Stop Asking About Someone New …

In the widowed community, the topic of “dating again” seems to be somewhat of an obsession by many. When did you start dating? How did you know it was time? What did you do to “get yourself out there again?” Knowing this about others seems to fascinate everyone, and it usually begins with a list of probing questions and possibilities about wedding / engagement rings.

Some people continue to wear them. Others wear it but move it to their opposite hand. Some people keep their rings tucked away in a jewelry box or safe somewhere. A lot of widowed people add inscriptions to the rings, or add the rings onto a chain to make a special necklace. Some widowed parents might hold onto the ring to give to their son or daughter one day. The combination of things that people do or don’t do with their rings is endless. And really, it’s a highly personal choice, and everyone is different. I remember, awhile back, one widow friend telling me that after awhile, she took hers off, because she was no longer married, so wearing it “felt like a lie.”

I remember thinking to myself: That’s funny. That’s the exact same reason that I keep wearing mine. Because taking it off feels like a lie. 

This entire existence feels like a lie, if you want to know the truth. Every morning that I wake up and live in this universe where my husband no longer gets to breathe air; where my future was stolen from me in a flash and replaced with darkness and confusion, where his heart stopped beating and mine stopped caring; feels like one gigantic, ugly, vicious lie.

And yet, I know the truth. I am quite aware of the harsh and horrible truth. I live inside of the truth every single day. But there is a huge difference between what you know, and what you feel, and I feel like Don’s wife. I feel married. I feel that lifelong bond and that forever connection and promise and vow, and I don’t know how to figure out the rest of my time here, knowing what I know, yet feeling what I feel. How on earth do you just stop feeling that? It doesn’t make any sense to me. None of this does. And it never will.

Ever since losing my husband, people have been constantly asking me about finding someone new. Dating. Everybody has to know if I’m dating yet, or when I will be, or why I’m not yet, and if I’m not, maybe I should get on that immediately in order to make them all feel better or more comfortable or less awkward with my existence. I have been asked and probed rudely about the dating thing by friends, non-friends, co-workers, family, and total strangers. Never was the very fine line between the comfort of the widowed community and the return to the harsh, brutal world more clear than on my return flight from San Diego to New York, after spending a week in the understanding company of a couple hundred other widowed “family” members at Camp Widow. 

I was seated in the very last row, in the Aisle Seat, right next to the restrooms. Lines of people formed all around me over and over throughout the flight, as passengers rotated turns to get up and pee or take a crap, inches from my head. Everytime the toilet flushed, it sounded as if it was flushing inside of my eyeball. Seated next to me was a very young military wife and mother, all of maybe 24 years old. Next to her was a 6 year old boy, her son. She began striking up conversation with me, because we were both terrified of the bumpy takeoff, and shared a second or ten of bonding in our mutual fear of impending death upon crashing.

Our bonding time ended with the inevitable question that you always get from a stranger: Are you married? How I answer this question changes daily, depending on the situation, my mood, and what response I feel, at that moment, might cause me the least amount of pain and anguish. It’s a crapshoot though, because I rarely know or expect what people say to me, and therefore, I find myself with a dull ache in my side no matter how I approach this. For whatever reason, with this woman, I decided to tell her the truth. She is a military wife, after all. Maybe she understands a bit about life and unexpected death and compassion. WRONG! When I told her point blank that my husband died almost 2 years ago very suddenly of a massive heart attack, she didn’t even flinch, or offer up the ole’ Im so sorry for your loss. Nope. Instead, she launched into an endless lecture that had me wishing I had a parachute to jump out of this plane and away from this offensive horseshit I was being forced to listen to:

Two years and you’re not dating yet? Why not? I’d be so excited to meet people and go out! Oh you need to get yourself out there, girl. He ain’t comin’ back. I know some good clubs and places, I could hook you up with some hot guys. I’m serious. Gimme your number. You are lucky I’m not your close friend, cuz I’d be gettin’ on your ass for not movin’ on and finding someone else already. I’m very blunt and I tell it like it is.” 

I felt like saying: “You’re also an asshole”, but I was stuck on a 6-hour flight next to this clueless dummy, and suddenly the smell of other people’s poop didn’t seem nearly as terrible as being wedged next to this person who showed zero compassion or understanding for what my life might be like. When we arrived back in New York and at Baggage Claim, we both waited by the carousel for our things. As I spotted my suitcase and struggled to lift it off of the belt; she spotted her husband, in uniform, and ran into his loving arms, just like in the movies. He picked up their son and twirled him around, and gave them both kisses and hugs. They had each other, and I had Akmad or Rashim, who would be showing up in a taxi-service soon, so I could pay them to get me home.

