Widow


Day of the Dead - Band

Until I read Abel Keogh’s Widower Wednesday, I had no idea that dating a widower was such a widespread practice* that it required its own self-help dating niche. Silly me though because where divorced and never-married men get lumped together in the douche category when they exhibit behaviors that clearly speak to their disinterest in anything other than their own needs, widowers get a pass. Proving that the “widow card” is a mighty little act of self-interest in more areas than simply workplace or guilting one’s family, friends and the occasional stranger.

I am still working on my “success” story for Abel’s upcoming book on dating widowed men. The whole idea that Rob and I are some freak success doesn’t sit well really. I never actually approached our relationship in terms of our being widowed. We liked each other. We became friends. He proposed dating. Then he just proposed and we got married. In “how-to” terms, it wasn’t any different from the first time. And I don’t know that it should be sold as being different either. When we start making exceptions for bad behavior the slope gets shit slick in a hurry.

Abel’s book simply covers the questions that women have posed to him. They wonder if their feelings or the situations that arise are normal. It’s normal to wonder if you are normal. He hopes to caution women away from men who are clearly not ready for relationships or might be using their “grief” in a manipulative manner. In essence, his book is no different from the other dating books out there because the bad behavior men exhibit in relationships really is the same regardless of the label he wears.

What I wish is that women would stop reading men like tea leaves and just ask for and expect to get what they need and walk away when they don’t get it.

On our way back from the city yesterday, we were listening to the CBC’s book talk. One of the authors had written a romance novel that she based partly on the somewhat universal notion women have that love is like the books and the movies they grew up on. Girl meets Boy. They clash. And clash. Until they realize that their antipathy is really love and then they continue to clash all the way to the altar and beyond – because that’s what love is, right?

But it’s not. Love is not that hard. It isn’t fraught with tension, second-guessing and tears.

At least it shouldn’t be and if it is, one should step back and really look at what is and isn’t going on.

A man who loves you is not ambivalent in his expression of it or his desire or in his follow through. If you are loved, you will know it. If you don’t, you probably aren’t loved.

No one wants to hear that or be the one to point it out to someone else. Hence the world of dating self-help. It’s a way to use anecdote, pop psychology and a lot of sugar to tell angsty women what they already know – that he’s just not that into you. Or that his idea of how you fit into his life and future plans isn’t the same as yours.

Lots of couples fall into the trap of being with someone who doesn’t quite fit because they despair of finding someone who does, and it’s sometimes hard to know if the ill-fit is a genuine mismatch or just two people not putting their best forward due to some self-inflicted story they’ve insulated their emotions with over the course of dating and its past disappointments. But if it feels like you are a square peg who hips will never slide through that round hole – it’s time to be really honest with yourself and the other person because love shouldn’t be a drama-fest unless it’s a Hollywood movie or a bad paperback from the rack at the grocery check-out.

Rob and I didn’t “make” our relationship happen. It was a logical progression of escalating feelings. Honestly, grief was never an issue in the way that the world of GOWS (girlfriends of widowers) are taught to believe. Grief isn’t a life long disease. It subsides within a year to a year and a half, and falling in love again, in my experience, should speed that process up quite a bit. Widowed hate the idea that new love is “healing” and I don’t disagree though only because I dislike the “healing” terminology. It makes feeling sad because someone you loved has died seem not normal somehow. However, the best remedy for a “broken attachment” is a new attachment. What worked for us when we were teenagers suffering through a break-up or unrequited love still works when we are grown ups – falling in love again. The simplest solutions endure for a reason.

If you are dating a widower and he is anything less than totally into you, keep looking. You can do better because if he loves you, there is no guessing or tears.

*Disclaimer, it was rather widespread at the YWBB, though no one wanted to own that inconvenient truth. Widowers are in short supply on the grief sites and they are hunted like trophy animals by some widows due to the old wives’ tale of widowed men being proven and seasoned husbands. I don’t think that is the case given the number of my fellow females who are willing to settle for less than stellar consideration. The odds of a widowed man having been not so great a husband but simply married to a woman willing to put up with him is probably 50-50.


My own work. Created using "Inkscape"...

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The limit is 500 but I received a dispensation for another 50. So how many words have I written?

843.

A first draft should just flow freely. Even when you know there are word count constraints, the first rule is just get it down and done. Worry about length in the edit.

