The Tao of Toenail Polish

The Tao of Toenail Polish

I was raised in the era of mauve.

Most women who wore toenail polish, wore shades of mauve. If you were a teenager who was allowed to wear toenail polish it was acceptable to wear bubblegum pink, maybe even a light brown, and only red for the more “mature” ladies; those already in high school.

No one ever sat me down and told me these rules about toe nail polish.

I just knew them to be true, by what I saw and by the comments and gazes of others.

I never questioned it, I just went with it.

As I grew into adulthood, I took charge of my toenail polish, but still, I chose mainly reds and browns. I rarely deviated from this pattern, except for the occasional mauve, and if I was feeling truly edgy… pink!

Even the pink wasn’t unprompted, it was inspired by my daughter, who was starting to want to paint her toes. And of course, she went towards the classic bright pinks. Which she loved at first, but quickly grew bored of and wanted to explore other colors; by the time she was a teenager, she was wearing colors that weren’t even available when I was her age.

While I admired her risk taking and willingness to explore new colors, I never thought to venture out until one day she asked me to try of all things, mint green. I resisted and she persisted (there’s a larger theme of that rhythm between me and her), until I tried it. She said it looked great, but I wasn’t sure I even recognized my toes. Nothing about it looked “right” or seemed “right”.

I adjusted, but very quickly returned back to the comfort of the familiar red.

Over time (with her persistent urging, might I add) I expanded my regular rotation to include grays both light and dark, and that seemed to satisfy us both. Until, one winter a few years ago, I went an entire season without wearing any toenail polish.

You may be thinking, so what?

Well, before that season, my toes had not been unpolished for over thirty years.

Yes, over three decades.

And just like that, one day I decided my toes needed a break and deserved to be their naked selves. Of course I did have this revelation during a season in which I primarily wore closed toe shoes, but it seemed like an oddly intimate thing to me, this naked toenail situation. Something that needed to stay between my toes and me.

My daughter was shocked to hear the news of my unpolished toes. As spring rolled around, my toes were re-polished, and the routine of color rotation ensued.

However, this past summer, completely on a whim, without urging from anyone, I bought some blue nail polish. And I mean BRIGHT blue. At first, I felt the same awkward discomfort from my mint green toenail trial, but I told myself it’s just new and different, leave it for a while and see what happens. Occasionally, I’d invite my partner or a friend to tell me what they thought about the color. They’d say “I like it” so casually, like it wasn’t the revolutionary act that it sort of felt like inside. Clients even began to comment on it.

Younger women most often would say, “oh, love it!”

Women my age or older would say “Wow! Bold! Do you like it?”

That’s when I started thinking about this toenail polish as something more...

You see we all have these unwritten rules of how life is supposed to be. What we can do and what we can’t do. When an opportunity for change shows up, often by some outside influence, it seems natural to want to resist. If we instead open to the change, and embrace the awkwardness of different, new, unknown we invite openness into other areas of our life and we begin to remember that we can change those unwritten rules that are outdated, not useful or perhaps even destructive in our lives.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bright blue now and again.

Here’s to a season of new color choices for all of you.

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