(Don’t) Look, up in the sky!

What’s your superpower? Whenever the chatter (virtual or real) runs out of steam, someone is bound to ask; what would be the superpower you would choose? These days of course I would wish for time travel. Any day from the mid 1990s until late 2013 would do. If I must winnow, then it would be my wedding anniversary in 2013. That was a great day. But before my husband died I would’ve answered “invisibility”. Oh how I long for a cloak of invisibility. I don’t want to spy on people unnoticed, or roam bank vaults or jewelry counters. I just prefer not to be seen.

I know what you’re thinking…”aren’t you the woman who showed up to a fundraiser dressed in a snakeskin suit?!” Yes, that was me. I stand by that fabulous suit and the knowledge that I wore it because I loved it, not because I wanted to be noticed. The (very, very) few moments in my life when I knew all eyes would be on me I dressed as neutrally as possible. My wedding dress was a simple satin column with long sleeves, and even that pained me. I hated the idea of a gown (something I would never don in real life) AND of being the star of the show. I wore a knee-length, boat necked, long sleeved dark green dress at my husband’s service. Believe me, if there was a way I could have produced that event for the people who wanted and needed it and sat it out, I would have. Having to be at the center of that show was agony for me. The comments people made about my appearance still echo in my head. I have just never been comfortable with people’s asesment of my appearane.

Let me be exruciatingly clear, right now and right here: I am delighted with my own appearance. I think I’m pretty and have a lovely body and in my age class am at least a 9. So let’s not confuse other people’s unwelcomed attention with any insecurities or body image issues I may have…I don’t. For most of my life not being seen was not based on my appearance but rather by the fact that I’m actually an introvert, a closeted one, but one nonetheless. I lived in a small town for ten years and going to the grocery store was my Nam. I would keep my eyes down and push the cart with a force and determination usually associated with manual lawn mowers. The football field sized store was a small talk landmine. (Have you ever noticed that the lack of cultural opportunities of a town is reflected inversely by the size of its grocery store?) I would sneak a glance down an aisle, making a split second determination of where to turn my cart. It was exhausting. You may be wondering; “Good G-d woman, why didn’t your husband do the shopping?!” Oh he was there. He was standing at the entrance talking to any and everyone. What can I say; opposites attract.

I’ve lived in a city for almost 15 years now. Mercifully, forced social interaction is no longer a weekly occurance. However since my husband died, I’ve discovered what a lot of women have always known. We are really really really judged on appearance. Was I clueless when I was younger? Was I married to the last evolved straight man? I’ve no idea. My husband, and the world I inhabited as a married woman, never made me feel that my appearance was the most important part of me. My husband thought I was beautiful and would have prefered if I never put on clothes. However he was my biggest fan in all regards. I understand that online dating is a visual medium. Of course we judge potential dates on what they look like. When I was engaged in swiping, I would nudge right when his eyes looked kind, or he had the smile of a man who got the joke. As long as he appeared to be in good health, I had no interest in his body. I mean, they’re over 50 for crying out loud! If they have all their original parts that’s a win! It was the rare, really rare, okay, nonexistent man who felt the same as I. Whether in messages or face to face I have had the pleasure of hearing a stranger’s opinion of my appearance. How charming. How utterly romantic. Before we get all uppity about the superficialness of online dating, let’s me state that this has happened many times in real life as well. I’ve had less than a handful of relationships since my husband died and each one of these “gentlemen” talked at length about my body as well as voicing their preferences as how I groom or dress it. Ick. Seriously, ick.

I’m a middle-aged woman with interests, opinions, experiences, ideas, beliefs, and hopes who lives inside a body. Ninety percent of who I am is what’s inside. I am blessed with a strong vessel and the desire to keep it strong. I am lucky to be a late bloomer and have come into my prettiness after I was (almost) fully formed. To be valued for something that is the very least of who I am is offfensive and disheartening. Receiving compliments is not a problem, feeling like an accessory is. I want to be seen. Signed – Invisible Woman

 

 

 

 

 

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A Life Reclaimed

There are a lot of different kinds of marriages. There aren’t “as many as there are couples” as people don’t differ that much. People’s interpretations of marriage and people’s relationships do differ. My marriage was perfect. For me. I won’t speak for my late husband as that would simply be self-serving. But I can speak for me.

I married my best friend. Not like; “my child is my best friend” (ick) or “my dog is my best friend” (really? would he come get you after your colonoscopy?). I married my husband because he was the sleepover date that I didn’t want to go home. That is not some clumsy allusion to sex. It’s that I never grew tired of his company. He didn’t make me nervous he never made me doubt myself or him. I felt at home with him and had gobs of fun. So when he began to plan our wedding out loud (yep, that was my proposal!) I didn’t even flinch. I did have one moment of bridal jitters: we had checked into our lovely ocean-side honeymoon suite and I was standing by the window, as he was unpacking his bag. All of a sudden I became panicked. “What have I done!!” My very next thought was; “oh, it’s okay, it’s him.”

My marriage was a seventeen year pajama party. That is not to say we didn’t struggle or have our share of crap. We did. But throughout it all, there was nowhere we’d ever rather be than we each other. We would make living room nests and binge watch before it was even a thing. We’d get in the car every weekend for an adventure (when we lived in a cultural wasteland). We were each others touchstone and playmates. We took classes, went to opening nights at the opera, traveled, and read together (yes, he read aloud to me every night.) We shopped together (my husband loved to sit outside the dressing room as if at a department fashion show from a bygone era.) There were years in which we even worked together. That kind of togetherness is not for everyone, but it worked for us. The sound of him coming home never ceased to thrill me.

I miss going out with my husband. I miss sitting at my vanity as he watched me primp. I miss how I felt on his arm. But it’s our home life that I loved most of all. I am a homebody, an honest to goodness closet introvert. Being married to my best friend was a license to hermit. There were hundreds of Saturday or Sunday afternoons spent reading in bed while listening to Jonathan Schwartz’s American Standards show. (I was delighted when the programming changed as it eased that painful reminder.) We both basked in ritual and predictability and loved to nest.

When I began to try and rebuild my life I stumbled out of the house (like a newly born colt) whenever possible. I felt that’s what “living” was and I knew I had to LIVE. I went to the theatre, concerts, exhibits, lectures, classes and traveled. I worked, I volunteered, I took care of other people’s children and animals. And then something changed. I can’t put my finger on it. Was it the man who ghosted me after a brief whirlwind courtship? Was it being with my best friend during his surgery? Was it the three consecutive incidents of sexual harassment in the span of a week? Was it the realization that my family of origin was not going to care for me (I think I’d thought that being widowed would have evoked a dormant empathy). I don’t know, I just know something changed about nine months ago. I’ve started to reclaim parts of my old life. I no longer feel that I need to LIVE to live. I say “no” a lot. No to theatre tickets, dinner invitations, travel, you name it. If the thought of something does not make me giddy with pleasure, I say no. I loved my life with my husband. It was the only period of time in my entire life when I was happy. I’ve discovered that I can reclaim tiny bits of it. It’s exciting and comforting to nest with intention. I’ve even cooked some of our favorite foods…and eaten them! When I catch myself feeling self-indulgent or anti-social I remind myself I wouldn’t have felt that way if he was still here.

I am done flailing around trying to grab onto a new life. I will never be as happy as I was with him. But I can be who I was when I was with him. Enough has changed, I don’t need to become someone new to LIVE.