If I’d had a thousand, the mandate would have been relatively easy.

Explain how you and Rob made your relationship work.

Which begs the question of why our both having been widowed set the odds against us in a way that other relationships aren’t as challenged, but the book is advice based and geared towards women who find themselves dating and/or in serious relationships with widowers.

A widower once showed up in the forum who took issue with the idea that dating him would be more difficult than dating someone with a different set of variables. He argued that divorced or never married men presented women with similar issues. He ranted and raved quite a bit – which left the question of why he would need special handling not all that much in doubt – but he made a good point. One I don’t disagree with really. Dating is dating. Baggage is baggage to be unpacked and then put away in a drawer, donated to a charity or tossed in the trash.

And everyone comes to dating with a unique to him/her set of details for someone else to parse.

So what did we do?

In 550 words or less?

We wanted it enough to do all of the things that the experts tell you are critical in establishing and maintaining a good relationship but that most people are too lazy, caught up in life or simply resist because it wrecks the whole sexy romance aura of it to bother doing.

  • Did you know your partner’s complete medical history before you signed on the dotted line? Or debt obligations? Credit problems? Portfolio? Retirement plans? I did. And Rob had my info too.
  • And did you talk about your fears? Plans for the future? How to raise the kids – discipline and Santa Clause issues alike?
  • When things came up – as they do – did you speak up or stuff it until it exploded in a Technicolor montage of every little thing that drives you crazy, being sure to include all miscues and imagined slights?

There was not a lot of doubt where Rob and I were headed. Even in the very beginning, our emails read like two people mining for a potential relationship. We weren’t youngsters and we don’t come from the school of drifting until something is so obviously a relationship we are forced to make it an action item.* Though Rob thought we could perhaps live together for a bit, the immigration issues, compounded by insurance and employment and child concerns and my rather immovable point of view on the stupidity/just asking for trouble problem with the whole free-form co-habitation thing, made that a less desirable alternative. Rob gallantly refrained from pointing out that we were engaged and planning to be married in September anyway, which was really a sweet thing for him to do.

Both of us did the cohabitating thing with the late spouses. Rob and Shelley at the behest of her grandmother, who believed couples needed at least two years to practice before tying a knot**. I went along with cohabitating with Will but I laid my cards on the table first and put a time limit on it, and he was invited to agree or move along.  He found my conditions completely reasonable and actually proposed well before his time was up – as he had planned to all along I later learned. Living together is a rather pointless exercise for those who’ve decided that marriage is what they want anyway. But it mollified others and provides the illusion of having put time and thought into your decision.

When I share the odd story here and there about our courtship and the early part of our marriage, I leave out the work part. Partly because it’s not romantic and partly because I – incorrectly no doubt – assume that everyone knows that good relationships don’t bubble up from the sea-foam like Aphrodite.

Things came up.

We had three children in varying stages of not being terribly pleased with us. There were in-laws who felt trampled upon and friends who weren’t sure how to react. Our mothers were supportive but not all that secretly worried. My dad was about the only one who wasn’t too concerned.

Logistics. Moving and merging households. Immigration. And the emotional residue from care-taking and grief still wanting central stage from time to time, having been in the spotlight for so long how could it be otherwise?

550 words. I almost need a book.

*For the record – again – I am personally opposed to living together in a mindless manner. Nothing good is the usual result. As an off-shoot, I don’t think it’s wise to know what you want but keep it from the other person because they either a) don’t want the same thing really or b) you think they might meander into line with your way of thinking if you just stay casual about it. To varying degrees, they are all recipes for personal misery times two (or more if you are foolish enough to impose this on children either by dragging them along for the ride or creating one from scratch).

**At least that is what Rob told me she told them. My theory? No one was crazy about the idea of Rob and Shelley marrying. I suspect that Shelley’s grandmother used her considerable influence to simply slow the two of the them down a bit, and they went along because they were incredibly young and marriage  – at least in the days of our teenage yore – seemed pretty permanent. But that’s just my theory.


Example of the idyllic impression of a snowed-...

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It snowed. I am sanguine to near total zen about it. Rob reminded me that last year’s final snow dump occurred on May 4th, which I don’t recall, but I do remember the walloping we took in early April after the ground was all but clear. Spring ditch rivers run close to the road and given the decided lack of shoulder on the rural roads, slipping off is not a preferred option.

