I read Brian Moore’s Black Robe recently, a fantastic book about French Jesuit priests who went to proselytise with the Algonquian Indians in Canada and one striking feature of the Indians was their language. They were unsentimental, direct, filthy and they swore all the time. I know this is a fictional account. Moore is a white man, a colonial, writing about Indians, and this makes his account problematic, but I’m hoping he did his research well and he seems to be well respected, so perhaps he did. The book made me think about my language and the way I think about the world and how even when I was small, I was different to my folks.
I have a puerile sense of humour, which literally means foolish and immature, and enjoy a good fart joke. And I love swearing. I love the moment of it leaving my lips, explosive and delicious, watching it land on my audience, then the shock as they register it, especially as I present for the most part as a nice white middle-class woman. I can help myself, and do, when meeting certain people at certain times. A production manager who employed me when I was 22 told me later, when she knew me better, that she couldn’t believe the quiet and polite girl who came for the interview was me. She liked it, and me. Not all do. My mum and dad like a joke but they are almost never blue. So where did this come from?
My birth dad Brian had a filthy sense of humour and he was a swearer. Mid-1960s, when I was conceived, he was a bad boy—slicked-back hair, winkle-picker shoes, motorbike, music, girls, pot. My mum and dad were Anglicans, married, own house, big vegetable garden, hoping to add children to the picture. My parents are 10 years older than Brian, not even a generation, but there is a difference here in world view that goes beyond generations.
Adoption makes you look at these things. You ask yourself where did I get this from? Who is responsible? Who is it that I really am? It’s a broken story and you are always trying to repair it and pin things down. Of course, how we become who we are is really an unsolvable mystery, which reminds me of another incredible book—Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.