One of the questions I've asked myself frequently since Jeff's death is "Am I ready and do I want to date?"
Aside from the need for physical contact, I can't say that in the first year I was at all ready for "dating". Last year, my second year of widowhood, I thought I was. With trepidation and large amount of humility, I took a look at online dating.
I "chatted" with a couple of men. I was embarrassed by this and certainly didn't divulged to many of my friends that I was looking to date....especially via an online dating service. I felt that if these people were indeed single, there was probably a very good reason for it and they were most likely society's dregs.
Despite these prejudices, I agreed to one date after many emails and a couple of evenings of instant messaging one eligible bachelor. I felt I was ready to know more about this single father who lived aboard a boat with his young son. I was sure there was some flaw within him that rendered him "broken" but I thought I might as well get my feet wet without any strings attached.
After gearing myself up and looking fabulous (if I do say so myself), I sheepishly left my children with the babysitter. I felt terribly guilty. I almost turned back a few times as thoughts of "Am I really ready for this??? I can't believe I am paying a babysitter to be with my children when I am going out with some man....not their father. What must she think?" and "How can I still love Jeff if I am going to meet another man for a date?" and "What would my family say?....What would JEFF'S family say?"
I told myself I was ready for this. That it was time to reach out and feel cared for again. That Jeff would not mind one bit and that probably our families would celebrate that I was trying to keep living.
As I sat across from this man, this relative stranger, I heard myself telling him about my life thus far and vaguely listened to his tale of what brought him to this place. He was kind and funny. I grew more comfortable as the evening progressed. After dinner, dessert and coffee, he walked me to my car.
I felt almost nauseous, however, when we arrived at my car and he asked, "Can I ask you a question?" Thoughts of "Oh my God. He's going to ask me to kiss him. I don't think I can. What the hell? Maybe it won't be so bad. This is awful. Why have I done this?" sprinted through my addled brain.
Instead, with a smirk, he asked, "Do you think it's a good idea to show your date a picture of your husband the first time you meet?"
I am sure I turned purple with embarrassment as I thought of how this must seem. That I was pining for my husband.....And then I realized. I was. I had just shown a man that I was hoping to "date" a picture of the love of my life and extolled all my beloved's virtues all night. I was far from ready.
I thanked my date for his company, dinner and the lesson. Until I am ready to share a meal with another man without whipping out Jeff's portrait or talking endlessly about him, I am not ready. Like the other singles out there on the online dating services have a very good reason for being single...I'm messed up too.
But this year, my third, I think is the year. I no longer only talk about Jeff and his death. I am sure I am a much better listener and make far better company than I have in the last couple of years. And I can imagine myself sharing the company of another man without guilt.
But, maybe, just in case, I'll remove his picture from my wallet before any date just to make sure I am not tempted.....