I wish the world would go back to color-coding people, or rather the clothing society requires us to wear. You know what I mean---make all the widows wear black for a year, have all the harlots wear red to advertise their wares. Protect all the virgins with pale pink. We could even take the color-coding a step farther and put all the hot heads in neon orange and the people into Zen could wear sky blue. Think how much easier life must have been when the good guys all wore white hats and the bad guys wore black---well, at least they did in the movies of my youth. I suspect in the real Old West it wasn’t quite that simple. But then again, stereotypes some times are based in fact and in the case of color, also on the availability of dyes for clothe. There was a time in the history of the world, for example, when it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear purple because the dye was so scarce. Another example of dyes dictating status or occupation could be found in turn-of-the century coal miners who only wore white because the dyes from colored clothing would get absorbed in their skin when they sweat and make them sick.
What got me to thinking about color coding widows is the general topic of insensitive things people say to us. This is a common complaint in widow circles and usually I can chalk up the insensitive remarks I hear as people just being inept at wording their concerns and attempts to comfort. Maybe that’s because I much prefer to put words on paper when I have something important to say. On paper I can edit and hone the message; in person I could very well be one of those people who unknowingly say something too blunt, too cheery, too stupid or too crass. So when I hear someone else say something insensitive I’ll rewrite it in head to what I think they really mean. But what I struggled to rewrite today came as a note in the Christmas card. It said, “I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas now that you don’t have Don to take care of.”
Why, yes, I am! I’m out singing Christmas carols in the streets every night. I’ve rented a sleigh and I’ve been delivering gifts to orphans by day. I’ve stocked up on champagne for the dozen parties I’ve planned and I have a tree up in every room. Oh, and guess what! It’s not because I feel “Free at Last, Free at Last” it’s an attempt to fill the giant, frigging hole Don’s absence left behind in my heart. If I was wearing widows black people might be reminded that I’m still experiencing my first year of firsts and holidays are anything but joyous. If I was wearing widows black I’d have an excuse if I wrote a reply like above and dropped in the mail. If I was wearing widows black others would understand why I got up in the middle of a Christmas luncheon at the senior center and rushed out of the room in tears. But I’m not wearing widows black and people don’t say insensitive things to be mean. People do care and when I’m in the mood to be fair to the person who wrote that Christmas card note I’ll rewrite her note in my head to read something like this: “You spent so many years caring for Don. I hope you are taking care of yourself during this difficult first year without him.”
I’ve become obsessed by the skin on my forehead. It feels like the pair of lizard skin shoes I used to own in 1970---who am kidding? I still have those high heels tucked in the back of my closet. No, I’m not a shoe hoarder. Not even close. Also in the back of my closet is one memorable outfit from each decade of my life. Those heels are part of an ensemble from my man-shopping days; the time of my life when I first met Don, and then traded my high heels in for tennis shoes. When I earmark an outfit to represent this decade of my life I think it will be all black. In the meantime, does anyone have a good cure for lizard skin on foreheads? ©
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