The Widow Walk

At a luncheon with girlfriends, an older lady, perhaps seventy with brilliantly festooned fingers, told me to marry again. I raised an eyebrow in her direction. She told me she lost her husband at fifty, met a man at a party and remarried five years later.

“Marry again dear. Your life isn’t over.” I usually like confident, wise cracking old women who put their noses in my business not only because I know I will eventually be one but because their honesty sits just below the surface needing only the slightest scratch to bring it to the surface for examination. “I don’t think so,” I say. Although her glittery gems look pretty and she doesn’t strike me as the type to buy them for herself. Women have Spidey Sense about these things.

She counters, “You aren’t going to do the widow walk forever are you?” And I know her reference. The Widow Walk is the place widows go after a spouse is gone. We move about in a realm half in half out of the “real” world. Not to be confused with the “widow’s walk” on top of houses on the coast where women pace waiting for husbands to return from sea. If I had one of those I would have flung myself from it long ago.

The Widow Walk is a strange, other worldly place where, if you could turn back time, you would change everything. And enough time has passed that you have to shut up about it or your friends will prescribe professional help and drugs. Good drugs? Perhaps I’ll reconsider. Acceptance is yours but moving forward is a delicate dance. For me, dancing doesn’t sound so good.

The answer to this dilemma is to smile—the basic job of widows everywhere. Don’t smile too much—they’ll think your screwing someone and if you are, you obviously were before your husband died. It’s a precarious place. Eyes are on you. Don’t make a misstep doll—there are sharks in the water.

Here’s what I’ve found so far. There are exceptions, of course. Ungrasp your pearls dear. Men appear to recover more quickly. While a woman is shocked or offended if someone approaches her within months of her husband’s death, a man attributes it to his attractiveness. A girlfriend announced that her brother-in-law widower, whose wife died the same weekend as the Norwegian was looking to date. At about the year mark, she inquired as to my interest level. The slightest breeze threatened to fell me from my chair. I am terrified of men. A new development to be sure.

I come from a family of boys. I was raised by my dad. Men do not intimidate me. I like them, very much. They make sense to me. And they’re cute. In college, my snotty sorority sisters and I discovered our power to make silly boys fall in love and we played with their hearts endlessly. Breaking hearts was a strategy and a talent for which we could have given lessons. Don’t mistake this retelling for pride.

Tables turned and lesson learned when The Norwegian entered my sphere and I became the helpless goldfish out of the bowl. His charm, blue eyes and dimpled smile stole my heart from first date. Well played, Norwegian, well played. As revenge for all the hearts I had needlessly toyed, I was paid back in spades. Engaged in a month, married in six and beyond redemption from this man’s charms for twenty-seven years.

That’s a great thing about marriage. If you keep your skills in top form, you are a master at seduction because you know all the secrets. You know exactly which buttons to push. You know the exact moment, at a fundraising dinner, to extend your bare foot under the table or to reach inside a tuxedo jacket for the place that is only yours. You dance as if a mold were created of your bodies. The thought of learning all that again is not only exhausting, it is sweat inducing terror. I detest sweat. Accomplished women off limits for decades suddenly thrust into the single, vulnerable scene up against bald, sweaty, rutting jackass divorcees with no manners or training—Lord help us.

Accept it widow girlfriend, you are in the weird widow place now. Unlike your girlfriends who asked for the divorce, you sit in the spot you wouldn’t except for fate, the bastard. You weren’t ready to stop having sex. You loved going to dinner. You loved dancing so close a piece of paper could not fit in the space between you. You fit just so in the crook of his neck. You knew how to arrange yourselves in a chair for one-and-a-half. You made a baby in the car because you ovulated and visited your parents the same weekend.

You remember the curve of his backside in your palm as you entered a charity function. You remember his face as you leaned over at the office holiday party to tell him you weren’t wearing panties. People piss all over marriage but if you do it right, it’s amazing. And if you’re not taking care of yours, shame on you.

My best advice is, when your friends tell you it’s time to date tell them to fuck themselves. You were a hot date once and if you ever choose to be again, you got it covered. Besides, what guy wants to go on a date and talk about how great my husband was?

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