No progress beyond cabinet installation as far as the reno goes. The man took measurements for the counter top, but it won’t be ready for another week at least, so there goes my dreams of Easter in semi-complete house. If we are even close to complete by May Long, I will be surprised. I am beyond ready to be done and Rob is so far past that point that he idly toyed with the idea of checking out a house that is for sale in Ardrossan – nearer to a rail track than the house we live in now. The trains run only early morning and late night in J’berg but Ardrossan is a main track with long rumbling parades of cars rolling through continually. If you ever watched my husband’s slow burn reaction to a train – anywhere it impedes his progress or makes noise – you would recognize that his level of reno fatigue is off the charts.

Mick has been full of news of late. We took her mother’s piano into the city for her last weekend and discovered, not to my surprise at all, that she was dating. And yesterday she let Rob know that she will finally be able to escape the kitchen work that has been steadily threatening to leave her fingerless. Through the machinations of one of her dubious friends, she is now employed as the IT girl for a company in the city. We are worlds of pleased for her because the digit injuries were concerning and it’s always nice when one’s child finds gainful employment that has meaning.

And I have an opportunity to submit a small piece to a dating book that will be published soon. The author writes a weekly advice column for the wives and girlfriends of widowers. I have written about it  before,  but he planned to take the blog stuff and turn it into a self-published e-book.  However, he is under contract to a publisher and they claimed dibs.  He was  surprised.  I wasn’t.  Self-help sells and niche dating stuff, especially written by a man for women, sells bigger.

Rob was puzzled, “Who would read a book about dating widowers?”

If I wasn’t so versed in the dating advice/self-help genre, I would wonder that myself, but I also know my fellow females and we, sadly, are prone to trying to coax pig’s ears into silk status. Therefore, we will read anything that we think might help us save loser relationships.

Harsh? By the time one gets to the point where an advice book is one’s only hope, one should have walked away long ago.

The truth is that men are not so complicated where dating and marriage are concerned, and they are like women in that they will change only when they see clear benefit that doing so is advantageous for them. You can’t change anyone or analyze a bad relationship into a good one.

But, Abel’s advice is common sense. He doesn’t pull punches or blow sunshine up bums.

His publisher wanted more stories about some specific post widow dating stuff, but I couldn’t find Rob and I in any of them. We just really didn’t have issues that harkened back to dead spouses in a grief-related way. Unsurprisingly, given current grief cultures Ayn Randian emphasis on “I am grieving so my needs always come first” advice that widowed folk are spoon fed by the various books and online self-help aimed at them, dating a widowed person has probably never been more confusing for those who haven’t been widowed themselves. They like to compare a widowed past to a divorced one but it’s too apples to oranges for analogies to match up really, but I am in total agreement with the non-widowed’s view that “your dead wife does not get top billing in our relationship and your grief issues are not a trump card to play whenever you want to get your way”. I also am behind the idea that children and in-laws should be kept out of relationships just as they were previously*.

Abel though thought I could just offer an overview of how Rob and I “made it work”. In 500 words or less. You laughed? So did I. Brevity is not my middle name

I don’t know that Rob and I “made” anything work. Relationships are work of a kind, and anyone who doesn’t think so is a fool, but you can’t make love be if both people aren’t on the same page and willing to throw absolutely everything on the table and make it all about the other person. I doubt that most people who are already having issues would be willing to follow the road map that worked for Rob and I, and indeed was quite similar to the one Will and I traversed.

And that’s about it. Employment continues to vex me. I am marginally invested in the blogging gig but covering current events wearies me and I fear for my karma. I listen to others talking about new jobs or watch as they pursue business ventures and am a bit jealous. Every vacant storefront begs me to speculate. A neighbor recently opened her own saloon across the street from the yoga studio. Edie and Silver are making plans to start an industrial plastic recycling venture. Jade, at the studio, is talking expansion. I have no ideas. She suggested volunteering at the schools and getting back into the classroom, but it’s not an idea that sparks anything inside me.

I think a lot about asking the domain owner if I can try reviving Moms Speak Up. Or even starting a site of my own so I can blog events rather than go the journalist approach which chafes and isn’t my best or favored writing style. I just don’t know.

But it’s time to get to Yin class. Yin is good for snowy Fridays when one has a cold (again) and is standing at the crossroads wishing it was really spring.

