Outside our apartment is a pathway that goes between a park and a mall. It is a pedestrian street that is hidden from main traffic. It has a nice seating area and it is a perfect place for teenagers and twenty-somethings to hangout, eat, drink, smoke, buy drugs and leave mounds of trash. It is a constant irritation for me. We live in a nice neighborhood, but this pathway is a problem.
One day on the way home from school, Lena and I took a different route. I thought it may be shorter and I just felt like exploring. As we were walking along, I noticed a number of women and what appeared to be transvestites hanging around. I heard a few “pshhht, pshhtt’s.” I looked up and encountered a woman in the window above. I slowly began to notice a number of men in parked cars talking with other men at their driver’s side windows.
It took me minute to realize that this was Parma’s red light district. These were ladies (and men) for hire.
Prostitution is legal in Italy, but I still do not want my children around it. I told Lena that we should not walk that way anymore and explained why. She replied that she did not feel unsafe at any time and that she actually felt safer on the street with prostitutes than she did outside our apartment when the drug dealers were present.
She went on to say, “Mommy, at least the prostitutes are polite and pick up their trash. The drug dealers don’t do that.”
I had to laugh. How far she had come from age 10 to 11. I was reminded of my original post where I discussed how I wanted my children “to see and experience the underbelly of life – the poverty, trash and homelessness that one sees in a city – because if they never see these things, they will never know that these things are problems that our world faces. If they don’t see these things, they will never know humanity and how to face a problem head on.”
Ah, Karma, you got me.