How shall I begin?
“The day I first considered living in a mobile home, I wasn’t calling it a mobile home. I couldn’t get the word ‘trailer’ out of my head. And that word ‘trailer’ made me feel all kinds of things I wasn’t expecting to feel. Feelings that I was ashamed of.”
“The day I first considered living in a mobile home was one of the most emotionally draining and confusing days of my life thus far—and my father died unexpectedly almost three years ago, so that’s saying something.”
How about: the day I first considered living in a mobile home sucked. It was the first day of classes for the fall semester, and I didn’t really feel mentally ready to be back in the classroom. That morning before I had to report to work to teach, I was to go look at an apartment with my boyfriend, CF, that we were wishing we could afford to rent, but knew deep down it just wasn’t going to work out financially. I hadn’t had my usual pre-semester anxiety dream (in which I’m handing out the wrong syllabus, my supervisor is watching me with disapproval and all of my teeth are falling out), so I was feeling even more anxious that something wasn’t right.
All in all, it was not the best morning.
And after all of the morning’s turmoil, after CF and I said out loud to each other that the apartment was too expensive and agreed to tell the landlord “no,” after I was already in the car making the 50 minute commute to work—my phone rang. It was CF.
CF: “Hey honey—so my mom has this idea, and I never would have suggested it, but just hear her out and we can talk about it when you’re done with work for the day.”
At this point, CF’s mom gets on the phone and explains that she has in her possession the title to a mobile home (well, she said “trailer”), that Public Aid wants her to sell quickly. See her husband (CF’s stepdad), from whom she’s legally separated, was living there before he was placed in a nursing home, which is a story unto itself. He would not be returning to the mobile home and she wanted to sell it by the end of the month because she was tired of paying for the lot rental (I would be too if I were legally separated from the person who was responsible for that lot rental!).
I must admit I was very unsure about what to think about all of this. I imagined a “trailer” as being something small–something that couldn’t possibly contain all of the stuff that I’ve filled my one-bedroom apartment with. I also imagined a trailer as being something, well, “trashy” or dirty or just something that I didn’t want to see myself living in. Of course, I was conveniently forgetting the dump of a house I shared with 6 other people in college–the basement was condemned, but we lived upstairs with a gas oven that often leaked. Yes, a mobile home would just be too much of a stretch for me…
Despite all of the judgement I was already passing (and that CF and his mom were also passing–I could tell by the tone of their voices), I agreed to at least look at the place. After all, CF said that the bedroom alone was bigger than my bedroom in my apartment.
And he was right. In fact, the “trailer” turned out to be not at all what I expected. Well, maybe not “not at all”–there are a few things that need fixing, and there were a few items still left inside that were “trashy” but we would obviously get rid of those things. BUT it was definitely much much larger than I had expected (a kitchen with space for a full dining room table? a bedroom with space for furniture other than a bed? a washer and dryer? a FULL SIZE washer and dryer?) and overall much cleaner, too. For goodness sake, there was new carpet in it!
And as I continued to look around, imagining my own stuff inhabiting this space and dreaming up all the different colors I would paint each room, I began to realize that the only thing stopping me from saying an immediate “Yes! Let’s live here!” was my own sense of pride–and an ugly judgement I didn’t even know I’d held inside of me. The stigma. The stigma of living in a trailer park.
(Well, that and the idea that this space was once inhabited by CF’s stepdad, who isn’t the nicest man in the world and who I know brought a lot of bad energy into the space.)
So, CF and I talked about this stigma, the judgements we were making and the pride that was holding us back. We talked about how much money we could save by living in that mobile home. We talked about the great location–just down the street from CF’s studio and our large vegetable garden at his mom’s house. And just when I was beginning to feel alright about the whole thing, CF’s mom said:
“You wouldn’t have to tell anyone that you live in a trailer park. Although, when you give out your new address, people will figure it out the second they see ‘Lot 26’.”
And then I spent the rest of the night worrying about what all the people in my life would think about that. What would my friends think? What would they say? What would my mother think? Would people avoid coming to visit me? I worried and worried, and then I decided that a) if my own friends and family judged me for my living in a trailer park, then, well, screw them and b) as long as I was happy, I shouldn’t care.
And so, after a good night’s sleep, CF and I decided we were going to do it–so here I am, a vegan, community college instructor filling out the paperwork to live in a trailer park. And over the next few weeks as we work on fixing up our new home, and over the next few months as we struggle to deal with the depth of our decision, I hope that you’ll join us by reading about it and that we’ll find a way to break down the Stigma of Lot 26.