*But I realize that some people have always allowed children top billing and put up with meddling in-laws and often death simply magnifies this bad training. People should run away from those who allow any of this, imo.


Laughing couple.

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Left a comment on a post about remarriage that prompted the author to come back – gloating a tiny bit at what she perceived was “striking a nerve” – to “explain” that she really meant no offense and was writing from her own perspective.

What perspective? Longing and need. Not atypical when one is alone again after having been contentedly cocooned in a relationship. But she made the mistake of comparing her missteps with those who venture back in a more relationship oriented mind and who, unsurprisingly, find someone.

I have written it before but it bears repeating  – most people find what they are looking for when they date. The trouble is that most people look for the wrong things.

But the observations that prompted me to comment were directed at folks who remarry. In the author’s opinion, moving into marriage again after a short interval is based on the longing only. There couldn’t be any possible way that real love is the motive.

And in the absence of the one we truly want, I am sure that occasionally the “stand-in” can fall into a small space made where the huge void developed. And maybe that is love. A new love.

Stand-ins. Second wives are “stand-ins”. How could we hope to be more when we are not what is actually wanted?

And one wonders why dating goes wrong or new relationships don’t lead anyway? As if anything good could come from using people? Or thinking of them as second best or pale imitations?

This particular blog is multi-authored, but more than a few have a decidedly poor opinion of the men and women who dare to be second. Surprising given that a couple of the others are in relationships or remarried themselves.

But I’ve observed this elsewhere. At Widower Wednesday, a widow left a comment in the middle of a conversation taking place between mostly non-widowed second wives and girlfriends that upbraided them for their desire to come first in their relationships.

“Seconds should know their place,” and I am paraphrasing except for the “seconds” term. “They cannot expect to supplant the late wife, who by rights earned her spot eternal as first and foremost.”

Heavens to sisterwives! Seriously?

I left a response to the explanation of the blogger who has such a low opinion of the idea that love can be love on the same level as one lost, but it wasn’t approved. Which did not surprise me. I was pointed and called her out for mixing her metaphors. Basically, one can’t fall back on “it’s just based on my experience” when citing an example of that is based on the life of someone you heard about via a friend.

She’d started her post with the tale of a widower who’d remarried in the first year after his wife’s death. She implies that he was simply filling that void. Not that she was judging or anything.

So why bring it up?

There is no corner market on longing and loneliness and the need to be held and make love. It’s not exclusive to any particular relationship aftermath or more keenly felt by widowed as opposed to divorced or someone whose broken up with a boyfriend. Hurt is hurt. Pining is pining. The degree of attachment and the owie it leaves when severed is dependent on the person and will vary.

But no one is a stand-in. No one should be viewed in that light or allow herself to be cast in that role. And if you are prowling for a warm body only have the balls to say so upfront so the object of your carnal desire has the right to choose to be used or not.

Using someone for sex and dating with an eye to a permanent relationship are not the same things at all. Perhaps that post should have been a two part’r.

 

 


Broken Vows

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In the course of the “uproar” about Joyce Carol Oates tome, A Widow’s Story, I pondered yet again my withdrawal from my memoir. I truly believe that most memoirs slog through a marsh of well-trod ground, offering nothing new in terms of insight. They hack up analogies, metaphors and similes like a cat does hairballs. Just so much stinking, steaming emotive glop.

Without anything new to add to the conversation, it’s just another entry in a reality-soaked entertainment genre that’s come to define our society. It’s pretend self-help because no one wants to be helped. Misery loves company, but it craves validation more.

That’s why grief blogs and on-line communities thrive. The hurting arrive looking for hope and answers and stay because being accepted and understood in the dark  Gollum-like shady places is easier than getting back out into the harsh light and starting over again.

Mostly, I have been John the Baptist in the online grief world. Yelling like a mad-man out in the desert. Chastised and dismissed or ignored entirely.

So I thought, what have I to offer? My clichés and analogies? They are no different from Oates. She wryly observed all the same odd and annoying aspects of losing a loved one that I have read hundreds of times before from better writers possessed with abundantly more self-awareness.

“But what about our story?” Rob asked. “You have our story to tell.”

Yes, but what can I add to that old plotline? Widow finds love again. Widower finds love again.

Finding love again is the basis of every rom-com ever inflicted on the movie-going public.

