In the olden days, widows had very strict guidelines on how to dress. When they went out into the world, it was clear: they are widows in mourning.
During my chemo, I went out of my way to dress up whenever I left the house: cute dresses with boots, scarves on my head, I even wore makeup. I did it to cheer myself up, but I also did it to make other people feel comfortable around me. People get wickedly awkward around sick people. You don’t realize it until you’ve been on the receiving end.
Over the last year, I had a hospital uniform of sorts: jeans with pockets for my phone, a tank top and a sweater or blouse. Because I suffer from Tamoxifen-induced hot flashes and I had to wear a paper gown in Jay’s room, I would take off my top and be in a tank-top. It was utilitarian but I always looked decent enough to go somewhere like school pickup, the pool (where tank-tops are a must) or the occasional time I actually socialized with people.
For the week of the Shiva, I made a humongous effort to wear something appropriate everyday. The girls helped me come up with a skirt and a top, or a dress that wasn’t too colorful. I didn’t even wear any pants because the orthodox-convert in me felt that it would be inappropriate.
But as soon as Shiva was over, I totally lost my ability to dress myself. I spent several days in pajamas. Once the girls went back to school, I was confronted with the reality that I needed to get dressed, at least for the couple of hours a day when I leave the house. For some reason, my jeans and tank tops have zero appeal to me. They are actually too hard. Imagine that. Too hard to put on jeans.
So on my way to the funeral home today (to file widows and orphans benefits documents), I stopped by Joe Fresh and bought myself a couple of new pairs of leggings and every single top I could find that would be long enough to cover my ass: t-shirts with long backs, a couple of tunics and a plaid shirt 2 sizes too big. There you have it. The modern mourning widow uniform: leggings as pants and a long top. Maybe Joe Fresh wants to use this in their marketing….
I also go a big long black cardigan with pockets. Because I’m a widow, but I need to put my phone somewhere.