No One To Zip Me Up

I have recently discovered the latest in a list of annoyances caused by being a … (I still choke on the word “widow”) … alone.

As I write this post I am preparing to board a plane tomorrow for San Diego … Widows Camp.  There.  I said it.  I don't fly back in until Sunday night so I have to write the post early.

I’m sure that many of you who read these blog posts are already aware that Widows Camp is this weekend (or, by the time you read this, has just finished).  Many of you are probably attending (or attended) it yourselves and are / were even looking forward to it.  As for me, well, I am forcing myself to go despite the almost unbearable amount of anxiety it is causing me.  I know, I know … I am going to meet with people who may actually understand me and all the shit I’ve gone through, and I should not be anxious about it.  But sometimes knowing how I should feel is just not the way I actually do feel, and this is one of those times.

There are plenty of reasons why I am so anxious about attending the camp.  Where do I start?  Flying alone, finding my way from the airport to the hotel without my husband, having to walk into that first room by myself and feeling like all eyes are on me, worrying that I will spend the weekend silent because if I talk I may burst into tears.  The list goes on.  But the biggest reason for my anxiety is actually the part that is intended to be the most fun .... the Masquerade Ball. 

The Masquerade Ball, so lovingly planned by Michelle and intended to provide everyone with an evening to dress up and get out and have some fun, is causing me untold amounts of anxiety.  I am not a dress up kind of girl at the best of times, although I would comb my hair and throw on a nice blouse for my anniversary dinner each year.  Basically I live in yoga pants and tank tops, which may create for you a mental picture of a woman who has dedicated her life to fitness and runs at least two marathons each year, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  I live in yoga pants because they’re comfortable and quite frankly I don’t really have anywhere to go that requires anything fancier.  Until now.

The Masquerade Ball is on Saturday night, and while there are several reasons I am anxious about it I will tell you the top four: 

a)    I don’t know how to dance.  Ben was an awesome dancer.  For a big, rough looking man he sure had some good moves on the dance floor.  “Ben” was synonymous with “rhythm.”  I, on the other hand, never managed to advance much beyond the old 1-2 side to side shuffle.  (Unless I am drunk and surrounded by those who have known me forever and will love me no matter what.  Under those circumstances I am an awesome dancer.  And singer.) 

b)   I don’t know anyone.  Not knowing anyone raises those old teen anxieties of standing on the sidelines at the high school dance.  Yes, I know that many people arrive at camp without knowing a soul and people get to know each other before the Saturday night event.  Knowing that does not ease my anxiety, because secretly I fear being the first person to attend this camp who doesn’t make any friends, and therefore will be the high school student standing alone on the sidelines at the dance.  

c)    I don’t know what to wear to a masquerade ball.  I suspect it involves a dress.  The last time I wore one was at Ben’s funeral, and I looked terrible.  Yes … terrible.  I’ve seen myself on video and it wasn’t pretty.

d)   I don’t own an appropriate dress.  I do have a sundress that I have worn on one occasion when it was simply too hot for anything else, but the only pair of shoes that go with it are flip flops.  I don’t imagine that flip flops are appropriate for a masquerade ball.

Ever the practical person, I decided to try to ease my anxieties by dealing with each one head on to see if I could find some solutions that might help me to relax.  

-       Reason A.   The only way to fix this problem would be to take some dance lessons, and I decided that there wasn’t enough time.  So the answer to this problem?  Try to look busy on the sidelines for awhile until I can make a discreet exit. 

-       Reason B.  Literally cannot be fixed until I arrive.  No solution for the time being so I may as well put it out of my mind.  Or just keep worrying about it.  Either way.

-       Reason C.  Google told me that people wear fancy costumes and hold masks up in front of their faces.  I love the mask part (no need to apply make up) but the dress part?  Oh my.  Still, now that I know the answer I suppose it is technically no longer a problem.

-       Reason D.   The answer to this one was easy ... go and buy an appropriate dress.

I decided I could not go and buy one of the fancy gowns I see online that are worn at Masquerade Balls because it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, but I figured I could find something slightly fancier than a sundress.  I spent about 7 hours in two different stores trying on gown after gown after gown and gagging at myself in the mirror.  When I was finally sweating like I had just finished a 10K from all the changing of clothes, I happened to see a plain black dress hanging on a hook.  Long.  Simple.  Rather elegant.  Comfortable.  Affordable.  And, hopefully with a little help from a pair of Spanx (and possibly dimmed lights) … it would fit.  Hallelujah!

The sales lady packaged it up and off I went, stopping at one other store to buy out every pair of Spanx they had along with seven different bras that I thought may possibly work under this dress. Finally I arrived home, squeezed myself into some Spanx, pulled on the extremely awkward strapless bra and stepped (almost excitedly) into the dress to see how it all worked.

And ….

There was no one to zip me up. 

I was enraged.  Did you ever watch the Friends episode where someone stole Ross’ sandwich at work and he turned into Red Ross? I turned into Red Wendy.  Maybe Whacko Wendy.  I lost my sanity, upstairs in my bathroom that day.  I went into a frenzy of twisting and turning and trying to reach behind me and push the zipper up, and when that didn’t work I tried to reach down to grab it.  I am not that flexible.  Nothing worked, and I was furious.  I normally would have sat down and had a good cry, but I was just too mad.  I was mad at Ben for not being here and for leaving me to try to figure out how to get myself dressed for a Masquerade Ball all by myself.  (Not to mention that I wouldn't be attending this ball if he hadn't gone and died on me.) I was mad at Ben for causing me to sweat so profusely in my efforts to practice zipping myself up that I left sweat stains on my brand new dress.  I was mad at Ben for dying.  Period.

