This post is about sex, or more accurately, my lack thereof and all of my emotional baggage surrounding that fact.
Well, not just about sex, more so dating, interest, relationships, and how the hell a young widow is supposed to make sense of all of this shit and deal with incredible feelings of guilt at the same time.
The new town that I’ve moved to is wonderful. There are people here whom actually have some of the same interests as me. After years of being the only young, slightly-lefty, college-educated chick in a crowd of sorta-righty, career military folk, it is downright refreshing to no longer be the “freak” in the crowd. On a military base, I might have well been coated with neon pink paint and wearing a suit made out of tinfoil. Here, I fit in. I had forgotten what a simple pleasure “fitting in” is.
And so while in the process of building new friendships, my mind has occasionally wandered into the future: what will happen if I meet someone here who I like? What if I decide that I might like a boyfriend sometime in the future? Those questions might seem mundane, trite nothings—I try to be a “grab life by the horns” kind of chick, and really, how much stress can be caused by the mere thought of a future suitor? But I have to be completely honest—I sit here in tears as I put these thoughts that have plagued me for weeks into record.
During my last session of grief counseling back in March, the issue of relationships came up, and I asked for a professional opinion. The therapist’s response? “You’ll know when you are ready.” Thanks for that $65/hour advice there, Doc!!!
I mean, really, what the heck? I have scoured the internet, books on widowhood, sought professional guidance, and I am still completely and absolutely lost. Part of this utter confusion, no doubt, lies within my realm of dating inexperience as a whole. My former husband and I started dating very, very young; he was my only real boyfriend in fact. Actually, we were officially a couple before either of us had our driver’s license. And so, my memories of dating, falling in love, and sex originate from a completely outmoded frame of reference. I can’t approach this strange new world using the same rules that applied back in high school—namely, I can’t initiate a relationship by asking someone to share a seat on the school bus with me. Making out in the back of my parent’s van won’t constitute a “date.” Guys won’t be willing to date me for years before we have sex. One of my worst fears is that my return to the dating scene will be an epic tragi-comedy on par with The 40 Year Old Virgin: sweet, yet hapless girl desperately wants to love and be loved; she unknowingly breaks almost every rule in the book, and hilarity (at her expense) ensues.
And I know it seems easy—if you’re not sure about things, then you’re not ready; but in reality, relationships and sexuality seep into so many aspects of our lives that they are akin to eating and sleeping. Soon, I plan to make appointments for both a family doctor and an OB/GYN. My personal, baseline, preventive health measures have been neglected ever since my husband’s leukemia relapse date of February 19, 2005. The OB/GYN visit is necessary—I don’t think that I’ve had any of my cancer screenings for three years now—but is also a great source of stress. The issue, of course, is birth control. I haven’t been on anything since we found out that my former husband’s chemotherapy treatment had resulted in sterility, and I am obviously not planning on sleeping with anyone at all in any sort of near future—but OB-GYN appointments are an annual thing. What if I meet someone in the next year? I don’t want to have to go to the trouble of going to another doctor’s appointment just to get a prescription—so should I go ahead and get a script written in the off chance that I’ll need it in the next year? Am I a really horrible person for even thinking about the possibility that I might eventually sleep with someone else? I mean—I know that I’m not, really, but that knowledge does nothing to assuage the intense feelings of guilt. I can’t be a nun for the rest of my life, but I don’t want to feel like I’m cheating on my former husband either.
Ironically, the inward stress has shifted outwards as I work towards decorating my apartment. I find myself actively avoiding displays and photos of Eric in areas of the new place that a guest might see. I don’t want the place to seem like a mausoleum to someone who never knew my former husband, and I don’t want to bombard a poor unsuspecting guest with a wall-sized display of him—but at the same time, I want to hang onto the happy memories attached to those pictures and drawings.
And so, I actively avoid it all by sitting at home with my knitting, and going out with my (all-female) knitting group. Can you tell that I’ve been knitting a lot lately? It’s so soothing, and when there’s a mistake, you simply rip the mistake out and reknit. If only real life was that easy.