Clarke Square, People

“If a man don’t work, he’s not supposed to eat”

Charlene Love sits — in white jeans, on a white porch — near the corner of 22nd and Greenfield, relaxing on a warm spring day. The 48-year-old Love was born and grew up in Chicago but in 2009 she came to Milwaukee.

“[I] got tired of everything up there and just left,” says Love. “I just got tired of everything, lookin’ at the same old people.”

Milwaukee was a fresh start. “They don’t go nowhere, don’t want nothing out of life,” Love says of those she knew in Chicago. “So I just had to leave, find something better.”

“Here I don’t really know people … but I’m content with that.”’

Still, Milwaukee didn’t turn out to be quite what she’d hoped for. “A lot of guys here, in Milwaukee, they—I don’t know, I feel like Dorothy clickin’ my heels three times because they don’t want nothin’ — [they’re] all on that trickery, just want to take what you got. And, I can’t take care of no man. I’ve still got two children left and, then, my grandbabies — I can’t do that.

“I won’t do that.”

Love, who is the oldest of four, has five girls and one boy of her own. Love says she had to do “a lot of providing” for her siblings; that was even more so the case with her children.

“I never got child support,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Don’t mention your dad to me. If you have a relationship with your dad, that’s between you and your dad, unless something goes wrong — then you come tell me.’ Other than that, I don’t wanna hear anything about their dads.”

“[It can] be overwhelming sometimes,” she says of raising six kids. “But, at the same [time], you have to do it ‘cause if you don’t do it ain’t nobody else gonna do it for you.”

Love’s experience with men hasn’t always been the same. Though she never quite knew who her father was, she was not without one. Instead, Love had three different father figures in her life, at different times.

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“All of them treated me the same,” she says. “They always said they were my dad so I just left it at that.”

There aren’t any men in Love’s life on a consistent basis; at this point, though, she’s okay with that. She says her daughter is buying a condo for her, which will “take a little pressure off.”

Love, who has a certificate in custodial maintenance, is looking forward to opening a carpet cleaning business in the next year. After going through cosmetology school to no avail and working jobs at hotels, bakeries and “stuff like that,” something of her own will be a much-welcomed respite, Love says.

“[I’m] just tryin’ to make it easy … ‘cause I’m tired.”

 

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