ONE MARCH AFTERNOON IN 2010, I logged on to Facebook and glanced at my relationship status.
My 42-year-old husband, Frank, had been dead for a month, but it still said "Married." Then, in a surreal, only-in-the-21st-century moment, I changed it to "Widowed." I hesitated, but I had to do it: No word but So, at age 39, after seven years of marriage, I was no longer married; I was a widow.
Well, yes, of course I loved him, but our marriage was like most: It had highs and lows.
Yet when I started dating, widowhood became the woolly mammoth in the room--guys would try to avoid the subject completely.
The first man I dated after Frank, a sports fanatic from Brooklyn whom I saw for two months, would tense his jaw and say, "I'm sorry," before changing the subject to football. But I felt sorry enough for myself; after a point, I could hardly bear having anyone else feel sorry for me.
But he also helped me understand how alien and incomprehensible my situation must seem to someone who has not lived with such a loss.
I've been dating for almost two years now--some guys lasted just one date, others for months at a time.
But I felt torn between feeling very attached to his memory and also taking tentative steps toward a future without him.
Widowhood also has had a strange sanctifying effect on how men perceive me.And this, the only appropriate designation, felt hard-earned.Frank's sickness and death belonged to him, but they had changed my life, too, making demands and requiring sacrifices.I asked questions in oncologists' offices and took notes.I cried on the phone to impassive health insurance bureaucrats.However, there always seems to be a barrier between us, and it's often Frank. Not only can I seem frustratingly ambivalent about what exactly I want from a relationship--I'm still trying to figure that out--but before I became a widow, I held my own judgments about these women.