Why is everyone so concerned with my dating status? Why the hell does a total stranger on an airplane care if I date people or not? What is with people? Do they think that if I find a new love, maybe get re-married, that I will finally be “over this?” That they will no longer have to worry about me, that I will no longer think about Don every single day, that he won’t be more than half of the puzzle that makes up my life? Don’t they understand that wherever I go, he comes with me? Whomever I love, he loves too? There might be a day in the future when I can see myself with “someone else” – but that day is not now. Right now, the idea of “someone else” makes me feel physically sick. It feels like I’m betraying him. It feels like I’m cheating. It feels impossible to me that I can be in love with someone else, when I am madly and deeply in love with my dead husband. I know, logically, that being with someone else is not betraying him. But as I said before, what I know has nothing at all to do with how I feel. And right now, I feel like my marriage and our promised time and years together, was violently pushed into an imaginary ocean where I can’t see it, and I dont know how to swim to it. It’s just gone, and I’m still here, trying to comprehend what to do with this massive and intense love that I have for my husband, who will never be able to hold me or laugh with me or love eating my dinners.

The other day, I was on a crowded subway going into the city, for my weekly grief-counseling appointment. A man who looked to be in his late 30’s, Latino, squished himself into the middle seat, right next to me. Again, just like on the airplane, I was trapped with another fool. The entire 40 minute ride into the city, this dude hit on me, and would not give up. In the last scenario, I told the girl the truth. This time, I decided that lying might be better. If I say Im married, it will make him stop. WRONG AGAIN! He pushed even harder.

Him: Where you going? You going to work? Play? Can I come with you?

Me: No. You don’t want to go where I’m going. 

Him: You give me your number? I take you out later, another time maybe? You very pretty. Let me take off my shades so you can see my eyes, so you can see Im attractive. (takes off) You see? I look good, right? 

Me: Uh-huh, you look amazing. I’m married. 

Him: Oh well that’s okay. Those things never work out the way we want them to anyway. 

Well, he is right about that, even though that is not how he meant it. But in the past 2 years since being without my husband, these are the types of people who approach me. These clueless, creepy, weirdos with no real sense of reality. And they always have that look on their face, like they are either a pedophile, serial killer, or chronic masturbater. The selection of male species that I encounter that seems to show interest in me, does not exactly inspire one to feel the need to “fall in love again.” Or even date again.

I’m not afraid to fall in love again. I am not ready right now, but I am not afraid of it. I will tell you what I am  afraid of though. I am terrified that nobody will want me again. I am scared that I will put my heart out there, and get rejected. I am fearful of developing feelings for someone, maybe another widower or someone who “gets” this life, and and having them not return my affection. I don’t want to look for love again, because I am scared as hell that I will never find it. I met Don by accident. Meaning, I wasn’t looking. It just happened. A music chat room where two people ended up talking about music for 5 hours, deceloped a friendship, then a relationship, then love. Neither of us were looking. It simply happened.

If I ever were to meet someone in the future, I have a strong feeling that it would “just happen” in the same sort of way. I really cannot imagine ever actively going out to seek it, or “dating” again. I did that shit in my 20’s, and it took me so long to find my person. I’m too tired to go through that again. I don’t want to live the single life. I just want to live my life, and maybe somebody will come along and want to live it with me. Maybe not. I dont know. But I really wish everyone would leave me the hell alone about it in the meantime. I have accomplished so many things in the past 2 years, things that I am proud of. But because I am not “with someone”, I am not moving forward? This is how people make me feel when they badger me about the dating thing. It’s offensive. I would like to be in love again, but I don’t need that to make me whole. I am whole. I do not define moving forward as being in a new relationship. Moving forward means you are living your life. Your new, complicated, painful, wonderful, joyful, difficult, hellish, sad, beautiful, precious life.

When I got off of the subway the other day, the guy who kept asking me out, followed me into the station. He asked me one last time if I would please go out with him, and I told him one more time, the lie that feels like the truth: I’m married. 

And he said, with absolutely no irony: “Okay then. Good for you. You’re doing the right thing.”

And I am. At least for now. I’m doing the right thing.

