Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Widows in the Cemetery and Red Hats in Church




Sometimes on paper things can look a little weird but in real time doing that something is downright fascinating. That was the case with a tour I signed up for at the senior hall. The day of the tour forty of us, dressed in serious rain gear, got on the bus early in the morning. The weather forecast was a 90% chance of heavy rain off and on all day and it was raining hard at the time. We would have had a full bus but ten people stayed home, afraid they might melt in the summer rain…or the ghosts might get them, I guess, in the fog that comes with morning showers and eerie places. We were headed to the oldest cemetery in town for a two hour walk and talk. 

Our tour guide was a man who’d written several books on “the art of memory” as he likes to call his fascination for the tombstones of our city’s founding fathers and this guy’s research was thorough! He was a retired lawyer and is a frequent lecturer at the local museum who had, for example, tracked down the court records of a couple of murder trials of the residents under some of the elaborate stones. He also got into the history of the Rosetta Stone and how that influenced the style of some of cemetery art we were seeing. Like in any town, the streets and buildings named after the founding fathers are known long after they're gone but how they made their money and what their contributions to the growth of the city were is often forgotten. This tour brought them all back to life. I can honestly say I never knew our town has such an interesting cemetery, complete with an Egyptian style pyramid mausoleum no less. I thought places like this could only be found out East. And the rain? For some miraculous reason the only time it didn’t rain all day was when we were walking around the cemetery. The ghosts who reside there must have enjoyed our company and put in a good word to the Rainmaker.

The next day I was supposed to go on a walk-about with my Red Hat Society Chapter. Seventeen of us had signed up for a guided tour of several churches downtown with lunch sandwiched in the middle. The architecture and stained glass windows (some by Louis Tiffany) are really something to see---I’d seen them many times in the past when I was working in the floral industry---but that wasn’t the reason I emailed my cancellation after I got home from the cemetery tour. One, I was exhausted at the moment and wasn’t sure I could climb all those steps and walk the downtown streets so soon after my cemetery tour. But, in hindsight I know that wasn’t the only reason I bowed out. The other reason is because I was stupid and I let some hurtful comments cause me to second guess myself.

The back story on those comments: Last week in another blog that I frequently visit there was a shocking---at least to me---discussion about The Red Hat Society. Some of the comments were: The Red Hat Society “encourages older women to be worse than invisible, it shows older women as being ridiculous.” Another person said, “I would rather have no friends and hang out with my cats than pal around with a bunch of loud, absurdly dressed women,” and a third person said the Red Hat Society “spawns conformity” and that they are “an annoying part of society.” The one that really got to me as a widow was a comment about how she’d rather enjoy the company of a man. Well, duh, we don’t all have that choice and some of us don’t want to be cougars just to be with a person who stands up to pee. Does she know the demographics of men to women in the over 70 age bracket?

I left a few comments of my own, trying to balance the negative stereotypes being thrown around and so did a few others but as much as I tried not to let the discussion bother me, over the next few days the nasty comments were like a single pimple on a flawless face. You can’t quit zeroing in on that pimple when you're looking in the mirror! When I thought about what I was going to wear to the walk-about the nasty comments were there in my head….and I hate to admit it, they kept me home and from having an interesting guided tour and a pleasant lunch with some nice ladies who don’t want to let widowhood (or their couch potato husbands) keep them at home. I guess I need to re-read the poem that inspired the Red Hat Society so I can screw up my courage and resolve again. The whole point of the society is that at a certain age women no longer have to care about the societal conventions that put restrictions on us when we were younger---when we had too many responsibilities and other people to answer to, jobs and reputations to uphold as well as needing to be good role models in our families. We are free, now, to wear colors that don’t match and laugh in the streets and explore the world around us. The red hat is a symbol for that kind of freedom. Will someone cross-stitch those last two lines on a sampler that I can hang in my kitchen?  ©

 
Warning by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickles for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

22 comments:

  1. Since RB came back from NYC it feels like she is unhappy and wanting to pick a fight. You shouldn't let her get you down.

    I considered deleting her blog from my favorites, but she does sometimes have good info on social security, etc. So, for the time being I'll continue to check out the blog daily, but, if this continues, I'll dump it.

