As a woman living in Nashville's homeless encampments, reality is harsh but reminders of internal strength soar.
Isn’t life funny? The way things happen and fall into place right at the exact moment? When I was asked by The Contributor to write this article (and then told the topic), I had to laugh! The humor lies in the irony of my life over the past few months and the struggles I have endured. I was asked to write about the differences I experience on the streets, especially in a camp, as a woman. I often forget to see the line separating me from the men, but the men never seem to forget that I am a woman.
I come from a strong feminine background. I am the oldest of four girls, my mother is independent and opinionated, and I received an education in an all-female environment. From as early on as I can remember, my dad drilled the idea into my head that as a female, I was going to endure even more obstacles than a man. They’d be stacked against me, but never let anyone tell me I was less than them or treat me like I was less than them. I knew that I was smart and beautiful and an all-around positive addition to most people and situations, enough to acquire a standard for how I should and would be treated. That standard, in retrospect, was very high, but it was acceptable for who I was.
Then I was out on the streets, homeless, in a neighborhood that now surrounds me. Believe me when I tell you that the standard on Murfreesboro Road is much lower than in Franklin, Tenn., where I come from. I can still remember the first time a man pulled up and asked if I needed a ride. My husband and I just had a fight on the side of the road. I stormed off, and this guy, who looked like he was probably a grandpa in a good suburban household, stopped and asked if he could give me a ride. I politely declined, so he asked if I wanted to make some money. I was appalled, insulted and hurt. Did he really think I looked and behaved like those girls?
Here I am, more than two years later, and my husband and I still fight and I still get solicited. However, little things like an invitation to write this article remind me of who I am and what I know I am worth. They force me to examine why I am worth that, but they also bring me back to reality and show me my mistakes.
Being a woman on the streets creates a unique set of hardships. Out here, the people and actions are raw. It can be dangerous, and the safety of isolated suburbia can be a long ways away. I am a woman! And that doesn’t make me any less than a man, but it definitely makes my strengths and weaknesses different. Being far removed from the safety and security of suburbia, in an environment where I could easily be physically overpowered, and removed from opportunities where my specific skills may benefit me, I'm left vulnerable. I know that it’s OK to rely on security from other people, and I know I need my husband by my side.
Although, I despise the old school way of thinking, and I stubbornly resist it as much as I can, somehow the end result is always the same. Life on the streets as a woman can be very hard, even more so than it is for men because everyone is capable of cooking and cleaning and nurturing, but in the end, a man can overpower me physically. My strengths might outweigh others when applying for a job, but last I checked, my ability to quote Shakespeare while cooking dinner carries no weight when I am physically challenged.
This life is tough, but as I am reminded of my worth and internal strength, I know that this tough life is one worth living.