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Stop Asking About Someone New …

  1. First…I love you Kelly. Next… I know its hard and its scary… but try not to overwhelm yourself with “the rest of my life” kinds of thoughts. Don’t worry about the rest of your life. Just get through today or this week… or this flight/train ride (ugh).
    Next… the people who want you to ‘move on’ with your life DO NOT GET IT. But for the most part, they probably really love you and worry for you and want for you to be happy. But luckily for them, they are too ignorant of this life to realize that they are making it harder for you. Knowing that only helps a little though…if at all. I don’t know how you should deal with that. I made new friends (none of them are widowed by as I made friends with them during the worst part of my life.. they walked it with me and held my had whether they understood or not… and they listened to me explain and tried to understand). I removed my parents from my facebook. I distanced myself from people who stressed me out or made me feel bad about me. Even so… if you were to look back far enough in my fb you’ll see me ranting about some of what you are ranting about.
    As far as the fear of dating, rejection… I think most of us get that. I didn’t think I’d ever even be attracted to another man. Then one day I got a little crush. The universe’s way of letting me know I was going to live I think. But I never did date. I had guy friends… a few of them. One of them developed into something more.
    I think I have been lucky … incredibly lucky to have made the wonderful friends that I did. I was three years into this before I got a facebook and found others who felt like me.
    The people who became my friends worked where I did. I know your situation is different. But please don’t lose hope. You have us at least. I have some ideas I will pm you.
    Also… I realize that often when people pose a problem they are simply ranting and want understanding and encouragement rather than help, instruction, or suggestions. Whether its good or bad, I am that person who is nearly ALWAYS compelled to try to help. So I apologize if I am on your last nerve.
    Having said all that…. I can only offer to help because I do understand your irritation, frustration, heartbreak, and fear. And my heart breaks for how you feel. And I absolutely love that you aren’t afraid to TRULY RANT… say it like it is, and not apologize for it. And if you let me know before hand that you just need me to shut up and listen… Im actually good at that too.

  2. The truth that feels like a lie, and the lie that feels as though it’s truth. I’m sure there is a specific word for this… I’m too tired to think of it.

    This is probably my favorite of your posts.They’re all wonderful.

    I think the weirdo on the plane, perhaps thought she was offering valuable advice, maybe it’s a sense of Sempathy , maybe she knows she’d feel like plunging a knife
    into her heart even thinking about walking a mile in your shoes. The ‘pep-talk’ an awkward gift to you, from her giant heart and pea sized brain. For some reason the illustration for the scene you described, I pictured your self appointed life-coach with a megaphone and a riding crop,I’m not sure why.

  3. Kelley, this is a great post. I don’t understand why people would ask that question. I mean, I don’t even ask people who have just lost a cat or a dog when they are going to get another one. It’s callous. Why would you ask someone who has lost a spouse “when are you going to get another one?” Would you ask a woman who’s son was just run over by a car “so, when are you going to replace him and have another?” No…you’d be considered the rudest, most unsympathetic bitch in the universe! And yet, it’s okay to ask a widow/widower when they are going to find a replacement for their soulmate — or try to demand that they do?

    Ridiculous.

    I know a woman whose first husband was killed. She has remarried, but there is not a week that goes by when she does not comment about him on Facebook — he is still an integral part of her life. I know women who have lost their spouses and who never wanted to get back out there …. because that person was the great love of their lives, and they just cannot imagine their lives with anyone else.

    It seems that this is something so personal, so integral to a person’s inner being…

    And yet, singletons get it–not just the widowed. For some reason, other people are not satisfied unless we are all hooked up. I remember distinctly the day I got my bachelor’s degree, the FIRST person in my family to graduate from college, and my uncle comes up and says: “So, when are you going to get married and have kids?” After my divorce, people said the same thing. And I did not really date a lot

    It is a lot of effort, a lot of risk, a lot of pain, just to get to the person who makes you feel like the colors are brighter and the world is better. And having had that, looking for it again….. I don’t know. I would think that if you’re not yet in the place where you need to be, it would feel like you were searching for someone to be a stand in for the one you lost, not for a new relationship…..just something to make it stop. Each person knows what he or she needs, is ready for, is looking for.

    As always, your posts are brilliant and insightful…and while I do not have the experience to understand intrinsically what you’re feeling and going through, they are…I hope….helping me to understand and empathize better with things that people may be going through.

  4. You have to do what is right for you Kelley. I am sure it is hard when people ask questions like that. Hang in there!!