    I know things are rough for you right now, but try to hang in there. Don't worry about what other people think -- if it raises your spirits, go do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the comments! I feel priggish complaining about what someone else writes in their blog---it's a free country after all---but I try to keep true to myself here, and share what is going on in my life and in my head at any given time and I gave entirely too much time thinking about that particular blog entry not to cover it in mine. Thanks, again, for another viewpoint!

      Delete
  2. I used to have some negative stereotypes about the Red Hat Society until your blog posts got me to take another look. Being an old woman is a stigmatized status in our culture, and there are two ways that people deal with stigma: one is to claim that you are not like those other stigmatized people and to distance yourself from them; the other is to fight the stigma by embracing and valuing those who share it. The Red Hat Society is about the second strategy; those who make the denigrating comments are probably using the first strategy. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Distancing oneself as a way to deal with stigmatizing status reminds me of my nephew's father-in-law who lives near-by but refuses to investigate the activities at the senior all because, "That place is for old people.!" He is 89. LOL

      Thanks for your enlighten view of the denigrating comments about the RHS. That makes a lot of sense.

      Delete
    2. Hi Jean,
      I have been reading your blog for a while and came to it from TGB. I have continued to read your blog because you are a good and interesting writer.
      I, too, was amazed at the comments last week regarding the RHS. I don't think I have ever read such inconsiderate and nasty comments on TGB. I wonder if those commenters were concerned more with the stereotype of older women that has been projected rather than understand the positive aspects of the society. I am sorry to read that you decided to cancel but those comments stayed with me for a while too, and I thought they were hurtful (even though I'm not a member of RHS). Regards, Leze

      Delete
    3. Nice to "meet" you Leze.. They were hurtful comments, I can't deny that. When I've been out and about with my chapter I've never experienced anything but positive reactions from other people that we come in contact with. It was shocking that someone in the same peer age group could be so nasty about such a large group of other women. Like I said 'over there' there are 40,000 chapters in 30 different countries. They have to be doing something right.

      When I was in my late 20s I belonged to a service society and the RHS women have the same kind of relationships with one another. You would not believe, for example, all my chapter did for a member who recently died of cancer....so much so that her family made a special point to ask everyone to wear red and purple to the funeral.

      Thanks so much for weighing in on this post!

      Delete
  3. Stepintofuture nailed it for me. Any of us, any group, can be stigmatized and shunned, and for what? Expressing ourselves? I've come to see The Red Hat Society being about elder pride. And much like gay pride brings that 'alternate' lifestyle out of the closet, it's bound to ruffle the fuddy duddies among us.

    My only experience with Red Hat Ladies was on a riverboat in the South. They were having such a great time, not at all clique-ish or rude. "Nice, fun group of women" is what I thought. Glad you've reasserted your affection and pride :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll see how much I've reasserted my self come September when it's time for another walk-about in public...LOL There are two teas between then and now to help me get my RHS pride back. Those are not a big deal though. The business where we go loves us because we've been spending money at their Starbucks twice a month for 11 years now...not me personally but the chapter. I was there the first two years and this last one---had to drop out in between to care-give. Down with fuddy duddies! Think that will be my new battle cry when self-doubt comes along. LOL Thank you for that.

      Delete
  4. How awful to take someone else's ridiculously negative words and let them ruin a perfectly good day. How did I miss this post???? You know how she often calls herself Crabby Old Lady. Definitely is. Negative about sunshiny days! Or as my hubby would say "she could ruin a wet dream"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh! Where did that wet dream phrase come from I wonder. My husband used to say it too. Thank for the laugh and the memory.

      Delete
  5. I also have followed you and your blog for a long time.You should hold your head high and not worry about negative people. I think that once we reach a "certain" age, we deserve to enjoy life to the fullest. The Red Hats have done so much for some groups and are a very good way to stay active and have fun. You deserve to enjoy yourself and go out and meet new people and have fun. I can't wait until I can wear a red hat too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, welcome and thank you for the encouragement and kind words.

