DUE FOR PUBLICATION 01 MARCH 2019
How to be a Merry Widow shows how a woman can create an interesting life for herself in her new role as a widow.
In this age of splintered families there will be fewer long marriages, and golden weddings may one day come to be regarded as rather quaint.
Those of us who have enjoyed a good marriage are well placed to enjoy widowhood. It’s not that being a widow is so dreadful. It’s that being in a companionable marriage is so wonderful. People die but love does not die, we carry it with us.
I wrote most of this in my first year of living alone. Although there have been times when I would have given the rest of life for five minutes in his arms, there is a positive side to being single again and losing a husband sometimes means finding oneself.
Mary Essinger was born in 1932. She attended Coalville’s King Edward V11 Grammar School in Leicestershire and after leaving school in 1946 went to work in factories before becoming a dress designer. Mary taught Spoken English for twenty-five years.
In 2003 she published her first novel, Wounded Bird of Paradise, and in 2016 a memoir, Mary, Quite Contrary. Her latest, forthcoming book is How to be a Merry Widow: life after death for the older lady.
Don’t let others talk you into doing things you don’t want to do. If you want a happy life you have to be a bit selfish. Our time is precious and limited. Running a home, developing a rewarding social life and recovering from loss will fill your days. Any spare time is for having a hairdo or messing about with plants, it is not for the convenience of others.
We are programmed from girlhood to be friendly to everybody, to smile sweetly all the time and never answer back. We say Yes when we mean No.
Boys are brought up differently. When a man says “I’ve got to help my brother-in-law paint his shed on Saturday,” he means he wants to do it and he’s looking forward to having a great time.
When a woman says, “I’ve got to organise a fund-raising stall on Saturday,” she doesn’t want to do it at all, but she has to because
- Nobody else offered
- She can’t let the group down
- She didn’t know how to say “no”.
Today’s young people work long hours and have little time for the hobbies and interests older people enjoyed when they were young. As a result there is a serious shortage of volunteers for the committees of various groups and older people are in great demand. Once anyone resigns from a committee it is extremely difficult to find a replacement and long established societies all over the country have had to disband. If you are asked to help out, and only if you really want to, say you will do it for a year and see this is written in the minutes. If you are already embroiled in some time-consuming activity, losing a husband might be a good time to give your notice in. How can you be a merry widow if you tie yourself down with jobs that others think would be good for you? I have heard people say this kind of thing:
“Let’s ask so and so to deliver leaflets round, she’s lost her husband, she’ll be glad of something to do. Take her mind off it.”
Here’s how to refuse:
Look in the mirror, place the tip of your tongue behind the upper teeth, push the lips forward then release the tongue and say NO. Practise it. If this is too difficult try saying, “Nobody” then stop before you come to “body”. You’re trying it now aren’t you? I can see you.
If you don’t want to do something, smile and say, “No, I don’t fancy that.” You do not have to give a reason and don’t make excuses because excuses can be argued against; there’s no argument against not fancying something.
A widow speaks – I look after a grandchild twice a week while my daughter does to work. It was easy when there were two of us but I get that tired at the end of the day and I don’t know how to tell her.
A widow speaks – I wish I didn’t have to make the teas for the AGM, I’m over eighty and worry about it.
Women have an instinct for putting something back into society and charitable work of your own choosing is quite a different matter as long as it does not mean mixing with unhappy people in depressing surroundings. Major charities, such as Save the Children, have local branches that organise fund-raising events. Becoming involved with these activities can be fulfilling and an excellent way to meet interesting people and broaden your social life. As a way in you could start by going to one of their events, but keep your status by doing only what you want to do and only what brings you pleasure. Lean to say No.
Does that sound selfish? Yes, but believe me it will make you happier.