  5. The cab driver taking me from the airport to the hotel for Camp Widow lectured me the entire way when he learned I had been widowed for over 2 years and was not planning to date. Yes, lectured … non-stop … judgmental. Thank God it was a short ride. I don’t get it either, Kelley.

    Although I haven’t been hit on by anyone (not sure I’d even recognize it if I was), I do have co-workers asking regularly if I’m dating. Changed my hairstyle … “oh, are you dating?” No! Wore a new, flattering outfit … “oh, are you dating?” No! I still wear my rings. I have a pendant hanging around my neck with my husband’s photo on it. I say it all.the.time. No! Geesh.

    I started a discussion in Widowed Village called “For those who do not want to date” – but many of the responses are “I’m not READY to date yet.” Big difference. At least to me. I don’t like feeling ‘less than’ just because I don’t want to have someone else in my life. It’s my personal choice. Why do others even care about this? I’m not asking for their help; not asking them to DO anything actually.

    I was married to my soul mate for 41 years. Yes, it’s an overused word … but that’s what he was. I still feel married and I will until the day I die. I miss him and the life we had. But I’m finding other things to fill my life. I’m finding a purpose for why I’m still here and he isn’t. And replacing him just isn’t on the list. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled for each of my widowed friends who find love again. Joyful, deeply happy for them. But my happiness for them and their new love has absolutely no connection to my not wanting to find someone new. None. But, boy oh boy, do people make those connections. And assumptions. And ridiculous comments.

    • Im so happy you are finding other ways to have fulfillment in your life. I don’t know WHY people think that in order to be whole or to ‘move on’ you have got to have a MAN. Really? There are millions of women out there who never marry or have kids and live very happy, productive, rewarding lives. Really… its no ones damn business. Like I said to Kelly… they most often mean well. Often they are people who love you and worry about you. But to be honest… I wish they could understand that its none of their damn business.

  6. Great post, Kelley. This should be required reading for everyone surrounding a widowed person. In fact I will email the link to this blog to a few people :) By the way, the best way I could describe Camp Widow East to was to email your blog!

    I am somewhere in the realm of “not ready yet”. I can perceive on the horizon that maybe, just maybe … there might be… and the way I know I’m not ready yet is that I can’t even put what I’m thinking into words…

    So, of course I have no words of wisdom. When my “friends” make comments about dating.. I never know what to say. Usually I just smile and try to change the subject. “Nice weather in Alaska.. have you been there lately?”

    Hang in there and please know that your words make a hugs difference; they give us all comfort, wisdom and laughter.

    : )

  7. It says a lot about our society that so many people – even perfect strangers – are THAT FOCUSED on whether or not you’re with someone. Ever noticed that some people in your life are NEVER single? They stay in crappy relationships or marriages, when there’s absolutely no reason to stay – and then, all of a sudden, they meet someone new, and they’re out of the old relationship and into a new one in about two seconds. If a relationship ends unexpectedly, they meet someone new the very next day and they’re instantly ‘committed’ to this stranger that they’ve just met. They’re the professional ‘being in a relationship people’ – not to be confused with the happily married, the people in happy non-married relationships, or the happily single. Sometimes it seems like the majority of people fit into this mold.

    Whether they admit it to themselves or not, they are afraid to be single and their ability to function independently is stunted. They are threatened by anyone who doesn’t fit into their mold. They don’t get why someone would want to be single, even if that person is a grieving widow. They don’t get people who choose not to date because they are pursuing career opportunities. They don’t get people who date for more than a year or two without moving in together or getting married. They don’t get couples who don’t have children after whatever they decide is a normal amount of time to be childless. They don’t CARE why you don’t fit into their model of ‘normal’ – but it concerns them that you don’t. They probably mean well, and they’re trying to help you along the timeline of life progression that they think is normal and healthy.

    It’s infuriating. These people bother me for different reasons, but the basic point is the same: they don’t get it when someone’s path or priorities don’t fit their worldview. It feels like they’re devaluing your accomplishments – which you’ve worked your ass off for – by brushing them aside and focusing on ‘the problem’ that they think they can fix. Keep doing what’s right for you. You’ve accomplished a LOT to be proud of, and you don’t have to be on anyone’s schedule except your own.

