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Slices of Life: The widow weirdo

When my husband died three years ago one of the first thoughts I had was, “I’m not going to be a widow.”

What that meant, to me, was that I wasn’t going to let widowhood define me. 

Now I realize that was a naive belief, because widowhood literally defines who you are and who you are becoming.

How could it not? It is your past, present at future — all in one simple word. Yeah, it sucks.

Widowhood is all-encompassing. You don’t just lose a person. You lose a way of life. You lose your daily schedule — the person you eat meals with, sleep with, vacation with, watch TV with, fight for the remote with, argue with and plan the future with.

You lose your future — as it was planned. As it was supposed to be.

In many ways, you lose your essence. Everything needs to start over from scratch and it seems daunting.

When my husband first died, I vowed not to become a widow. But that’s a hard vow to keep when that is exactly what you are — like it or not. Hate it or not. 

I found, upon meeting new people, it took approximately a minute (give or take) into conversation before I disclosed my marital status. 

“I’m a widow.” 

If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that phrase.

Widow. Widow. Widow. I hate being it, but there’s no escaping it.

Or so I thought. Until the other day when I had a simple conversation with my son.

Me: I’m having lunch tomorrow with a friend. She’s a widow.

Son: Why are you going then?

Me: What do you mean?

Son: Why do you want to go to lunch with a weirdo?

“Weirdo widow. Widow weirdo.” Say that 10 times fast. 

And with that one brief conversation, I decided I’d much rather be a weirdo than a widow.

Is there a weirdo status on Facebook? If not, there should be, because I think there’s so much more to be had from being labeled weird versus widowed.

Weird is quirky. It is unique. It is energy and fun. Weird is maybe that person you don’t want to sit next to at dinner, but it just might be the very opposite. Wouldn’t a weirdo be fun to chat with over a chicken Marsala?

Why not?

Weird is a turquoise shirt with orange pants and a purple scarf: you might not choose to wear it yourself but you can’t help looking and have a bit of awe (perhaps respect) for the person who dares to try to pull it off.

Weird is doing your own thing. It is dancing when there is no music and standing still when there is. It is eating breakfast for dinner and vice versa. It is laughing before the punchline. It is pink hair or no hair or the hair color you were born with — because that is what works best for you. It is talking to yourself (out loud) unabashedly, most preferably in a very public place.

It is going against the grain, but loving every moment while doing so. It is smiling at strangers just to make them wonder who you are and what you are thinking.

It is living life on your own terms in your own way.

It is, in many ways, freedom.

I didn’t choose to be a widow. I didn’t even choose to be a weirdo. But I can choose freedom. I can choose to live life on my own terms in my own way.

And right now that sounds pretty good.

So weirdo it is.

— Jill Pertler’s column Slices of Life appears regularly in the Times. She can be reached at