Ummm… I should mention that “SEX!” is really just a small part of this post… although, it was the catalyst to just about everything that this post is about. Really, I don’t even know how to start this thing sooooo… we’re just gonna get into it.
It was around this time last year, a few months after Kateri had passed, that the thought and question popped into my head, “I like sex… I wonder if I’m ever gonna have sex again?…?!” Now on the widower side of things, that brought up all sorts of other questions. Questions that were very difficult to grapple with and ones that I still spend quite a bit of time on today. Questions about loyalty… mourning… and love. Questions about what the last twenty years were about. Questions about how family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers will view my actions. Although I was… and am… going through this experience my way, I felt the need to think about the special people in my life and how those actions affect them. (I may not change a course of action because of them… but as long as I think about them I figure I’m good!). It was a lot… and still is… which is why I probably don’t talk about it much.
On the personal side of things… that thought and question has brought some pretty hard times, hard conversations, and emotional nights… that sometimes start in the morning. Here’s the thing though… all of those hard questions and thoughts (widower/personal/whatever) are just a part of the gig and I’ve come to accept them, face them, and try to answer them the best I can. (Well, sometimes I disregard them when I don’t have the energy… or simply don’t wanna deal!) They are simply some of the challenges of this process and I figured I would get them out of the way for this post because what all those types of things comes down to is… I was holding Kateri when she took her last breath… nothing will ever be as rough as that. Now onto some greener pastures.
Sex. I was on my front porch (go figure) when that question popped into my head. The widower thing is weird. It’s just odd being thrust into this new life… alone… where I don’t have to let anyone know when I’m on my way home. That instant independence took a bit to get used to… even though the night Kateri died I took advantage of it by pulling out my laptop in bed to write notes. We never had “screens” in bed and it was the first thing I did that was… different… and for just me. A few months later as I was pondering sex questions on the porch I also thought, “How does a forty something year old man who’s been in a committed relationship for the last 18 years, who doesn’t drink, who doesn’t really wanna leave home for more than what is necessary, who doesn’t really have the energy… or desire… to “Play the Game/Field” meet someone?… who will also maybe have sex with them? Let’s see… hmmm… how about… DATING APPS!
Ya… dating apps… they’re interesting. My experience with dating apps up until this point was mostly Kateri and I poking fun at my hip sister-in-law, who lives in NYC, when she would visit and talk about how there is “no one” in this area! Kateri came up with terms like “Swipe Right Greg” as we didn’t try very hard to figure out what all went into the dating app thing. We actually sat around her phone once and collectively judged the dudes who were spread across Vermont based on their looks… and paid little attention to the minimal information in their “profile”. It was a novelty. It was something that Kateri and I had zero experience with… and we were very happy that we didn’t have to deal with shit like that. We had each other… for the rest of our lives………. yup.
A friend of mine came out last fall because he knew I needed it… I love this man… not just because he gives me Smarties. We were talking about the whole dating app thing and how it seemed like such a strange way to meet people… mainly because we were just never exposed to it. He told me of a story when a buddy of his was scrolling through the pics on one of the apps during a camping trip (or something) and was showing them to my friend asking his opinion. My buddy grabbed the phone and just started swiping away saying, “Nope”… swipe, “Nope”… swipe, “Nope”… swipe. Now with the dating apps that I have seen, you basically swipe the picture to the right if you are interested in the person and left if you are not. This is something that if you have no experience with dating apps, you might not realize. So when you say, “Nope” and swipe right… you are really saying, “YES!”… to the 73 women who’s pictures are on your friend’s phone… who all believe your friend is interested in them! And… he is now the one who will have to field all the messages being sent to him by a portion of the lovely ladies!… who he isn’t interested in. I love that my friend accidently did that to his buddy. It was an honest mistake… and obviously not the end of the world.
