Vanity, thy name is widow

I was a lucky woman. I had a wonderful husband who always wanted me to have the best things in life. He wanted me to shop and buy new clothes – clothes from high-end shops, and not from the sales rack. He wanted me to spoil myself at the spa, have facials and manicures, massages, and expensive haircuts. It wasn’t that he didn’t like how I looked or the clothes I wore, he just thought that I worked hard and deserved to treat myself. But I never did enjoy shopping and I’ve always hated to part with money. Plus, going to a spa after work or on the weekend was time away from Paul and I always wanted to get home to my wonderful husband.

Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.

I was getting better at doing those things before Paul died. I was starting to buy a new outfit once a month – though Paul wanted me to do that with each paycheck. I was also starting to get slightly more expensive – and more regular – haircuts. I was buying things from Macy’s, not Target, and didn’t select everything based on price. It always made Paul happy when I treated myself.

Knowing how happy Paul was when I treated myself to something new or did something nice for myself, is helping me now. Most days I don’t want to change out of my jim-jams let alone buy new clothes. Most days I don’t care what my hair looks like or the condition of my nails. Fashion and beauty have never been important things in my life – as long as you’re clean and presentable, who cares about anything else, right? But Paul cared. Paul always liked it when I dressed that little bit nicer or when I took the time to do my hair. I think it made him feel good to have a good looking woman on his arm, and I think that it made him happy to see me spoiling myself.

And so, I made a promise to Paul after he died that I would continue to do those things he wanted me to do. I’ve been making regular appointments for manicures and pedicures, I’ve had a facial and a full-body massage, and I’ve had my hair cut. I was forced to do some shopping early on after losing too much weight in the first few weeks after Paul’s death and made certain that I got things that weren’t on the sales rack (though some of the stuff was). I’m also trying to buy new clothes every so often when I’m out. However, shopping is a bit hard to do alone because it reminds me of how much I relied on Paul to help me pick anything. But I’m getting better.

I remember the morning of Paul’s funeral, waking up and taking a shower then taking my time getting dressed, making sure I looked just right. Then I spent a considerable amount of time curling my hair – something I rarely do, but Paul always loved my curls. When I’d watch TV shows or movies and saw a grieving widow putting on makeup before her husband’s funeral I always thought it was weird. I always thought that if it was me, I would be too hysterical to shower and get dressed, let alone anything else. But what I now know is that going through that effort is what keeps you sane. I was very methodical that morning – I wasn’t thinking about anything other than looking my best for Paul, because it’s what he would have wanted. Doing my hair and making myself look good was a way to just get through the morning.

I’m sure that to the outside world it looks like I’m a vain woman with all the shopping and regular spa treatments. I’m sure there are those people who think that they would certainly not be concerned about their appearance in the weeks and months following their husband’s death. And for some women, that may be true – believe me, I always imagined I would be in that group. But I do these things for Paul. I shop and make myself look good because I know it’s what Paul always wanted for me. Yes, I shop for Paul! I paint my nails red for Paul, and I wear high(ish) heels for Paul. Oddly, it makes me feel that little bit better knowing that I’m doing what Paul would want for me.

When you see me, or some other grieving widow, dressing that little bit better and taking a little bit more pride in their appearance, don’t judge. We may be honouring our loved ones, we may be trying to make ourselves feel that little bit better so that we can get through another dark and dreary day, or we may be trying to remember what life was like before things were so drastically redefined.

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