When I finally sat down on the edge of the tub due to exhaustion from all my raging, it occurred to me that I clearly need this camp. 

Once I was calm I discovered that if I pull the dress over my head instead of stepping into it, I only need the zipper to be down a few inches instead of all the way to my waist.  Then, if I sort of shimmy and pull at the same time I can manage to reach that last little bit of zipper and pull it up.  I felt like a bit of a warrior,  but I am still pissed in general that I no longer have anyone to zip me up.

Yes indeed, I do need this camp.  Hopefully my next post will not be about how the zipper burst during my crazy shimmying efforts to pull it up, and how I was left half naked at a Masquerade Ball standing on the sidelines.  

Warrior on, fellow widows.

PS.  I also bought some pretty gold sandals to wear so I can ditch the flip flops.  Now I'm worried that I may be overdressed at the Ball.  ;) 

Showing 8 reactions

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  • commented 2017-08-18 23:08:54 -0700
    Indie …. I agree that the camp will not change how you feel about losing your husband. You will miss him terribly every single day, forever. That’s what true love does for you. But what Camp Widow will give you is a place to breathe. A place where no explanation is required. Where people understand you and you no longer feel alone. I really hope you reconsider … it was one of the best choices I’ve made since Ben died.

    Michele … I did not see the zip up service (how did I possibly miss that??) but I should have definitely asked. You have thought of everything else, so of COURSE there was a zip up service! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all you do. (although I still say that you should leave Toronto in November behind and instead bring the camp to beautiful BC) :)
  • commented 2017-08-16 12:58:06 -0700
    Wendy, your courage facing everyone of these fears is inspiring. And I sincerely hope you saw the sign up sheet at the front desk where we offer a “zip up” service at Camp Widow! xo M
  • commented 2017-08-15 23:51:18 -0700
    I thought about trying to go about two years ago and realized it wouldn’t do anymore for me than reading what I read here. Now approaching five years I know I was right. Nothing will change how I feel about losing my husband. The only thing would be for him to return to me and hold me again. I’m glad it works for others though.
  • commented 2017-08-15 09:04:48 -0700
    Lisa and Marissa … please, please go to camp. I was so nervous that I burst into tears the night before at the bar where people were mixing and mingling, which is not normally like me. Turns out, I had nothing to be nervous about and everyone else I met was just as nervous as me. I really, really think you should go … it’s a bit life changing really. Makes you really realize that you are not alone!

    Marissa … you sound very innovative. Good for you for you tubing that stuff. I can always hear my husband saying “when in doubt, google!” I went there knowing no one and I left with friends. I could ease every worry you have … if you worry about eating alone it is not possible. The tables are open and you just sit your butt down next to anyone who is there. They’ll talk to you, because they don’t know anyone either!

    Anyway, ladies … trust me on this one. You should go. :)
  • commented 2017-08-15 08:59:50 -0700
    Joseph … I do hope you decide to go to the camp. There were several men there and hopefully, since wives die too, more and more will start going. A great way to make connections to people who understand!
  • commented 2017-08-14 15:27:30 -0700
    Like Lisa, I wish I had the courage to go to camp but I haven’t been able to build that up in me yet. It’s only an hour plane ride for me but San Diego is a trigger city for me because we spent our second to last birthdays there. My husband had finished chemo but the chest port was still in place just in case it was determined that he would need more chemo.

    I’m also not really good at being places where I know no one, even if it’s the safest place to be because we’re all part of the same “club.”

    I’m not big into shopping, either. My husband bought most of my clothes because he knew what he liked to see me in and he had really good taste. I bought my own sweats and jeans, though, because I’m most comfortable in those anyway. 😊 Now, when I shop, I automatically look for the placement of the zippers and buttons. I despise the fact that I have to try stuff on first not to see if it fits, but to see if I can zip it up by myself without sweating profusely! I’m just so put out that I even have to factor that into the equation.

    I’ve also taken to YouTube to figure out how to put a bracelet on by myself. I use a paper clip or I’ll tape one part of the bracelet to my wrist and then fasten it but even though that works, I’m then angry that I have to waste a piece of tape because I have no one to fasten my bracelet anymore.

    I hope you have a great time at Camp Widow and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up the courage to go next year based upon your insight. 😊
  • commented 2017-08-14 07:20:44 -0700
    I envy you Wendy, for having the courage to go to camp. I live just south of you in Seattle, and although near enough to make the trip, have not found the courage so far. Hope it was a wonderful experience.
  • commented 2017-08-14 05:42:53 -0700
    I can’t wait to read your post after the camp. I hoping your anxiety once you arrive, get comfortable and start meeting others, is put to rest. I’m pretty sure it will be. And I’m sure there will be many others like you that will have the same issue zipping up the back of that dress. That’s what the camp is all about, helping each other. Enjoy. I’m contemplating the Tampa camp since I’m on the East Coast of the US.