What do these texts suggest about the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves or others? (Polished Personal)
Responding to William Klein’s 1955 photograph with connections based on creating a story for the child in the photograph, and based on the black and white tile imagery relating to a ‘black and white’ mentality when it comes to decision-making.
Theme Statement: When responsibility is forced upon an individual, the individual will reject the confinements of this responsibility and instead pursue their own self-interest.
My body is not my own anymore.
I have always been able to trust my body. The sanctity of my skin, the steadiness of my bones, the strength of my muscles – this is what I rely on. In the chaos of a world where children are brought up believing they are loved and then abandoned, my body has always kept me safe. When I had nothing else, I had the steadiness of my breath and consistency of my heartbeat.
It was black-and-white simple: my body was my own.
The independence of my body was freeing. I am accountable to myself and I have been ever since the people responsible for me decided they valued their freedom more than their duty of raising me. And so, my body represents the one thing that has always been certain in my life.
But my body is not my own anymore.
My stomach heaves in the mornings and my lungs don’t fill with air as easily as before and my mouth rejects the taste of foods I used to love. I did not choose this – I did not want my body to be violated by a being that is slowly sapping me of all my strength. This thing inside of me has made my blood riot, has taken hold of me like a parasite, has stolen from me the one thing I value most: the ability to be my own person.
I am pregnant, and so my body is not my own anymore. My independence has been violated, my freedom has been taken. I am responsible for someone beyond myself now.
And I hate it.
I didn’t use to understand how a parent could abandon their child. I used to think that it was an act of heartlessness, an act of cruelty, an act of inhumanity.
If right and wrong were painted in blocks of black and white, this was wrong – simply wrong.
I remember being six years old, walking with my father into a diner with black-and-white checkered walls. We had been driving for a very long time.
I can still feel the roughness of his hand, warm and comforting, so large that mine disappeared into it. He pushed open the door, looking at me with a strange expression on his face, as though he wanted to say something to me but couldn’t. My fingers were beginning to prickle with pins-and-needles spots of numbness, so I pulled my hand from his grasp. I hadn’t noticed how hard he’d been holding onto me.
I remember my father pulled me aside and crouched down beside me, his eyes conflicted but his jaw determined. He said something to me, but in the thick blur of black-and-white tiles all around me and in the confusion of not knowing what was going on or why my mother had said goodbye to me in the car, the words themselves never registered.
He hugged me, I think, and then he stood up, walking away without a backward glance. I remember not being scared at first, because once my parents had left me in a shopping mall by accident but came back when they realized I was gone. So I waited for a very long time. I knew they would come back, because that’s what parents do. They always come back.
Parents take care of their children. That’s their job. Their children are their responsibility.
In a world where everything is black and white, in a perfect world, it is that simple. Parents are responsible for their children. There is nothing else to it.
But my parents never came back for me.
For six years, they had raised me to believe in the difference between love and hate, in the contrast between good and evil, in the distinction between right and wrong. Funny that they chose to uproot the stability and the clarity of these beliefs in place with walls of black-and-white tile.
At one point, an older boy approached me. He looked concerned, asking me if I knew where my parents were. I told him they weren’t coming back, and as I did my vision began to blur, the checkered tiles around me swimming in a haze of my unbidden tears. I think it was this boy who called the police – he, at least, took some responsibility.
Even then, as I sat leaning against the title wall, this boy looking at me with a mixture of pity and uncertainty, I still had the guarantee of my skin and my bones. My body was there for me when I had nothing else. My body was simply my own, and the certainty of that fact gave me comfort when nothing else could.
My whole life, I have relied on only myself. I have been responsible for myself when my parents decided that the burden of being responsible for me was unwelcome. And my body has always been a symbol of this solidarity and independence.
But now I share my body with another. I am responsible for the baby growing inside of me, for this life that I created, for this being that depends on me for everything.
This child is my responsibility and my body is not my own and none of that is simple. Things are not black and white and this is not a perfect world and… this child is my responsibility.
I think I understand it now – why a parent would abandon their child. Things are not black and white and so abandonment is not just an act of wrongfulness or cruelty or inhumanity.
My parents decided to exchange the responsibility of raising me and the burden of that responsibility for liberation. Rather than be trapped by selflessness and duty, they chose freedom.
This is not wrong, nor it is right; it is not black or white – it is grey. It is simply an act of desperation, a choice to pursue desire rather than be limited by responsibilities.
And… my desire is more important to me that the requirements of a responsibility I did not choose for myself.
And so, once he is born, I choose to give my child up. I choose independence. Like my parents, I choose freedom over responsibility, my life over the life of another, my own interests over those of someone else.
I choose my right to a life that is all my own – and I know I won’t regret it.