My husband just died but at least I’m taking it well. Everybody tells me so. ‘Oh Julie, you’re just handling this all so well’, they gush, willing it to be true. Insisting upon it.
At first I tried to play along; I wanted to believe. The love of my life died at 43 after a grueling duel with leukaemia, but whatever, I’m so strong. I’m so competent. Look at me, I’m handling it. Just like you all want me to.
But you know what? I think you may be wrong. What makes you think I’m handling it well, anyway? What evidence can you cite? The fact that I still get out of bed most days? That I’m not wasting away due to malnutrition? That I haven’t forgotten English, or where I live?
My brooding public appearances in ill-fitting mismatched clothing haven’t given you pause? The six months which have gone by with no response to your email? The fact that I haven’t yet bothered to change the utilities from his name to mine?
Screw this. From now on, I am officially handling things badly. Go on, try and stop me. I don’t know what it will take to convince you of my utter failure to grieve with grace, but I’m going to give it my all. I shall cry in public. I will tell people about his death in completely inappropriate situations - at the car dealership or, say, a professional networking event. I will scrawl lovesick graffiti on the walls of my flat, late at night, sobbing and drunk. I’ve done all of these things already, but perhaps you may have missed them. Time to up my game.
Here are some ideas. Which ones do you think best fit with my new identity of Widow Handling Things Badly? I will go on lots of dates, or refuse to date, whichever you find least appropriate; stay out every night, sleep all day; get nine more cats; dress said cats up like babies and push them around town in a pram; not leave the flat for days at a time; get life-sized blow-up doll and insist you address him as my new husband; join a cult; found a cult. (Note to self: think up ideas for a cult.)
Will you stop telling me how well I’m widowing then? Don’t make me have to try even harder to get this wrong, because I will. What will it take? Face tattoos? A total disregard for the conventions of polite conversation? Stripper clothes? Not returning my shopping trolley to the designated area? Would that make you finally turn to the person next to you and whisper, ‘Oh my, the Widow Galante really isn’t handling things well, is she?’ Because that’s what I want you to say. Stop telling me that I’m good at this. I don’t want to be a good widow.