I’m going to start out by sharing an awkward encounter with you, mostly because my days are riddled with those and I can think of no better way to introduce you to what is my life.
Most people that I find myself in conversations with these days know that I’m a widow. There’s always a mutual understanding that when they ask me, “how are you doing?” or “how do you like it here?” it carries a much heavier weight than the typical casual inquiry. And when I answer with facts and details like “we’re moving in with my sister” or “the weather is nice” (because those are much easier then all of that emotional junk), people accept these as a sign that I’m doing my best and then we can move easily to another topic. But for the first time, I had to bring the conversation to a screeching halt in order explain myself to the odd-woman-out who didn’t know my situation.
It was in a group of moms during a play date. Most of the women, even those whom I had just met for the first time, had been given fair warning; “this one’s a widow, tread carefully,” or something like that, which only made it worse for the unsuspecting one. It went something like this:
in-the-know mom: “So how do you like living here?”
me: “Eh, I’m not a fan of the cold, but it’s nice being closer to family.”
in-the-know mom: “Oh, I’m sure, what a blessing.”
unsuspecting mom: “Did you move here for your husband’s job?”
in-the-know mom: *silent panic*
me: *eyes ping-ponging to everywhere but her expectant face*
in-the-know mom: *whisper stutters* “she… her…”
me: *finally* “I’m a widow…”
unsuspecting mom: *shock and apologies tripping over each other*
me: “This is so not your fault, someone should have warned you not to ask about my dead husband.”
And then I laughed, and then she laughed, and then everybody laughed way too loud at a joke that wasn’t funny.
Now I want to be perfectly clear, I wasn’t offended or sad or mad, I was just really shocked for some reason. Sort of like, “but doesn’t EVERYONE in the world know that Gregg is dead?! Everyone should know because everyone should be grieving!” I think I was also a bit hung up on a conversation I had had with my SIL a couple days before. I had joked about how when I was in an area where people didn’t know, I was just going to announce my widowhood to everyone so that I could get the looks of pity and awkward questions out of the way, as well as put their curiosity to rest. I said I was just going to stand up and exclaim it as a way of getting in front of the fiasco. “Hi, my name’s Amanda, I’m 28, I have two kids, and I’m a widow.” Sort of how Chris Farley would fall on his way on stage during his stand-up, just to get the first joke out of the way to ease the pressure about making the audience laugh. This was going to be my chance to ease the pressure. For a second I was like, “yes, this is what you’ve trained for, stand up and announce your marriage status and own your sucky situation.” But I didn’t, that ship had sailed before I could jump on. I just made a joke that wasn’t funny, but gave us all a reason to laugh and ease the tension. Unsuspecting mom seemed like she felt really bad. Poor unsuspecting mom.