It was also one of those things that really made me miss Kateri. We viewed dating apps as a modern convenience that we would never have to deal with… so we dismissed it… and placed very little value on them. Heck, we even made fun of the “younger generations” who used them to meet people for ice breakers, dinner dates, and hookups… never thinking either one of us would be in the situation where a dating app would be useful! For me, the dating app has provided entertainment, insight, and some clarity in what my wants and needs are in this new life. They are just one of those “steps” I have taken looking for some sort of “good”… so that I can take another step. One thing I have realized though… when it comes to sex, companionship, and relationships… I can’t take very big “steps”… I basically have to crawl through the mud for a bit.
So, just in case you were thinking that I’ve been meeting people left and right, impressing women with my cooking abilities and witty banter, traveling the world with women who’s profile says things like, “Successful, independent woman who doesn’t need you” or “Looking for a step dad for my dog”… I haven’t. Very quickly I realized meeting people takes a lot of time, energy, and work… especially as a widower. The emotional stress that the original thought and question put on me was much more than I expected. Yeah, I wanted to have companionship… basically sex… but with my sweet sweet Kateri… which wasn’t an option anymore. It’s been hard balancing those sorta primal/human needs (companionship, sex, human interaction) with the sadness, confusion, and fogginess the loss of Kateri has inserted into my life. It’s been hard… but I’m getting there… and I’m unwilling to just wallow in the sadness.
Although it has been quite the learning experience with quite a few hard decisions, talks, and mornings, I still view my life as going as well as it possibly can… given the situation. Basically, I texted with a few women (literally a few), had a pleasant lunch with one, and met a woman almost a year ago who I now consider one of my best friends… if not my closest friend in this new life. I may not be comfortable with dating apps or meeting new romantic interests… or anyone for that matter… but things have worked out much better than I expected. Sometimes, life gives you what you need at that moment.
My new friend and I work for the same company, but we work in different buildings and had never met… that we could remember. She had “Super Liked” me (on accident) on one of the apps and when I realized we worked at the same place… it kinda brought up all sorts of things. Up until that point, I viewed the dating apps as more of entertainment… seeing what was out there… something new that wasn’t directly attached to my world because my life was still very centered on the last 20 years with Kateri. When I got the notification that someone liked me… and we worked together… and she worked in the same department that Kateri used to work in!… well, that brought the situation very close to home. I had not talked about my quest to find companionship with anyone really, and now there was someone who knows I was looking… who also worked next to people who knew Kateri… me… and us. I thought about what they might think about the steps I was taking. I was worried about being judged on this one… big… step… so I didn’t respond… at first.
Actually, I didn’t respond… my thigh did. Just as she didn’t mean to “Super Like” me, I didn’t mean to “Match” with her… yet. I was running out of the kitchen and onto the loading dock one afternoon when I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check my email and noticed on the screen the attention grabbing “It’s a Match!”… or something like that. Chef pants happen to have very thin pockets and from what I can gather is—as my phone was bouncing around, my thigh was able to click on the dating app and confirm that I was interested… which I was… just not at that moment! I thought I needed some time to hash out a few questions and concerns with the situation… my thigh thought differently. As with other parts of this whole widower thing, I figured “Well, this is happening now?”… and just went with it… and stopped worrying about what other people thought.
It started with a six hour conversation… her sitting on the couch… me in Kateri’s chair. It was comfortable. It was exciting. It was honest and open. It was easy… ish. We were lucky in the fact that we worked for the same company so it provided both of us with a sense of commonality… it helped put some of the concerns at ease when you meet new people… like if they are axe murderers or something. (Her coworkers let her know that I wasn’t one). We talked about how she was from Oregon and I was from Idaho. We talked about how she went to the CIA for baking and I had been in restaurants for the last 24 years. We talked about work… and the people we work with. We talked about how we were brought up, where we lived, where we traveled. We talked about my situation… that I had just lost my wife literally months before… she was already aware. I felt the need to put all the big things on the table if I was gonna bring anyone new into my life… and no topic was gonna be off limits. If someone wasn’t able to handle what it was I was going through… then I didn’t really have time for them… and it wouldn’t be good for either one of us. Luckily, she is a very understanding, empathetic, and compassionate woman… and didn’t let the past define the present… or dictate the future. I’m also just gonna mention… communication helps. Talk people. Talk about the hard things… it helps create a good life.
