Adjustment is the only constant in the world of widowhood. It’s not just figuring out car maintenance, garbage hauling and tree trimming. It’s also the good. The good is the stuff of bittersweet memories and jealousy so deep and green that if cut, I would gush emerald. Last weekend brought it home again. Two steps forward, one step back.
It’s time for a fancy formal. It’s an event I attend every year, always with The Norwegian until last year when I was surrounded by chickens, both natural born and adoptive. They comforted me and carried my tears in their hands all through the night. This year, I attend solo. It is surreal to don a gown minus your penguined partner. Especially when he was so adorable all tuxed up.
Nerves had the better of me, not only at attending solo, but due to the level and number of bitches in attendance.
“You need to act as if you are having the time of your life and you simply don’t notice them at all,” advises the wisest of my chickens, Middle. Baby Chicken would take the, “tell them to go screw themselves” route so I don’t usually follow her advice when dealing with drama. She has the ability to take aim at drama, blow the smoke from the gun and walk away as if dead bodies are not strewn in her wake. A sly smile crosses her face and she never looks back. Fair warning–don’t cross Baby Chicken. There is strange power in being the final child.
“If you go all mopey, you give them just what they want,” says Middle Chicken. Of course she’s right. I am determined to attend, head held high; the Jackie Kennedy in the room. The night before I dream I hold my nemesis in a goodbye embrace and say, “I wish you endless meetings with Karma. I pray she serves you every dish you deserve. And I hope I never see you again as long as I live.” In dreams, I am always a bad ass. I opt for the Jackie agenda as I dress and curl my hair and wear more mascara than any woman should. But I want you to notice my eyes and not my arm flab so I play them up. No matter. Later, as I dance with Sisterella and the Yayas I wave my arms above my head and my arm flab slaps the person closest to me on the dance floor. Poor kid never knew what hit him. He just fell and slid across the wood floor.
And darn if Middle Chicken isn’t right. In all my fakery, I have a wonderful time. A truly wonderful time. Fake it ’til you make it girlfriend- even in something as insignificant as a party of haters. I envelope myself in my posse of amazing chicks and we dance, laugh, have a few cocktails and rub the superiority of Bama in the face of a grown woman who has taken to bashing Baby Chicken’s school all year. Kind of hard to compete when the band plays a song of the Sweet Home variety and the room erupts with a collective, “Roll Tide Roll.” Thank you Karma dear.
I take a break with another of my best girls and watch from our seats at the dance floor’s edge. Sweet Goddess left her husband at home and we are dates. She’s a good one. Vodka sodas and biting commentary make for one helluva time. And then I spy another friend dancing with her husband. They have to be married over thirty years. They have seven children. There they are, in the center of the floor. She rests her head on his chest and he envelopes her the way only people who have been married forever and a day know. The intimacy is palpable. It is not the lust of youth. It is so much hotter. It is the communion of two people who have shared a bed and children and countless meals and fights and in-laws and sex and and highs and lows and still come out the other side with a closeness those newly paired do not know. It is the sweetest of joinings. It can be seen. You can witness their familiarity with each other’s bodies in how they move, in their embrace and lack of words. It is more than a dance. It is the confidentiality of a relationship laid out for others to see. And I am envious.
It is a secret reserved only for those married more years than not. Those who fully know the other is not perfect. It is the intimacy of those who did not falter in commitment, those who stuck it out and those who thought it better to make it work than walk away. They are not perfect marriages; but they are perfect unions.
I watch another couple, one of the cutest pairings ever. They are newly empty nested. Their son went away to play football and then ventured home for school. Their daughter is blazing her own amazing trail and another daughter is about to be married. They took a break from all of it tonight. They laugh and smile and I see her touch his face. He turns just a little red and beams at her affection. And I am envious.
I say hello to another couple I have known so long. Their four children light up their lives but they never forget each other. She sends him public love notes on facebook. I am a spectator to his devotion as I see him watch her. I know as I chat with them that he is being polite. He can’t steal his eyes from her. He smiles and talks because I am her friend but his attention is only hers. And she is stunning. Her dress is gorgeous; navy, (very trendy girlfriend) flowy and lovely. Her eyes twinkle. His smile lands on her. She thinks maybe they should take a picture but is hesitant. Menopausal hormones grip us all and she fears she is glowing this night. Take a picture, just the two of you, we urge. She thinks maybe. And I am envious.
I am envious of their intimacy because I know it. I am grateful for an extraordinary marriage, but sometimes wonder if perhaps the journey would be easier with a lesser marriage as I would not look at others with envy, jealousy and longing. I would not think, in the middle of a ballroom of 650 people, that I may break because at this moment I would give anything to have him back. I would give anything to rest my head on his chest as he holds me on the dance floor or stroke his cheek and make him turn red in public or to look at him with eyes that see no one else in the room.
So, maybe we need another cocktail?