A Widow’s March

I have a lot of stuff in my head — no clear ideas or sharp feelings, just stuff. For example, I have conflicting feelings about the woman’s march. It seems like a good idea since solidarity is helpful, but there is a lot of contention over what the march is supposed to accomplish, which is not helpful. Some people say the march is pro-abortion, and so pro-life women are not welcome. Others say the march is for liberals, and so conservative women are not welcome. Others insist it’s about equal pay and equal opportunity, and so anyone is welcome. It seems funny that after all these months of people talking about inclusivity, separating women into various sexes such as lesbian, transgender, and whatever, all of a sudden now there’s just one . . . women. Why can’t it be that way all the time?

What I don’t understand is if this is a march about abortion, are all these women planning on having abortions? And why are there so many abortions? People used to say that there were unwanted pregnancies because of lack of education about pregnancy avoidance, but it seems as if there are more abortions than ever. To my understanding, the new regime is not so much interested in abolishing abortion as in removing federal funding. If this is what women are against — removing the funding — it’s even more mystifying to me. What they are saying is, “my body, my decision, your financial responsibility.”

More of a concern to me than abortion is the whole cultural aspect of women’s ideology. Apparently, one of the airlines used pink lights in the plane to Washington DC as a show of solidarity for the women, but really . . . pink lights? Why does pink still signify women? Pink is a color that is used to reduce aggression and anger. Could it be that’s why the airline used pink lights, not so much as solidarity but to keep the women in line?

See? Stuff.

Talking about cultural aspects of women’s ideology reminds me of the many anti-feminist themes still present in so-called women’s movies and chick lit. Too often the stories are about trying to get the guy to propose, which leaves me to wonder why the women don’t do the damn proposing if they want to get married. There are stories about successful business women who have to learn the importance of love. There are stories about women trying to teach each other how to trap a man. Sometimes, especially in historical romances, there are hints of rape as a prelude to romance. And of course, there are on-line sites that brag they are smart women who love trashy books, books that in no way reflect their own political beliefs.

I’m not really interested in people’s sexuality, so all the talk of inclusivity when it comes to gender and sexual orientation passes me by (though it is nice to know how one’s friends lean in order to understand them better). When you are alone, there is no sexual orientation because orientation connotes a leaning toward, and if there is no one to lean toward there is no orientation. What does concern me personally is the subtle (and not so subtle) exclusion of widows.

Ours is a coupled society, whether the couple is the same sex or different sexes, so a person alone is someone who barely exists. Even worse, there is a vague feeling that it’s your fault for being alone. People quickly forget that you once were coupled, that you once had someone. And now you’re . . . inconvenient. If your friends used to be other couples, you are no longer invited to events, so you try to make new friends, but if the women you like are married, you’re in the same boat as you were before. (People expect widows to become friends with other widows, but this does not solve the problem of exclusivity; it exacerbates it.) If you try to do things on your own, you pay double for a room in a hotel or on a cruise ship. Ads about products for old people show couples. Ads for assisted living places show couples. Ads about supporting one another in illness shows couples. And then there are the ubiquitous articles where a couple who is celebrating their gazillionth wedding anniversary gives advice on how to say together so many years, which always makes me want to scream “You’re still together because one of you didn’t die!”

But some of us are not so lucky. We are left to grow old alone, and a woman (or man) alone is no one’s priority.

None of this “stuff” will change anything, not even for me. Current events only serve to make me feel more alone, more outside the range of what is considered normal life in the twenty-first century. I probably would not be musing about any of these things, but the juxtaposition of the woman’s march (or rather the contentions about the march) along with a blog reader’s question as to whether I had any insight on growing old alone has put all this stuff in my head.

The growing old alone part is no one’s fault, of course. Nor do I expect society, the government,  or even individuals to do anything to solve the problems that will arise for all of us folks sitting alone in our empty rooms. We will do what we have always done since the death of our beloved, take each day as it comes, do what we can to survive, and hope that someday our lives will make sense again.

I’ve never been one for marching or demonstrating in a group, but today I will do a widow’s march. Sort of. I will take a solitary walk, and try to clear the stuffing out of my head.



(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

22 Responses to “A Widow’s March”

  1. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I saw articles here and there that asked what happens after the march. One suggested the march was good in and of itself to focus on issues referred to as women’s issue, but that the danger was in people going to the march and thinking, “okay, I’ve done my duty” and then they go back to their lives without taking any more action. Another writer said the march would end up stuck like the occupy movement if all the interest it generated didn’t lead to something tangible…that is, to action. Maybe that action would be more women running for office, continued support of activist or social service groups, contacting representatives regularly, or something that keeps the heat on, so to speak. I marched in an anti-war protest when I was in college, but otherwise, I’m not one for protesting in the streets. At least you went for a walk.

  2. Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

    I would quote Thurber: “Leave your mind alone!”

  3. Suzette NC Says:

    Pat, this is so well written,thought provoking and right on the mark!!!!
    This blog is a keeper for me.
    Why can’t we protest for the government to provide us with a place to meet in each of our home towns because we don’t seem to fit anywhere else, why can’t we ask the federal government to make it where hotels and Cruise lines cannot charge us extra for a room just because we are alone. We didn’t ask to be alone we don’t want to be alone, yet we are discriminated against because we are alone.
    This comparison to what all the other people are asking for is no different than what I just asked for, but I realize it is a RIDICULOUS thing to ask for. But so is asking for me to pay for you to have sex and not get pregnant. If you want to have sex and not get pregnant then you pay for protection so as not to get protected, not me. I could go on and on with comparisons, but there’s no need to.
    Once again Pat very well done article thank you .