I think our story is as special as he does, but what makes it worth the time of someone else to read? And doesn’t our contention – that love is possible, attainable and doable after loss –  fly in the face of grief’s tenets? The work of sorrow, the long hard hoed row, and the idea that one never heals?

It knocks the stuffing out of the soul mate theory, and the notion that seconds (a charming term I learned recently from the widowed community) should simply be grateful for a spare room in someone’s chapter two because the master bedroom is a memorial shrine as “til death do us part” applies to other people’s lesser romances.

And then I was perusing a couple of the more well-known widowed folk blogs. Reading comments, one where I was kitty-clawed a bit for my insensitivity, and another that dealt with someone discussing the new person in his/her life that was so insulting to this new love that I nearly asked the blogger why he/she was dating in the first place* and it hit me.

What I have to offer is dissent.

I don’t agree. Widowhood is not a life long emotional disability. One can, and most do, move on. MOVE ON. Not “forward”, but “on”.**

We can and many, many of us do love others just as deeply and passionately and with our whole hearts – not some basement room or attic space.

Life does get better and sometimes it even gets awesome. And it’s a choice.

Oh, and our children? Not doomed to be emotional eunuchs. They will be as okay. They are far more resilient than they are painted.

And the vast majority of people whose hearts have been broken – because it’s hardly just a widow thing – don’t snivel, whine or retreat into lives of quiet desperation. At least not at a rate any more significant than the rest of the population, who believe it or not, also don’t enjoy single parenthood, loneliness or having no family or friends who understand them or have their backs when they need help. They too are under-appreciated, overworked and struggle financially, which might have more to do with their lack of interest in your problems than “not getting it”.

We are not special. Charlie Sheen is special.***

*Really, if I read one more person droning on about how their dead spouse in every and any way can’t possibly be replaced and that the new boy/girlfriend should just shut up and be grateful for scraps – I might go on a commenting frenzy.

Seconds? Shudder. It’s like a derogatory term from a bad sci-fi movie about artificial lifeforms.

**Semantics? Yep, telling semantics. And not in a good way because when one needs to parse things so finely, perhaps relationships are part of one’s past, or one is more concerned about what others think of them than in being honest.

*** Rob is fond of a saying of his late, and certainly unsympathetic, father. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re special, son,” he would tell Rob. “Because they mean you’re retarded.”


Money

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Joyce Carol Oates published her contribution to the dead spouse memoir section of your local bookstore this last week or so. How another rather elderly woman is widowed by an even more elderly man rates as soul wrenching tragedy eludes me, but she felt the need to chronicle her “magical” first year and share all 400 pages of it with the world – for a price.

Because you can find more authentic accounts of widowhood for free in the blogosphere, it’s a wonder that publishers still acquire this kinds of books and shell out capital to print and promote them. Notice I didn’t include “edit”. No one, apparently, puts Joyce in the editing corner and more than a few reviews of her work have pointed out that her memoir suffers from the lack of it.

The only thing of Oates that I have ever tried to slog through was We Were the Mulvaneys. I didn’t get far. Her style is bloated and slow.

But her new memoir kicked up a bit of a tropical storm in grief culture circles because of a reviewer who dared to wonder – out loud – how Oates could leave out of her story the fact that she was dating and engaged to be married before the first anniversary of her husband’s death.

Oates herself threw out, by way of  explanation, a cliché – that widowed folk with long happy unions tend to be so grounded that they naturally move on to equally awesome new unions with more alacrity than those who had short and/or problem filled marriages. Which has always rung hollow for me because my anecdotal experiences have revealed no such pattern.

But this was lost in the vicarious rallying of the widowed around their favorite theme – no one outside the sacred brother/sisterhood has any business questioning or criticizing. So there.

Rational discussions – and there are some here and there – ignore anyone who brings up the very good point that Oates was being a bit disingenuous by leaving out the dating and remarriage thing. It’s not a small thing and it absolutely is valid to wonder what prompted her to leave it out.

“She didn’t want to be judged!”

Because we are so judged for remarriage. Yawn. Within the brother/sisterhood, we are. I’ll agree with that. But by and large the vast majority of people who don’t know us at all, or very well, find remarriage heartwarming and a just reward for our “suffering”. Aside from my late husband’s family and friends – and widows here and there on the ‘net, I never encountered judgment.

