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The Rec Center where I work out (almost daily now, like a very good dog!) had a little handwritten sign up the other day:

Widow’s Potluck

with a little arrow pointing down a dingy hallway.

It got me to thinking, which, as we know, can be dangerous. 

If I were married and my husband died, I would not want to be identified as a widow.  What a sad status.  Sad because you are identifying yourself by what you have lost.  Sad because it places you in an exclusive club that you never wanted to join.

And that got me to thinking even more.  Almost every form you have to fill out asks you for your “status”, with “status” being defined as:

— Married
— Single
— Divorced
— Widowed

Now why should anybody care?  Is it really anybody’s business?  Why should we clump ourselves into these categories?  It’s not as if this question provides any insight into your emergency contact information or mental state.  Don’t they realize that there’s a judgement involved in each of these categories?  The boxes might as well read:

— I have not been successful in finding a mate.
— I’m better than you because I did find a mate.
— I failed at making my marriage work.
— My life is defined by the death of my spouse – hell, I might as well die too.

Honestly, how rude.  And doesn’t this leave out those of us who may be in love but do not want to be married?  We don’t exactly define ourselves as single.  We’re in a committed relationship.  We have a life partner (which unfortunately also implies that we’re gay.)  We just fall outside the check boxes.

Can’t someone please come up for a word for those of us who are “of a certain age,” dating and totally committed to a man, but not really interested in marriage?  I hate using the word “boyfriend”.  It makes me feel like a middle-schooler.

Why do we define ourselves with these terms?  Isn’t it the same thing as defining ourself by our relationship (or lack thereof) with someone else?  Why can’t we just define ourselves as ourselves?

Alternatively, we define ourselves by our jobs.  This identifying label makes losing one’s job that much more difficult.  Not only have you lost your income, your self-esteem, your routine, and a big chunk of your social network, you’ve lost your identity.  When strangers ask you, “What do you do?”, what can you say?   “I exist”?  That just implies failure or laziness. 

I have a British friend who told me that in England, you must know someone fairly well before you ask them what they do for a living.  Asking such a question is essentially the same thing as asking how much money they make, and heaven knows we never ask about that – it would be entirely too vulgar.  Yep, that’s us, shockingly vulgar Americans.  Just think about the John Goodman movie “King Ralph”.  Gotta love the scene where he’s wearing the crown in the bathtub.

I suppose this was a mini-rant.  It’s not a battle I’m willing to spill blood for, but it is an interesting set of thoughts, at least to me.  Now it’s back to the drawing board for coming up with that word for my relationship – and checking to see if there are any goodies leftover from the Widow’s Potluck.

October 2010
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