After my appointment, I was supposed to meet a friend for a light dinner in the city before heading home. I got to the restaurant and she texted that she had to cancel last minute due to an emergency. I was already seated there with an iced tea, so I figured Id stay and get a light dinner and wait out the rush hour subway traffic going home. The waiter, a very cute Italian guy, said: “Who stood you up?” and winked at me. “My friend couldn’t make it so I’m just gonna kill some time and get dinner anyway.” He kept lightly flirting with me throughout my meal and we kept having a fun exchange, but I couldn’t tell if it was actual flirting or just “server flirting”, where he was being extra-nice in order to get a better tip. So I asked him.
This Monday at grief-counseling:
Caitlin: “Any changes lately on how you’re feeling about the concept of “someone else?” Do you still feel like you have no interest in dating? Does the thought of someone else still make you feel sick to your stomach?”
Me: “Still no interest. I have zero desire to actively go out searching for love. I spent years dating before I met my husband, and it sucked and nothing came of any of it except heartbreak. I’m not going on any dating sites or going to bars or any of that. It’s just NOT me. That’s not what I feel comfortable doing. If I’m going to find love again, it will be through friends, or through just living my life and doing things I love and finding someone with similar interests, or the same way I met Don – through chance / fate. I’m open to that happening. I’m just not willing to go out and look for it. “
After my appointment, I was supposed to meet a friend for a light dinner in the city before heading home. Got to the restaurant and she texted that she had to cancel last minute due to an emergency. I was already seated there with an iced tea, so I figured I’d stay and get a light dinner and wait out the rush hour subway traffic going home. The waiter, a very cute Italian guy, said: “Who stood you up?” and winked at me. “My friend couldn’t make it so I’m just gonna kill some time and get dinner anyway.” He kept lightly flirting with me throughout my meal and we kept having a fun exchange, but I couldn’t tell if it was actual flirting or just “server flirting” where he was being extra-nice in order to get a better tip. So I asked him.
“Are you flirting with me, or do you just want a nice tip?” I was shocked that I asked him that. I am never that open or at ease with men. But for some unknown reason, I just thought to myself “what the hell”, and asked him. He laughed and said: “It’s a little bit of both, to be honest. I’m definitely flirting, but I’d also love a nice tip!” When my bill arrived, he put a little mini-cupcake on top of it and brought it out to me. “Whats this? Does everyone get a cupcake or just me?” “Just you”, he said. “Sometimes you just need a little cupcake in your life. Have a great night. ”
I opened my bill, and he wrote in pen at the bottom: “Dine with us again, Bellissima! ” (which means ‘lovely’ or ‘very pretty girl’ in Italian, for anyone who doesn’t know).
I left my pay, along with a nice tip, and my business card, which has my phone number and email address and all that, but also comes across as being “professional”. Plus, this way he will know what he is dealing with if he did decide to contact me – as soon as he goes to my website, he will see that I’m a widow, grief coach, comedian, actor, writer, speaker, and did I mention widow??? That’s a lot to take in. If he reads all that and STILL contacts me, then he deserves me meeting him for coffee at the very least. I’m quite sure nothing will happen with any of this, and to be honest, I actually don’t really care. I mean that. Truly. This little story has absolutely nothing at all to do with me being ready to “date” again, or wondering if he will call me, or anything like that. It has to do with my reaction to having a total stranger flirt with me and be nice to me in “that way.”
I’m telling you all this story because for the first time since my husband died, a guy flirting with me didn’t make me feel physically sick to my stomach or send me into hysterical fits of sobbing. It felt “okay”, and that is a HUGE leap from how it felt, even just a few short months ago.
When you are smack in the middle of grief and loss, it always feels as if the emotions that you have will last forever – that you will feel this way FOREVER. But it’s not true. It’s just not true. The feelings shift and change as you process through the loss. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work, but they do change. YOU change. I’ve changed.
I never thought I would be “okay” with someone harmlessly flirting with me, ever again. It felt soooo awful, even just a few short months ago. It felt like I was cheating on my husband, because I still felt married. Sometimes I still do feel married, but I’m finally learning how to shift my relationship with my husband into something very different than what it was before. It is something that my grief counselor has been talking about for a long time – something called “continuing bonds”. At first, I didn’t know what the hell she meant by that term, but now I’m starting to get it. Now, I am starting to understand that the relationship I have with my dead husband is still a relationship, but it’s a very different relationship than the one I had when he was alive. Here. On earth.
And now, suddenly, but also very gradually, a male person flirting with me no longer feels awful. It feels “okay”. And that, my dear friends, is what they call healing.