Manless in Montclair
|My name is Amy Edelman and I'm the author of Manless in Montclair: How a Happily Married Woman Became a Widow Looking for Love in the Wilds of Suburbia. Manless in Montclair was originally conceived of as a memoir. Writing things down after my husband suddenly died helped me make sense of my life at a time when it seemed way out of my control. But when my publisher asked me how the book ended, I told her I had no idea. She said that if I wrote it as fiction, I could make it end any way I liked. And who wouldn't want that option?|
My story starts when I found myself, suddenly, in August 2001, a widow at forty-three. My husband David and I had been together for seventeen years (married for twelve) and had two kids ages four and seven so not only was I now a widow, but a single mom as well. Without sounding overly dramatic, the pain was almost unendurable, but I had two young children, so I really had no choice but to keep going.
Day Four following the funeral dawned with the knowledge that my husband may be dead but my kids still needed clean underwear.
When Michael and I first began living together, I had had the job of washing and drying but Michael so hated the way I folded his jeans that sometime in Year Three he begged to take over. Now, less than a week after his death, a mountain of dirty laundry appeared before me, clearly oblivious and indifferent to my loss. I had no choice but to wash, dry and fluff. Three hours after descending to the basement, the girls playing with Austin at Ivana's, I hauled the basket back upstairs to the girls' room and began to fold.
Out of the hamper and onto the bed. The sweat pants Michael wore to the gym. A pair of boxer shorts with stars that glowed in the dark. T-shirts that Michael had bought the kids the summer before at the Third Avenue Street Fair.
I folded the clothing into neat piles on Jenna's cheerful pink and white comforter.
This is now the sweater of a fatherless child.
Can you give used Jockey shorts to Goodwill? Or is that kind of creepy?
Should I still fold Michael's jeans, even though I know he'll no longer be wearing them?
As if to mock my mood, the sun shone brightly through the gaily curtained window. And then the floor disappeared from beneath my feet and I was struck by a feeling of sadness and loss that was simply too overwhelming to bear.
Living the life of a widow with two children was a job for a strong woman, someone with courage and grit. I was a middle-class Jewish girl who didn't know how to cook or sew or date. True, in times of stress I'd been known to channel Katherine Hepburn, but I didn't have the height or the stamina to carry that off long-term.
It would be easier, so much easier, I suddenly thought, just to die.
I considered the idea. The strongest pills in my medicine cabinet (aside from copious amounts of sedatives) were extra-strength Tylenol. Guns and knives were messy and painful and therefore out of the question. Bounteous bushes grew beneath my windows, which excluded jumping as a reliable option. Pills would be the best way, really. But what kind and how many? Could I order them online and have them shipped from Canada?
What I needed was a book on how to kill yourself. I was sure I could probably find something on Amazon. I would take the pills, close my eyes and be with Michael again. After all, I had had a good life. I had traveled. Been in love. Had two great kids.
Aha the kids.
I picked up a tiny pair of Dora the Explorer underwear. I couldn't leave my girls. And since I knew in my heart that no matter how much I might want to take my life I wouldn't, I put the thought away in a drawer, along with Sadie's underwear.