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Published: Fri Jul 1 2005
Art by Jin Suk
A Party of Widows

Notes from my mother’s 87th birthday party

I didn’t sleep with Tom after the babies were born. I liked being able to swing my legs out of either side of the bed.

In those days a woman’s job was to say yes. If your husband said steak and spuds, you said yes. If he said fetch the paper off the front porch, you said yes. If he called you an idiot, you said yes. It doesn’t mean you cooked or fetched or slept in the same bed. It was just easier that way.

People always say, don’t be so pretentious, but in our day we knew: pretension is all we are.

After B. was kicked out of the navy for having an affair, we got married. I thought of affairs as business dealings. But I was lucky in a way. He was so smart. He had very good genes.

I never knew he was homosexual. Your husband was homosexual? I’m sure you got along just as fine as I did with my regular-sex husband.

I remember how B. used to say, if you have something nice to say, don’t bore me. He was the best gossip. He never did mince words.

I read a book about that. It said marriage is a defense against society’s fear of desire and loneliness. Of course it’s also for the children.

We always think we can fool the children. Sometimes I think we’re the fools and the children.

Didn’t you think it was strange to marry a gay man?

I was already an old maid. I was thirty.

Women could just live together, like Nancy and Mary Pat. Everyone knew, but people were decent. They didn’t talk.

Men are like lobsters. They don’t just live together.

Mother always warned me about turning into an old maid. She said if I didn’t stop wearing slacks and start perming my hair, I’d turn into one before I knew it.

I used to stand outside of bridal boutiques, staring at the displays like a child at a bakery window.

My mother was so thrilled to get me married off. She didn’t care what he was.

I was every kind of woman. I was a single, an old maid, a wife and a widow. And I prefer the last.

Back then we talked about babies. Now all the talk is about sex. The young are sex fiends.

I hate that word, orgasm. Why don’t they come up with another word? A code word, like I don’t know. Fish. I caught a fish.

I think geishas are a wonderful idea. The Japanese were so civilized. Did you ever read descriptions of how they fixed their hair?

After I married, I went to the beauty salon once a week and got a set. If I wore a net, my hair could go seven days and look like it just came out of the rollers.

A sneeze is the closest thing to an orgasm I ever had.

Nin Andrews is the author of six poetry chapbooks and six full-length collections, most recently The Last Orgasm (Etruscan Press, 2020). The other works are titled Why God is a Woman, The Book of Orgasms, Why They Grow Wings, and Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane.  She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet Henri Michaux, Someone Wants to Steal My Name (Cleveland State University Poetry, 2004). Her poems have appeared in four editions of The Best American Poetry as well as Ploughshares, AGNI, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. (updated 4/2022)

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