At a young age, I concluded that widows were different from other women, set apart, other. Not long ago, I met a man with whom I instantly hit it off.
A friend of a friend, he looked me up when he was traveling through New York from Europe.
One date was texting me regularly to make plans and tell me jokes, only to downgrade his correspondence to Facebook the more he learned about my past, then fade out completely.
He never conveyed the reason he bailed, but it was clear he wanted someone breezy and uncomplicated. In hindsight, I admit that wearing my wedding ring and discussing Frank may have signaled that I wasn't ready to move on.
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.
And one morning, when I left the hospice to feed our cats and make some calls, Frank died.
A chaplain led me by the hand to her office, and I sank to the floor, crying, deeply sad--and guilt-ridden--that I had not been with him at the very end.
Although I decided to wear my wedding ring for a year after his death (as a respectful gesture to Frank and to keep unwanted male attention at bay), six months in, I felt ready to date.
I had started to miss companionship, the everyday pleasures of having a man in my life.
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.
But he also helped me understand how alien and incomprehensible my situation must seem to someone who has not lived with such a loss.