Or jealousy. There are, I hear, herds of divorced and never married women out there who will sneer and snipe at a remarried woman’s alleged “hogging” of the small pool of decent men their age. Which I don’t buy either.

Mate envy is almost a DNA XX code thing. We are taught to compete and undermine each other from an early age and some of us never quite rise above the early training meant to reinforce our Darwinian breeding drive. It’s not personal. It’s not widow-centric.

Was Oates looking to avoid envy? Wanting to compete with Didion’s dominance and firm hold on the title of “Widow of the Millenium”. Worried about the reaction of her fans? Critics.

I think she is too canny a promoter of herself and work to not have realized that including information about moving on to a new relationship would have really changed the focus of the book. It wouldn’t have been a pure “grief” memoir. And she wanted her story to focus on the sadness, the pain, the affronts aplenty from the non-grieving world. Moving on just doesn’t fit neatly into the “poor widow me” paradigm promoted by the current grief culture, which is about life long struggle with loss. Even if that isn’t actually true – it sells more books. And at the end of the day, Oates has been a writer longer than she was a widow.

People who write for a living are only as fresh and marketable as their last book. And they do look for the hot trends and try to shoe horn themselves in. Writing is a business.

One thing I read over and over from literary agents, editors and publishers is that even a memoir has to have a point and say something new. It needs a hook. It’s not enough to simply have survived a tragedy. People do that all the time. What’s different about your tragedy? What did you do that was different? How can you apply your epiphany in a way that’s inspiring and will move readers to more than just pity?

Oates told the typical widowed story ,if the examples and excerpts in the reviews are accurate, with the obligatory touch points that we all have come to recognize from other books, movies and tv. She gets away with it because she is already quite famous. An icon. The well-established are allowed to be trite and re-tell well-known tales without adding to the narrative in any significant way.

Even if she had copped to falling in love again during that first year, that isn’t a new story either. Though it’s a lot closer to reality and offers far more hope for people who are widowed.

Oates played to the readers she knew would likely be her audience. Women who are older and alone, looking to be validated. It was shrewd. Also, by leaving out her new husband, she guaranteed a bit of controversy. I doubt at all that she was surprised when one reviewer had guts enough to bring it up. I’d even venture to guess that she was counting on it.

The dead husband memoir genre is real. There are books and blogs aplenty. Workshops are built around them. Cult followings spring up. It’s a business that compels memorists and self-help writers to plug their offerings in the comment sections of blogs and every time they write on someone’s Facebook wall. That’s not altruism, you know. It’s marketing.

Every memoir has a hook. Oates’s is her well-established fame. She didn’t need anything else. But the average person does. My own story, which will never be published anywhere but in bits and pieces on this blog and in various comment sections of other people’s blogs here and there, has no hook. There is nothing special about my story. Young mother widowed. I am no different from a thousand others but for minutia.

Rob could sell his story. He’s a guy for starters. That’s not typical. He went on a quest of sorts after Shelley died to leave her ashes in all the places they’d loved. A man in his truck travels across America spreading the essence of the woman he loved in those sacred places that represented their life together. He even took pictures. People might read that.

Widowers being a rarer tug at the female heart-strings and they can sell tragedy that’s identical but for gender to a public that rolls its eyes and yawns at the female version. Young widowed father? Heart-warming. But a woman in similar circumstances is just another single mom.

But here’s the thing about memoir, everyone thinks that if they’ve lived something than they can write it in a way that resonates, enlightens and moves the discussion forward. If you’ve read enough blogs, you know that isn’t true. Living an event is not enough to make one an authority and it doesn’t ensure that one has anything to add to the subject. It also, doesn’t make one a writer.

Oates is a writer, though of the literary set, meaning she appeals to a limited audience most of the time. Memoir has a wider audience. Voyeurism can be counted upon in the U.S. at any rate. But I question the value of her contribution. It’s not like older couples are unaware of their mortality. We get old. We die. That a woman her age remarried is the bigger statistical surprise, but even that is a tired, well-worn story path.

She doesn’t strike me as someone who is too worried about what others think of her. She left out the second husband thing because it didn’t fit with the image of herself she was promoting. Very simple and strategic choice.

Being a widow has more cachet than being remarried after all. It conjures up all manner of heroic stereotypes. Look at Liam Neeson, for example, a recent interview touted his statement about “grief waking him up in the middle of the night”. I wonder how lines in the story touched upon the fact that he’s had a girlfriend now for quite a while? Actually, I don’t really wonder at all.

