) But it's the kind of story that could only happen to me. I attract crazy like you wouldn't believe. On the other hand, this isn't so outrageous that it doesn't happen to other converts.
On the first day of class earlier in my law school career (though not long ago), I had a teacher who decided to make us go around the room introducing ourselves. A pretty convenient way to waste an entire class period, if you ask me! I was the last to go, and I don't remember how it came up, but I mentioned that I am a Jewish convert. I do remember being suspicious that my new professor might be Jewish, so maybe that's why I threw it out there!
Then came the question. "So...um...this is kind of personal, but are you marrying a Jew?" That's right. On the spot, right in front of 40 of my classmates. Thankfully, I was able to say that I am single and converting for myself. And to be honest, I remember nothing of the class before or after that moment.
I don't know why people don't think about their actions more. If you get the answer you're expecting, you just make me publicly look like a jerk who doesn't take an entire faith, people, and history seriously. I don't know if it would really make a difference, but I think a female professor would have been slightly more subtle. I'm not sure if that would have been better though.
Personally, when asked if I'm a stereotype, I prefer giving them an answer against their stereotype (even if that means a little rephrasing of my answer) in an approachable way that shows I'm open to discussing the subject further. I do this because I think the person-to-person approach is the most effective way to overcome stereotypes. Getting upset just closes the bridge of communication, and you both walk away feeling like jerks.
Of course, there are days when I don't feel like having this conversation (or can't), and "I can't discuss it right now, but maybe later?" is definitely in my vocabulary. And some days, I say, "Stereotypes exist for a reason. I was dating a Jew. But then...blah blah blah [showing how that was just the beginning of a difficult and rewarding journey]."
The lesson? Have an answer ready for this question at all times. You're going to need it, and you'll need it in the most unexpected of places. But don't take it personally, and don't get defensive. There's nothing to be gained from it.