The past 11 months (the time we have been hanging) have been filled with all sorts of new experiences. Some are just regular life things, while others are very “Widower” centric. Like having sex with a woman for the first time in 18 years who isn’t your wife. Let me tell you… that’s not one of those “wham, bam, thank-you mam” type things. For me, the experience was very empowering as a widower… as a person… and as a man. I’m not going to go into details, but having sex with someone new for the first time… when the last time something like that had happened I was in my mid twenties… was just kinda fun. I was older. I was experienced… not only sexually, but in life. I felt secure… enough. I wasn’t a stoopid kid just trying to get the ol’ rocks off with some stranger I picked up at the bar who I hoped would leave before the sun came up. I’m more mature… which means we think about other people… and not just ourselves. And quite frankly, I’m just happy I wasn’t curled up at the end of the bed shaking and crying afterwards! The potential was there… I lost my “Widower Virginity” on the night of the six month anniversary of Kateri’s passing. Yup… maybe not the best time to test the new sexual waters… but that’s when it happened… and I can’t change it now!
I attribute quite a bit of my happiness in this new life to this new friend. She has given me much more than I feel I could ever give her in return. I think a lot about my situation and the obstacles I face, but I also think about how my situation affects her… and am continually impressed with how she deals with it and approaches it. I am amazed by her understanding. I am thankful for her support… and not with just the big things. She has also brought so many beautiful things into my life like s’mores in the woodstove, cake pops, Detroit style pizza, hot dogs grilled at the fire pit, long conversations in the living room, long walks around Portland… Maine, text message acronyms like DTR, kayaks, Criminal Minds, and once in a while… lazy mornings with strong coffee and comfy clothes.
We realize that there is a lot involved in our relationship. For some of you who put “it’s complicated” on your Facebook Relationship Status… you have no idea! For me, it was exciting to meet someone new, but I’ve gone through the ringer trying to figure out what it is I’m actually looking for, need, and want.
We are still hanging out because we talk about what it is we both need and want… and… well… because we both still really like each other. Our relationship has grown… even though I have had to take steps back. We still text “Good Morning” and “Goodnight” every single day… and I don’t think we’ve missed one since the first (unless one of us falls asleep), but now there is a smiley face emoji at the end instead of a kissy face emoji. At one point, it just got to be a little overwhelming for me when I realized we were basically in a monogamous relationship… and started considering each other “Boyfriend/Girlfriend”. I couldn’t wrap my head around going from an 18 year relationship… lose Kateri… and right into another relationship when I don’t really have an idea of who I am in this new life. I’m in the process of asking some big life questions of myself… and that takes time. One thing that we both agree on… one thing that we both aren’t really ready to live without for right now… is each other. Although we haven’t exactly been able to fully separate the whole friendship/relationship thing… we realize it’s because we feel we have positively impacted each other’s lives and are in no way ready for that to end. Again, communication… it helps.
There’s definitely a lot that can be said about these types of things, but this is just a blog post and not a book so I’m gonna end on this…. I am not trying to replace Kateri… because there is no replacing her. I still consider her my wife. I still wear my wedding ring. I would still give anything for her to be alive… down to my own life. I miss her so much it gives me headaches as tears gush from my eyeballs and snot runs from my nose… like it’s doing right now. I don’t want this life… I want my old life… but I can’t have it… even though I’m surrounded by remnants of it. Sometimes life just sucks. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Other times, people come into your life who show you that life isn’t just the pile of shit you’re going through. They show you that there is happiness out there… there are good times… there is joy. They show you that you are not… alone.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
- So I just got a new phone… my second one in just over a month… long story. My question is–On the iphone 8’s keyboard (when texting) the “123” is on the outside and the little world thing is to the right of it when the phone is verticle. When you rotate the phone, the little world thing is on the outside and the “123” is to the right of it… Why do they switch positions?!! (These are the things I wonder about)
- A few people have checked in with me to see how I’m doing since I haven’t been on here lately. First, I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel… the support. Second… Thank you. Please know you’ve made an impact on my life… even if I don’t show it all the time.
ps… you can follow the blog… if you want… or share it if you like it… or maybe you know of someone who would get something out of it… perhaps.