From Harvard to Homeless to Homey to Hooker

A Hooker with a Degree in One Hand and a Rap Sheet in the Other
Monday, November 19, 2018
I have a morbid sense of humor. I find amusement in things that others might find depressing, upsetting, even mean…I readily make myself the brunt of a joke if it makes me laugh. This practice is called “gallows humor.” I always understood gallows humor to be the jokes people made between themselves as they waited their turn to put the noose around their necks during public hangings. If there was ever a time that would benefit from levity, that would be it. How can I not laugh at the fact that somehow my Harvard got ahold of my prison address at the Women’s Community Correctional Center, called W Triple C.. I had to chuckle at the thought of the alumni affairs office rushing the magazine to me since I was valued as a graduate, only to have the magazine sit in the prison mail room because inmate desires were low priority. “Next time no come jail,” the ACO (Adult Correctional Officer) snapped at me in Hawaii’s colloquial dialect, called pidgin, when I asked about the late mail. Correspondence from the outside breathed a bit of life into that stagnant prison world.

The Alumni magazine situation taught me a lesson. I was the same person on the inside, but how people viewed me and made decisions on my worth was determined by what they thought I had done, not by anything anyone actually knew about me. Staus is an invention, a construct. I was either this scholar or that criminal.  Not surprisingly, the felony negates the honors, negativity being so much stronger than positivity in humans. In fact, the honors become a source of gallows humor at best to cruel mockery at worst. I have heard, “They made a movie about a girl who overcame adversity called Homeless to Harvard. You’re Harvard to Homeless. To Homey. To Hooker.” Ok, that’s funny, but “What a waste” or “She is proof affirmative action doesn’t work” were far less accurate and way more painful. The fact is, on a soul level, I am neither scholar nor criminal, my deepest identity has nothing to do with the things I have done that society spotlights. In my humble opinion, I believe I Am the purpose in my heart. Since status is a construct I am going to be the builder and decide “me” for myself.  know what I want people to say when asked to complete this sentence: Caroleena is so [fill in blank]. I want people to say, Caroleena is so Positively Impactful. This blog, our blog, uplifts and encourages. My identity is the uplifted, the encourager. According to who? According to me. Failure is not an identity, it is an event. Prison is not where I “ended up” but where I passed through. Good thing I did or I wouldn’t have to stories of lesbianism behind bars, which will begin next post. By the way, I always want to know what someone did time for because as much as I know that crime doesn’t define a soul, the things people get caught for are decent indicators about what’s going on with them—and seldom the one and only time they made that move. I will tell you because I know you’re like me and you want to know.  I was caught with $10 worth of black tar heroin in 2002. The manner of arrest is so embarrassing I haven’t mustered the nerve to be that cringingly honest yet. Not yet. But I will keep my word that my blog is the most honest account of (some of) the taboo and the personal.