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’re right — it does seem silly to ask the government to provide for what we need, so it’s just as silly for others to ask for their needs. If it seems silly to make laws to force married folk to treat us as friends, then it’s just as silly to force people to b friends with other folk they have nothing in common with.

      I am pleased with your response — somehow I didn’t expect anyone to agree with me, but then, you know what I am talking about.

  4. Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

    Since Thurber didn’t strike a chord, I would address that ennui with “enlightened self- interest” – give that a shot.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Isn’t that what I’m doing?

      • Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

        Gosh no — “Nor do I expect society, the government, or even individuals to do anything to solve the problems that will arise for all of us folks sitting alone in our empty rooms.”

        “Human beings are fundamentally self-interested, notwithstanding any precepts that say we should be otherwise. We appear to be intrinsically concerned first with their own welfare. We must keep in mind that our own interests will be best served if you take into account the interests of others.” – taken from an essay on “The Enlightened Self” in Smartrecovery.org.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I’m sorry, I’m confused. What are you talking about? I am taking into account the interests of a forgotten segment of society. But what does any of this have to do with this blog? Besides, considering my injury, the pain, and my inability to get around or to do much of anything, I don’t know what you expect me to do.

          • Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

            Pat – you’ve already identified the path forward: “Now it’s up to each individual to create the world they want to live in.” I’m just saying that enlightened self-interest as described above – advancing down that path through “win/win” exchanges is the best way. I realize the complications involved in your injury and the resultant frustrations are speed bumps on the road, but healing will come. Good luck and health to you.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I tell my truth, and in doing so, I help other people. That is my path.

  5. Jean Says:

    Pat, I understand perfectly how you feel. Experiencing a profound loss is very painful and exhausting. My husband of 50 years passed away almost four years ago. I still struggle. A day at a time is my approach to finding contentment. It is a lonely walk.💓

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m so sorry about your husband. What people who haven’t gone through this don’t understand is that while the pain does lessen, the days without them pile up. Wishing you the best.

  6. Cocos Loft Says:

    Thank you, Pat, for this post (I just found your blog BTW). I’m a widow as well (since I was 38, I’m now 69). Widowhood, retirement, inevitable health issues, lessened mobility -> unexpected challenges. I’m certainly learning patience, and I seek calm in my life, since I have no one with whom I can talk or at whom I can rail 🙂

    And I find myself more than a little intolerant of the current stream of behaviors and communications associated with the “women’s march”. A thin platform, loud, fragmented, poorly represented by women behaving badly. You’ve pointed out some of the contradictions that are bugging me as well. Not much to like.

    Again, thank you. Coco

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Some of the most intelligent, well-adjusted and grounded women I’ve met and continue to meet are widows. It must be the pain we’ve gone through, the patience we’ve learned, the peace we crave, the self-reliance and self-care that have been thrust upon us. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Women behaving badly is right.

      • Betty Says:

        Hi Pat, sitting here this morning wondering how I came to upon your blog but here I am.

        I’m a woman who played around in marriage, been married three times and messed up all three. My shame is more than I can handle at times but I own it. Here I sit in my mid 60’s suffering for my lifestyle, attempting to make the best of it. This may sound odd to you but I’d give anything to experience the lonliness you experience. I find myself envious of the feelings a widow or widower has after many years of marriage, almost to the point of not wanting to hear it.

        As far as the women’s march, it saddens me to see women and young girls demanding something they themselves have the ability to create, I see no strength in what they’re doing. They want the world to see them as strong women, fighting for their rights, I see the opposite. I see strength in women such as yourself and others like you. For whatever reason I came here this morning, I’m grateful I did. Take care Pat.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Odd that we came to this lonely place from two different directions. At a time when others our age are settling into a comfortable retirement with their spouses, I have to start over, trying to create a life from scratch. I can understand that you don’t like being reminded of your mistakes, but to be honest, loneliness is loneliness, no matter how we got here. Most of the life that I shared with Jeff, I also had to share with his illness and his dying. And now I have … I don’t know what I have. I hope I have the strength you say I do because otherwise the coming years will be even more difficult than I fear. Best of luck coming to terms with your own situation.

          • Betty Says:

            Good morning Pat, I don’t mind being reminded of my mistakes, if I wasn’t aware of them, I’d still be making them, quilt in my eyes is a good thing, for a fews years it was unbearable but it’s now a blessing.
            How long was Jeff ill? One of the most difficult things in life is having to watch someone you love deteriorate before your eyes. I cared for someone with stage 4 colon cancer, went through the rigorous cancer routine and a year later it was back. I cared for him at home with some help from hospice, watching him die was a humbling experience to say the least.

            I don’t know if you’re on Facebook but I have a friend who recently lost her husband, her post are inspiring, she has a heart of gold. Her name is Betty Mincer Nybakken, she tells her FB friends of their love story, she post pictures of their life together. I think those things bring her joy along with her faith and we enjoy sharing it with her.

            My sister’s mother-in-law who is in her mid to late 80’s lost her husband a few years back, she later re-married her late husband’s brother who is 100 years old and had lost his wife. They’ve been married for a few years now and are happy.

            I wish you happiness, I do, you can take pride in the life you shared with Jeff and you know he would want you to be happy. Take the bull by the horns.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Jeff’s was a slow deterioration over many years. He’d get better, but never really well. We adhered to an anti-cancer diet that kept his cancer under control and allowed him to live a fairly normal life until the last year.

            I know he wants me to be happy. I just don’t know what will bring me happiness in the long run, though in the short run, I am able to find moments of contentment.

            Wishing you happiness!

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