Hanging out a while back I was chatting with a female friend-of-a-friend having a great (non-romantic) time. Eventually, we decided we should become Facebook friends. I suggested she find my profile and send me a “friend request.” She typed and searched as I spelled out my name (‘C’, ‘H’… yes “Chris”. “Weaver” – ‘W’, ‘E’…. Apparently there are a lot of Chris Weavers on Facebook.) As she scrolled I looked at the little profile pictures and, when I saw my mug, I pointed and said “Ah, that’s the one!” She clicked and I went about my other business while she read my profile. Then it happened. She said something loudly I didn’t see coming: “OH! You are a WIIII-DOOO-WEEER!!”
Now, it isn’t what she said but how she said it: “WIIII-DOOO-WEEER!!” She managed to cram about six syllables into a three syllable word. Yup, yup, Texans are known for our linguistic latitude. (If you’ve ever heard a respectable Texan stretch out the word “good” then you understand what I mean.) But this was different; she didn’t have a discernable Texas accent. It was more of a declarative statement of discovery, like she had finally found that hidden meaning behind a puzzle that had long been pondered. But what the heck did she mean?
Her response wasn’t negative or positive. It was just matter-of-fact and more like a surprised utterance. Regardless, for a brief moment, I felt like I was exposed, standing naked at that bar, with everyone staring and pointing. I felt like I had just been seen kicking a dog or something otherwise aberrant. I wanted to both apologize and defend myself, like my bad choices had led me to this awkward Facebook moment. Part of me wanted to run and hide. I was ashamed.
Purely out of shock, I said “Yeah.” She said “I’m sorry” and the moment passed.
I’ve pondered that five-second moment many times since that day. Why did she react like that? My best guess is that maybe she was wondering why I was not married. My second best guess is that she had never imagined that a widower could be someone like me: young-ish, high-spirited, and happy, having fun in a bar with lots of friends and living life. My third best guess is that this was her first time to see the word “widower” and she was simply trying to sound it out phonetically. Hooked On Phonics. Long live the 80s.
While I’ve added her reaction to my loooong list of Things I’ll Never Understand, it’s pretty easy for me to turn her reaction into a negative. I’ve said before that attending Camp Widow was a huge step forward for me on my journey of becoming more comfortable with what happened and who I am now. Knowing that I’m not crazy, alone, or a societal misfit just because my wonderful wife died has been healing and gives me the strength to not own her reaction. Nope, that’s all on her. I am a widower, strong and proud. I did what I did out of love and that can never be taken away or minimized, no matter what misguided notions people might have. I have certainly faced more difficult emotional challenges than one girl’s visceral reaction to my Facebook relationship status. Supporting my beautiful wife, upholding our wedding vows, and loving like there was no tomorrow are things I’ll never be ashamed of. I will forever stand tall knowing that I did right by her. She and me, we were good together all the way to the end.
But why do I feel like I wear a badge of courage and honor but that same badge is going to keep women from ever getting to know me?