  8. Reading this, I was struck with how luck you are – and have been – to have such a STRONG sense of your own self-identity. You *KNOW* what is right for you. A less assured person would have given in and given her number to a friend to set them up. A less assured person, I feel, would have looked for a way to ignore the pain and focus on something else. You can,’t because there is no bullshit about you. You are 100% authentic and 100% real. That’s charisma. and that is attractive. I can’t imagine someone won’t see that and not want to be with you – when/if the time comes when you are ready for it – but it will be YOU who decdes you’re ready, not someone else. <3

  9. Kelly, I felt the same way. It’s just now after 5.5 years I’m ready to take dating on. I had a neighbor ask me at one point, are you dating anynoe? I said no, I’m focusing on my kids and my business. She looks at me and says, “girl you’re not getting any younger”
    How I wanted to smack her. I’ve never needed a man to define my existence on the planet before I was married and after her died. I wasn’t looking for someone to mask my pain or make me feel better! I loved my husband on deep, spiritual level. He was my best friend. All the comments came and was astonished at how people could be so insensitive. Then I realized it was from their own awkwardness around death that they couldn’t manage. I just happened to be their receptacle of being small. From those moments I gave them a wide berth of compassion as they did not know any better. For myself, I healed in my own time with all the lessons along the way. I’ve learned so much since Bruce passed about my own resiliency and how to hold the space for my kids. Thank you for your candor and stories. Peace to you ~
    Christine

  10. Kelley, I don’t usually comment, but I had to comment on this. I know pretty well what you’re talking about here, because even my mom asks me all the time when I will finally start looking again. It’s been almost 2 years for me too (october 7, 2011) and everyone thinks it’s “time”. I don’t think that at all. I have 2 kids and in a way they keep me very busy and in a way, they are the reason I don’t want to have anyone else, because of them. I can’t imagine another man around them and them calling someone else “daddy”. since they are still very young and don’t remember much about their daddy, it could very well happen, and I don’t think i could handle that. They had a daddy, a wonderful daddy, who loved them and did everything with them, and that’s it, they will never have another one. Anyway, so I kind of decided that i won’t really get into anything serious until they are grown. so at least another 10-15 years or so. But yeah, hearing this crazy stuff from people, especially strangers who really have no idea, and even the closest family and friends, is tough. Oh and I also feel exactly the same way about no one else wanting me. I mean i’m not like a model, and I’m widowed with 2 kids, that’s a lot for anyone to take on, and i don’t have the easiest personality and temper. I can’t imagine anyone else other than my husband being able to handle me and everything that comes along with me… :( and it does get very lonely, especially at night, especially this second year when everything kind of set in more…. :(

  11. I hate August. The 24th of this month will be 6 years for me. Everything that hasn’t bothered me in ages, bothers me in August. Its bothering me now. I have gained 25 pounds and aged a lot in the few years I have been dating Mando. Last night I was crying, and missing my husband, and thinking about how angry I am he isn’t here. And I was thinking how old and fat I feel and how I didn’t feel like that with Todd. We were young together. And we got older and fatter together, over 17 years, and we were deeply in love. We were each a part of the other…. forever. So it didn’t matter that my hair was falling out, or that I was gaining weight. In fact, I was the same size when he died that I am now. But NOW it bothers me. Because what I have now, with a loving and wonderful man… is lovely, and wonderful. But it is NOT and will never be the same as what Todd and I had. It may someday be something so deep that I don’t care what I look like anymore. It may someday be so deep that I know he’ll love me no matter what happens, or what I look like, or what I do.
    My life is pretty happy now. Im pretty proud of where I am and how far I’ve come. But I still miss him. And I still get angry that he’s gone.

  12. I can’t believe that people will be so rude and actually assume that being in a relationship is the right thing to do at this moment. That to me shows that people are selfish and rude. They don’t understand. That girl on the plane was too young to understand. Perhaps maybe she isn’t really in love with her husband if she thinks it’s so easy to just get up and start dating. I’m glad you’re following your heart and not allowing other’s opinions to influence you. My dad dated 3 women after my mom died. Not once has he felt like he replaced her. He always thinks about her and still loves her. Maybe one day that will happen to you, but when YOU’RE ready not when the whole world is ready.

  13. I don’t think you’re not moving on because your’e not dating. I think you’re doing AWESOME for someone who was forced into this life. I think you’re moving forward quite fine and not in a “leave Don behind and forget him” kind of moving forward but in the “every day sucks and I miss him every moment” kind of moving on. You’re still living, still working, trying to live. You’re doing it. Who cares if you’re not dating? Why is it even their business?! Good grief lady you lost the love of your life not a damn dog you can just go out and get another one of….man! Keep up the great work Kelley and thanks for sharing with us.

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