Bike near water for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
What Not to Say

I’m Not a “Bike Widow”

Chris is an avid cyclist, and the other day he was texting with a friend who rides bikes with him. They were trying to plan a long ride at some point, and Chris told his friend that he needed to check with me first, since an entire Saturday morning was a long time to be away from me and the kids.

In jest, his friend texted back, “better that she find out now that she’s going to be a bike widow every weekend!”

In response, Chris texted, “since she’s an actual widow, I try not to joke about that sort of stuff.”

His friend was hugely apologetic. He didn’t mean to be so insensitive! He didn’t know!

Of course he didn’t know. I mean, what are the chances that a random young-ish guy who rides bikes with you is dating a goddamn real-life widow?

“Bike widows” are common, I guess. Or at least a whole lot more common than real 41-year-old widows. But it’s not just cyclists who use this term. Oh, no, there are also hunting widows, golf widows, fishing widows, football widows…and the list goes on. Basically any activity that is beloved by a group of men seems to have a group of women who refer to themselves as “widows” when their husbands are out doing that activity.

Don’t believe me? Try a Google search. You’ll find Twitter handles for bike widows, Etsy shops selling signs for hunting widows and Facebook groups with thousands of members for golf widows. Amazon even sells mugs that have “fishing widow” written on them. It’s a joke! Get it?

I try not to be too serious about this. I’m sure it’s annoying when your spouse spends all weekend playing games with his friends while you are home with the kids. And if I didn’t know that it was annoying, never fear! The Today Show ran a piece entitled, “Are you a sports widow? Here’s help,” in which all of the annoyances of this type of “widowhood” are discussed, along with solutions.

Gosh, wouldn’t that be great? To have a solution to widowhood?

But again, if I start taking offense at everything about fake widowhood, it would be too exhausting to move through the world. Fine, I’ll remind myself, my friend can be a fishing “widow” and post memes about it all summer. I’ll just shake my head when I see it, and keep scrolling.

And I’ll remind myself that I probably used the term “widow” to refer to myself more than once before Shawn died. Not that he was addicted to any sport in such an extreme way. Rather, he had a job that kept him away from home a lot. I’m sure that when he was at the White House, I referred to myself as a “widow” at least once. He was gone so much that I basically was one, right?

But of course I thought that way because I’d never actually been devastated by widowhood. I’d only been annoyed by my husband’s absence.

I wasn’t alone. In fact, as I was first setting up this blog, I realized that for some platforms, I would have to use the social media handle “dcwidowblog” instead of “dcwidow” – because that was already taken by someone. Someone who wasn’t an actual widow, just one of those annoyed wives.

Listen, it sucks to have your husband gone all the time, whether it’s for work or play. But you know who has their husbands (and wives) gone a lot? Military spouses. And yet, you never hear them refer to themselves as “military widows” because that’s an actual term for those with dead spouses in their community. They get it. You don’t joke about that shit.

I guess I can’t get all up-in-arms every time someone refers to themselves as a “basketball widow” even though it’s pretty lame that your husband feels like it’s okay to never hang out with you and the kids during March Madness. (I mean, don’t you have a TV at home? Or don’t you want to actually share some of these activities with your spouse? I guess I’m being a bit judgmental but….those memes kinda speak for themselves when someone I know posts them.) No – I need to chill out. Have a sense of humor, honestly. The world needs a bit less seriousness sometimes.

But I can promise you this: you won’t ever hear me referring to myself as a bike widow when Chris goes out on his rides. Because that term means something else to me. If I’m a bike widow, then Chris is gone.

And that just doesn’t seem very funny to me.


  • Steph

    Yeah it’s thoughtless. I couldn’t believe it recently when my best friend was inviting me and another friend out “because she’ll be a car-racing widow all weekend “! She was/is my rock. I can’t work out if it’s because I’m supposed to be ‘over it’ at 3 1/2 years, or she just had a momentary brain glitch. But I can’t turn my widowhood on and off like her husband can turn off the tv races and return to her. I decided it would be petty and over sensitive if I objected to the term. One more grit my teeth moment…

    • M Brimley

      I mean, I think we all make these mistakes, but I also think friends can say to each other, “ugh – that’s touchy for me!” And good friends will get that!