Widowhood is the hot.

Moving on? Not so much. Oates is a savvy woman.


Young widow, 1851

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Although I rarely “widow” blog anymore, this blog attracts a fair number of the grief-stricken, who comb through the dead spouse tagged posts or even go back to the deepest corners of my archive and read every single post I wrote in the first two years. And I read griefy stuff here and there myself, mostly people with whom I am acquainted to one degree or another.

There is a blog called Widow’s Voice that showed a bit of promise in terms of balancing the diversity of grief experiences and I would read, comment if I felt inspired, but over time, the site went “party line” as it evolved into a business/career for some of the people involved.

And by party line, I mean it promotes the idea that widowhood is a borderline mental health issue that can be managed over the course of one’s life though never cured. It supports the idea that widowhood is a persona rather than the fact that it is merely one of the less fun life events that a person experiences, deals with before moving on to a hopefully more fun life event.

Recently, one of the bloggers wrote a piece on “getting it”. In widow speak, people who “get it” are those who understand that widowhood is forever and that it’s a delicate condition which should inspire your inner widow to bleed copious amounts of pity indiscriminately. It’s played off as empathy, naturally, but it’s pity – for yourself and the newly widowed – that’s really being promoted.

People who don’t “get it” are the non-widowed because how could they ever imagine such a thing, or begin to have the slightest glimmer of understanding, if they haven’t “been there” themselves? Don’t Get Its are likely to provide solutions and problem solve instead of  mindlessly drooling pity and acceptance of bat shit crazy actions or thoughts. Don’t Get Its are mainly uneducated – though this is rarely a good enough excuse to keep them from being scorned and ridiculed.

But the author of the post, someone I recall from my YWBB days with little fondness, wrote about – gasp – discovering that Don’t Get Its existed among the widowed. Shudder.

Not that she was making judgments. She clearly states –  That’s neither a negative nor a positive statement. It’s just an observation. My observation.

But a calculated and cutting one and then she goes on to clarify that the number of widow idiots is small though it apparently includes her widower boyfriend,* and that it’s mostly a phenomena of being years out and remarried.

The audacity of some of us. Letting time actually heal our wounds and then moving on. Hand the smelling salts to Aunt PittyPat.

I tried to leave a comment on the piece but the widow (not really as she is remarried too) screens her comments and doesn’t post ones that contradict the blog’s thing of “anything goes as long as its sufficiently brown-nosing and dripping with pity”.

Do I get it? In terms of being newly widowed and learning the ropes in the first year or so, I do. It’s brutal and people without support networks are more the norm than not in North American society, which makes it harder. We are also a death denying/fearing culture and this complicates matters.

But people who are farther along and still leading with their widow foot? I don’t get them at all. Why make loss and grief your identity? Why the need to solicit pity? Why blame every disappointment on the totally unrelated death of your spouse? Why still read between the lines of everything the people around you do or say and interpret it as a slap? Why feel sorry for the newly widowed and encourage them to take more time in the depths of grief than they normally would have but for your misguided “help”?

And frankly, I feel misunderstood and judged. Not a positive or negative? My ass.

It is the same old tripe message that implies that those of us who move on must not have had good marriages or loved our spouses.  And don’t get me started on the whole “soul mate thing”.  One widow’s comment on the post actually put forth the self-serving notion that people who move on never experienced real love. That their marriages were inferior and lacked the special magic that allows them to “get it”.  They were to be pitied.

Really?

If I am pragmatic, I must be unfeeling. If I don’t agree with coddling or condoning questionable mindsets or behaviors, I don’t get it.  If I think you are wrong, my marriage must have sucked.

But I do get it, all too well. I just don’t agree and that’s not the same thing at all.

If you want to make a living off your misfortune, you are hardly an anomaly. If you chose to work through your “issues” by pursuing a grief-related career, I’ve met more than a few people who’ve done just that. But don’t disingenuously smear those of us who’ve put our loved ones deaths into the perspective of our own lives and choose to rebuild off the cemetery. And don’t make assumptions about boots you haven’t walked in.

The only eyes we can actually see out of are our own. Myopic as they may be.

*Though she doesn’t  mention what he thinks about being lumped with those of us who clearly didn’t love our late spouses and/or had marriages of questionable soul-mate status.