I had an interesting experience at the nail salon this past weekend. Usually, as soon as I walk into the salon and pick out my color, I immediately put my ear buds in to find some relaxing music. But this particular trip was different. For some reason I delayed putting in my ear buds, I’m not sure why, but it quickly became apparent.
As my scrubbing and polishing began two women, who were obvious friends walked in for mani/pedis. After an incredibly complex perusing of the nail polish colors, they sat in the two chairs to my right. It quickly became clear that the woman next to me was unsure about her color choices, even though she had picked out three colors. So, back to the wall of nail color she went. After sitting down the second time she was still unsure of her choices, and leaned my way for a quick strangers opinion. The few colors she had tested out on her finger nails she admitted were very reminiscent of something her grandmother would wear. I wasn’t sure which direction she wanted to go. She had a brown and a red color on reserve, and was leaning towards the brown color. I liked the brown, but suggested that maybe she find a deeper brown with a little sparkle. To which she responded “I’m a middle-aged women with kids, I can’t do sparkle.” I had to pause a minute to soak in what she was saying. Does becoming middle-aged mean that we have to loose the young, fresh, free part of ourselves? Does it mean that each decision needs to be calculated on the middle-aged scale of appropriateness? Do I need to start censoring myself because at some point I will be middle-aged and expected to cut my hair into a wash-and-wear bob, and wear a khaki shirt with penny loafers? Dear me, I hope not. I suggested she go with the brown she had picked out, as it was the nicest of the colors, and returned my attention to my pedicurist’s nice massage.
Shortly after, the ladies to my right were joined by another friend who was then pulled into the color debate. She too suggested something a little more fresh, but was responded to in the same manner I was. “I just don’t think as a middle-aged woman I can do that.” Yikes! Her friend quickly argued that she was not middle aged, but it seemed this woman was resigned to defining herself in this way. I continued to mull over her statement in my head as my hands were being gently massaged, and I couldn’t let go of how she was choosing to define herself. And not that it is bad, but when people say it, they usually don’t have the most positive of tones. As I was waiting patiently for my nails to dry, I leaned back over, because I just couldn’t help myself, and said “I think next time you should by all means get the sparkle. Just because you are middle-aged doesn’t mean you have to let your sparkle go.” Her friend agreed with me, and she too was now open to the idea of nail color with a little sparkle. But my hope is she will apply the sparkle to more than just nail color. I’m sneaking up on the middle aged woman place, but there is no way that I am going to let that define me. I hope she can see there are so many more ways she can define herself, and that each one of those ways can have a little bit of sparkle in them. Because truly, when we start letting go of the parts that make us who we are, and the decisions that define us as individuals, and define ourselves in a way that is generic, we start to lose ourselves.
So, to my dear friend Mara, don’t let go of your sparkle! Or you will make me say “What the pickles?”