By CHRISTINE ROGERS
When I was a little girl and people would say that I looked like my father, I was filled with an incredible sense of happiness. Alongside this, and just as powerful for me, was the belief that I was actually a princess, and one day my ‘real’ parents would ride up on white horses and take me away to my rightful home, in a castle of course. Torn between wanting deeply to belong, and knowing that I didn’t quite belong, was a feature of my childhood.
I’m adopted. It’s not an uncommon story, especially when I was born, in the 1960s, but it’s commonality does not change how powerful this ‘story’ has shaped all the stories of my life. Just as the child is at the core of all of us, at the core of me is the unwanted child.
I’ve heard it said that to be creative you needed to have suffered in your childhood and I certainly did my share of that. Being adopted meant I had a deep sense of insecurity – after all, if the woman who gave birth to you doesn’t want you, then what are the odds that anyone else is actually going to stick around? This made me one tricky customer.
Typically adopted children either conform in order to earn the love they fear will be taken away from them, or they act out, rejecting love before it rejects them. Me, I was the cling-on when I was younger, then as a teenager and later, the acting out type. All in all, I was not the popular girl that I secretly longed to be. Weird and intense, I covered my myriad heart’s disappointments with sarcasm and a cutting wit.
With perfect timing I was a teenager when punk hit Christchurch, so dressed in my father’s huge Navy coat, boots and torn pantyhose, with hair sticking up straight and dyed some strange colour I was able to physically declare my outsider status. It was a perfect fit! Meanwhile, inside, I longed for love, but was so afraid of its loss that when I had it, I picked away at it, criticizing, being difficult, consumed with jealousy, until loved ones were driven away. Fulfilling my own prophecy of being unlovable of course.
I did meet my birth parents. My mother and I had a strange relationship lasting three or four years where she talked constantly about how amazing her daughter was (not me of course) and seemed not to be able to find time to see me even when I had flown from Melbourne. For her, it all seemed too hard. For me, I was angry that she seemed to have sailed through life without the pain that adoption had caused me. When I look back on it now, I think she was terrified that at any moment I would rip the scab off a wound so old and unexplored it would overwhelm her. The affair petered out, my expectations unfulfilled. The relationship with my father on the other hand has been a wonderful part of my life. He lives in Auckland and we are close. He is very much like me; filthy sense of humour, an avid reader and music fan, someone who has lived his own life on his own terms.
Of course, I’ve had a ridiculous love-life, until now. Straight from the pages of Mills and Boon. It took a final disaster – two years of unsuccessful IVF with a selfish pig of a man to make me finally start to love myself, and cut myself some slack. It’s from this place that my latest film has grown.