I have been paying a lot of attention these days to how I identify myself. “Ms. Buni Whatsherface?” “Mrs Richard Whatshisface?” “D’s Mom?” “That Bitch Downthestreet?” “The Widow Ifeelsosorryforher‘ “The Real Deal Steel Magnolia?” This is probably because I am so desperately searching for who I am in this world that labels me. How do I label myself? I am examining what is most important to me regarding how I am perceived and what I am learning is that it is more important how I see myself.
Being my son’s mom is an important part of who I am but it does not define me. Perhaps the fact that he was born right before I turned 22 just makes it another facet of who I am. I have never been a woman who talked incessantly about daycare, diapers and the cuteness of babies. Even when he was small I never went to a shower, Tupperware party or just out for dinner with the girls and prattled on about such things. He is the most important human being on the Earth to me, but he has never defined me as a person. I have had issues with widows support groups in my age group because all they appear to have to define them is motherhood. I went to talk about and learn about processing grief, not about potty training and how cute someone’s dirt covered child was in some pictures. To me, however callus it may appear, being a mother is a gift, not a badge of honor. I am not one who allowed my child to rule my house. I did not run around and kowtow to all his wishes. I loved him unmercifully. That’s it. Mom? You betcha. Are you hungry? Is your underwear clean?
I have worn the title Bitch all my life. When I was younger it was fighting words, now I embrace it with a smile. It means you are so insecure that I intimidate you. I am ambitious and creative. I am decisive and plain spoken. I am elegant of manner and graceful under pressure. I have a firm handshake and will look you directly in the eye when I say hello. I am the match for any human on this earth. No one is better than me and no one is beneath me. You put your pants on just like I did this morning doll. And yes when I say it in that tone it does mean I see you as a mindless plaything. We all came in this world naked and in the end that’s how we leave. Someone not liking me is not something that troubles me very much these days. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am very perceptive, trust and believe, I see you. I have a bullshit meter that is as sensitive as any earthquake sensor on earth. I like genuine people. Good, bad or indifferent, if you will be you, I will be me, and we should be just fine. But calling me a name doesn’t demean me, it shows your lack of imagination and vocabulary skills. Why don’t you go read a book? The library is free. Bitch? Yep, your estimation of the situation is correct. Woof.
Then there is this widow title I am wearing. Someone said the other day, “You will always be a widow.” As I thought about that statement I clarified it for the person who is not widowed. “I will always be Richard’s widow, but I will not always be a widow.” I have had a life defining moment but it will not define me. I will choose how the world sees me. Why would I let one tragic event determine who I am for the next 40 years? Life may never be the same for me but I will not remain on a soapbox, waving my widow flag when I am in fact someone else. Widow? Yes. But not forever.
The moniker I embrace at this moment is that of the Real Deal Steel Magnolia. The Steel Magnolia part comes from my beastie’s son who introduced me as one to some FDNY firefighters. He explained saying it meant that I am funny, smart, sharp tongued with a wicked wit. Life has made me strong but the struggle made me beautiful. That for me to love you, was like having a quiet place to rest. He made me all misty eyed. I got up and kissed his cheek and he said “See! I told you.“ One of the giant Irish fellas pulled up a chair and said “A Steel Magnolia huh?’ and I said “Yes sir, the genuine article.” For the rest of the night I was called “The Real Deal Steel Magnolia.” As I read up on Magnolia’s I was amazed at what makes them thrive and I compared a lot of it to my life. So I took that one and made it my own. Real Deal Steel Magnolia? Yep, pull up a chair and sit a spell.
Just as I am the daughter of a faithless mother and a philandering father, the sister of a completed suicide, the grand daughter of a cancer victim, the widow of a good man who died far too soon, the mother of a beautiful son, the aunt of several, the friend of many and the nemesis of quite a few more, none of these things define me. I am a diamond and all of these facets cause the light to bounce through me and different colors to show. I define who I am and who I will be in the future. Today I wear one label, tomorrow I wear another. In the closet of my life, one never knows what may be on my back from one day to another. But trust me folks, I never get dressed in the dark.