My Dear Friends and Readers,
Three years ago, I desperately wanted to get married. More than not wanting to be alone, I wanted to be a part of a” power couple”. I wanted a partner that could understand all of my nuances and complexities. In truth, I wanted my future imagined life with my third husband who at that time had been dead for almost three years.
Three years after an self-imposed two years of celibacy and of living alone, I tell people that I don’t want to get married. This statement is not a 100% true, but maybe 95% true . If I meet the right guy who wanted to get married, sure. However, marriage is not something I long for, like I used to. In the two years of learning to live alone, fighting daily fear and anxiety, I realized I was fighting society’s definition of what it meant to be unmarried at 53. My prospects for a relationship, much less marriage were not plentiful. At 50+ most men are married and settled or newly divorced or widowed and like me facing an uncertain future. My friends who were all well-meaning set me up with men who but for their age (and race) had nothing in common with me. I actually joined a dating website and was surprised by the kind and number of men who responded, but I never went on a date or had a conversation with any of the men who were interested in me. I think on-line dating is risky, at least too risky for me.
I cannot recall exactly when I started to enjoy the luxury of doing exactly as I pleased when I pleased. In retrospect, I realized that I did not reinvent myself, instead I began questioning society’s definition and role for women after age 50 and the role of women in general. If not nurturers and vessels from which babies are born , then what is our role? If not a wife or mother then what?
When I was growing up the terms “captain of industry” and “world leader” did not come with a picture of a woman, especially not a woman of color. Thankfully today they do. I have found that unmarried and women without children are viewed as not fulfilling our roles. Successful, independent women who make themselves a priority are sometimes seen as selfish- as if by mere biology we should be caretakers who prioritize husbands and children over ourselves. I was taught to believe that I needed a “help mate”. This kind of unconscious, thinking and believing led me to perform countless things to please or keep my mate. These acts included wearing my hair the way “he” preferred it. Wearing clothes that “he” liked or wearing or not wearing make up- the list goes on. I even once pretended that I liked animals- which I do not- I am allergic to them. I watched a lot of football, basketball and baseball games as if they held the code to life or the secret to keeping my man.
Fortunately, for me I thought, at 51 I had beat the ugly odds of finding a man and had married a successful banker who shared the same gusto for life as I did. Two years later he was dead and I was a “widow”. It was a word, a condition that I knew nothing about and one that I thought I had years, at least 25, before I had to contemplate what that status meant. Before becoming “a widow” I thought it was similar to being single or divorced. Nope, it’s neither. The worse part for me as a widow at age 53 was my own unconscious, accepted belief that my window of opportunity for snagging another man had closed. I would spend the rest of my life alone. Alone, unmarried and 53 is not a status that most people want to find themselves.
So what becomes of us women who are biologically unable to reproduce whether by choice or age or who choose not to? Society’s expectations are limited and whatever those expectations might be, I find to be undesirable and unacceptable. I was not interested in being a cougar- a woman interested in younger men. I was not interested in being a “sugar momma”. I did not want to join a women’s book club, travel club, bridge club or any other club for that matter. The truth is that I don’t want to be identified by my martial status or my age or my gender or my race. I want to be an evolving full expression of myself without restriction. But first I would have to learn to do all the things that my version of man would have done for me. These were stupid things- change the oil in the car, take out the trash, mow the front lawn (if I had a front lawn). I would also have to learn not to feel uncomfortable going to events by myself, spending holidays alone and being fully responsible for every aspect of my life. At the time when widowhood forced this upon me, I did not believe that I could do this.
Fortunately I had the means emotionally, financially and physically to do the these things. This is not always true for widows or widowers who depend physically or financially on their now deceased spouse. It wasn’t easy, but it was not as difficult as it might have been. When I had “found” myself, some people both male and female did not like how I presented myself or how I interacted with them or the world. Too bad. It is freeing to finally accept myself and to live unapologetic and on my own terms. After my friends and family stopped feeling sorry for me, and when I started to do things that were not expected of me for my age or race or gender, I was called materialistic and vain and “kooky”. I was not graciously living out my role as “widow”. None of this monikers bother me. I have other values, core values such as education, health, beauty and being of service, but I am materialistic and vain.
During those years, that I longed to be married, I once posted on Facebook a picture of the ring pictured above. My status update read something like this”my fourth husband would not need to buy me this ring, but he would have to be OK if i bought it for myself”. It’s my truth. I want what I want and I don’t need a man or another person to obtain anything for me. I don’t need a travel companion. I do not fear venturing out by myself whether it ‘s to a club or war torn country that I have always desired to see. I have learned to be me. I am not lonely and I am not looking for anything but adventure, personal growth, fun and contributing wherever I go.
So on this long weekend, I have happily watched the last season of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Scandal”. This has been a fun indulgence. For my readers who live else where in the world, for women and men everywhere who are trying to fit and where today is not a legal holiday, I say find your own niche or create it. Have the courage to live a life that expresses who you are. If a brood of children bring you joy- go find some even if they are not your own. If fixing cars or tending a bar or growing flowers makes you happy ,do that. Find your “roses” and inhale deeply.
To all of us in the United States, Happy Memorial Day! I wish everyone a day of full self-expression that does not harm anyone else or themselves.
Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes .