Don’t let go of your sparkle.

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?”

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3 thoughts on “Don’t let go of your sparkle.

  1. Ha! Mara here. Ready to defend my middle-aged-ness. 🙂

    If I read this without having been there, much less having been the protagonist, I would have thought that poor, middle-aged woman with the brown toenails a tragedy. But I was there, and I am me, and I choose to see it all differently.

    For starters, I’ve never been much for sparkle. Even during the 80s, when I was squarely in my Madonna adoration phase (with the rest of my fellow female teeny-boppers), the sparkly stuff just wasn’t my bag (translation for the younger readers: it wasn’t how I rolled).

    But that is mostly beside the point. Being middle-aged, like every age before it, is actually quite good. I have found that with every passing decade, life becomes more enjoyable and I become more comfortable in my skin (maybe the lack of elasticity allows for a bit more wiggle room!). I don’t mind my age at all. I certainly object to the aches and pains that come with, but the mentality and the activities associated with being where I am on life’s path are all quite fabulous. Is it nothing but a bed of roses? Of course not. How dull that would be!

    When I said, self-mockingly, that I was middle aged and therefore didn’t do sparkle, I meant it. But I meant it in a way that I think has been misunderstood here. I am a firm believer in acting one’s age – whatever that age may be. I frequently remind my very whiny 10-year-old of this very same thing. I think aging gracefully requires that one not only let go of certain habits, fashions, and sparkles of younger years, but also requires one to embrace new habits, new fashions and new forms of “sparkle”. Older women can get away with much bigger diamonds, don’t you think?

    And this brings me back to Madonna, whose concert I recently attended. I went ready to dance. I was eager to hear all the old favorites and cut loose with girlfriends. I cannot remember a time that I was more disappointed in a live music show. Madonna was full of sparkle and glitz, boy toys and thongs. Her body looks fantastic for a 54-year-old (or for a 24-year-old, really!), but she struck me as pathetic. She seemed to be trying so desperately to hang on to some long gone “sparkle”. How much more elegant, beautiful, and, dare I say, youthful might she have seemed had she allowed herself to act her age?

    So, Pickles, I am honored to grace the pages of this blog. And delighted to have made a new friend at the nail salon. But I do hope you will rethink our first encounter and hear in my words a suitably happy, incredibly grateful, and always sarcastic (one never grows too old for an acerbic wit), forty-something who has a different take on retaining her sparkle!

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  2. Mara, thank you for responding, and doing so, thoughtfully. I can appreciate that we all get to define our own sparkle as we see fit. This post is an exploration of my own self definition as I move towards my own middle-aged stage in life. I certainly would never want you or anyone else do something that was or is out of character for themselves. What I want people to think about is the characteristics about themselves ( their sparkle) which make them who they are, and then remember to celebrate those in themselves. For myself, I don’t want to be defined by my age or necessarily was is deemed appropriate for my age. Instead, I want to be defined by the things which make me, me. Over time I don’t want those things to change because of my age. You make an interesting point about Madonna. Madonna has other constraints with which she must struggle. Being in the public eye, trying to stay relevant to newer generations as she ages, are all part of her career. She has to find a way to stay true to herself in a world that requires her to change in order to be successful. But for just us extraordinary people, we have to struggle with maintaining the parts of us which make us who we are, and I mean the core of who we are. You will often here me say, “I am a spring chicken!” That is part of the core of which makes up me. I have a very youthful spirit, that is full of life. And I don’t want my age to dictate how I let that particular part of my sparkle shine. I think it is fine to act your age, but is your age who you are? Food for thought!
    You are comfortable in your skin, I could tell that right away. You also have an open, welcoming spirit. Both of those characteristics are part of what drew me into your conversation at the nail shop. Those characteristics are part of your sparkle. And I will appreciate and celebrate the sparkle in you. Given this conversation I am curious how you would define your sparkle?

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  3. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However
    I am going through troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t understand the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

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