Last month, The New York Times profiled Barbara Terry, a 52-year-old prostitute living in the Bronx section of New York City who’s been working as a lady of the night for more than 30 years. As a woman in her 20s, Terry was left alone to care for four young children and needed to find a way to support herself. And though she had two years of training to become a medical lab technician under her belt, she was drawn to the “exciting” life of prostitution. Over the years, Terry’s learned a thing or two about how to get along in the world — and while we certainly don’t recommend that you pursue a career as a prostitute, we do think Terry has a few points of wisdom to pass on. While her children are less than thrilled with her life on the streets, she says, “I’m the mother, so they can’t say anything. When I’m ready to get off, I’ll get off.”
After the jump, eight pieces of wisdom from a woman who’s seen her share of the seedy side of life.
1. You Don’t Need A Guy To Take Care Of You: Terry never worked with a pimp through all her years on the streets. “I never did drugs and never worked for a pimp for protection. What protection? If I’m in someone’s car, about to die, ain’t no pimp in there helping me.”
2. Always Trust Your Gut: “You look for weapons, you check the back seat, and you go by your vibes. If they look strange, you stay away.”
3. Prayer Works: Terry never had a violent incident, she says, because she used her wits and had the spiritual support of her family. “I’ve survived because God was with me. Every Sunday, my mother and grandmother prayed for me out here.”
4. Never Apologize: “When [my children] were old enough to understand, I would tell them the truth. I’d say, ‘This is how I’m supporting you.’ For me, it’s a business, a regular job.”
5. Never Get In A Car With More Than One Strange Guy. Well, that just makes sense.
6. Save Your Money: Her life on the streets enabled her to put two of her four children through college and buy a house upstate.
7. Do What Brings You Joy: “I love the excitement of coming out here and seeing all these beautiful people I know,” says Terry of her life on the streets. “Even my dates are a comfort. This place has made me strong. It keeps you young.”
8. If The Cops Are Coming, Jump Into A Dumpster: Noted. [New York Times]