      We have/had a couple of pink hatters in our chapter---women under 50. One I'm pretty sure she joined just to spend more time with her mother. We had a party for the other woman on her 50th birthday when she could start wearing red. It is a good way to meet new people, too. Charters get together on occasion for bus trips or high teas, etc. or invite each other to an event.

      Delete
  6. I actually went back and read the post on TGB again. Although in the post there is a negative comment about RHS I missed that the first time I read it! I was focused on rude commenters and now rereading the comments, I realize that there were only two or three negative comments but mostly very supportive comments of the statements that you have made, Jean. And they were very good statements. I did find it interesting that the negative commenters clearly had no connection to the RHS other than what they had heard or read, so it was a clear case of prejudice from the outside looking in. The bliss of ignorance! Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right. It was too easy for me to breeze right by the good comments and focus on the bad and let them fest in my mind. A couple people did have some very nice things to say. Thanks for caring.....

      Delete
  7. I don't what the TBG is--guess I don't want to find out? ALL my friends that are associated with the RHS just love it. I have always liked their poem! You were exhausted from the day before and that may have let the negative comments hit you even harder?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just the initials for a blog that covers a lot of topic about aging...like mine would be TMW and yours would be OUEF. Usually it covers pretty interesting stuff. It's in my link list. I do think if I hadn't been exhausted I might have pushed through the negativity in my head. But carpooling emails were going back and forth and I had to make a decision and all I could think about is how my best RHS outfit was too hot for the weather we were having and we'd be downtown with all the "city people" like the TBG blog owner is.

      Delete
  8. Jean, as my friends say to each other when we are feeling frisky, or in need of some support: "You rock!" (You know, as in 'you're so cool'). Anyway, I concur with what all the other folks said about RHS and how great it is. I facilitate an exploration and support group of sorts for women over 60 and we are constantly fighting the "old people stereotypes" that pervade our culture. I see RHS as being at the forefront of dispelling myths about aging. Grab your gusto, your "I don't care what you think" attitude, don the red hat and make some fun. Sheesh! Also, just FYI, I had a major blow up on my Facebook page this week when I posted about my love of our Seattle Seahawks and glad the season is starting again. I know not everyone loves football, but I do. Anyway, one of my FB "friends" absolutely BLASTED me about supporting professional sports and accused me and my ilk of neglecting the important issues of the day (race, climate, hunger, homelessness, etc etc), as we "sit on our asses screaming our heads off" for a football team. Now, I wish I could let that roll off my back, but I'm still upset. It's hard to hear criticism about something that should be innocent good fun and an important part of our lives, no matter what it is. (Sorry to launch into my own story…just could relate to you being bummed and influenced by the snarky blogger.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After that pep talk I wish I had a Red Hat Walk-About to go to right now!

      Oh, my gosh! Don't some people realize that humans can care about and support more than one thing at a time in life? Just because you like football doesn't mean you neglect or don't support other causes. Your Facebook situation and this post of mine have exactly the same root cause: Someone getting a cob up their butt and judging others as less than themselves. and for stupid reasons.

      Delete
  9. i was a "hatter" as i liked to call myself for a number of years but sadly my group scattered and went away. we did some good things too like going into nursing homes and raising funds from car washes for animal rescue places, stuff like that. another group i belonged to in georgia mostly just went to lunch but that was fun too and i made lots of friends. they no longer meet either but i am still friends with ladies from both states.

    don't let anyone piss in your milkshake honey. i don't. ever.

    hugs, bee
    xoxoxoxoox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a way with words, Bee. I will try really hard not to let anyone pee in my next milkshake. LOL

      Delete
  10. Jean,
    I read that post, too, and thought it was wrong minded. I don't comment there so I didn't read the comments. However, I jumped over there just now and read a few. I can see why you said they were hurtful. You have to wonder how a positive organization like RHS could possibly raise the ire of anyone. I'm one of those people who stopped some RHS ladies when we visited Occoquan, Va. and asked them if I could take their photo. All smiles, they obliged.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think our residence professor in this comment thread nailed it---stepintothefuture.. Those who are so negative are afraid of growing older and don't want to associate with anything specifically for women over 50. And I will add they degrade groups like the RHS to build themselves up.

      Delete