A Walk on the Wild Side

The trouble with being younger than many of your friends and family is that you have to watch them transition into retirement while you’re still working.

Last weekend my husband’s retired brother Don and his wife Andrea stayed with us. They were getting on a plane early on Sunday morning headed for Hawaii where they were to meet their children, their respective spouses, and their eleven month old grandson for two weeks of vacation time.

We enjoyed our time together and I vicariously experienced retirement as they talked about their life post-work, but I also felt more than a twinge of discontent as I considered it would be two more years before I become eligible to retire.

Andrea and I went for a pedicure on Saturday even though I don’t ordinarily have pedicures at this time of year. Sometime around October when the cool weather forces me to put away my sandals and stuff my feet back into the obligatory professional looking black trouser socks I wear to work, I stop going. I leave the last polish of the season on and watch as, bit by bit, it grows out. First the nails on my baby toes lose their color, and gradually every nail reverts to its natural and naked state. I monitor the growth of my big toe nails closely week-by-week. Toward the end of December, often coinciding with the solstice, I cut off the last bit of polish. The timing is good; just as the last evidence of summer disappears the days begin to grow longer and my hope in the return of summer is renewed. But I digress.

At the nail salon, Andrea chose a sensible color for her nails, something suitable for walking along the beach with her family in Hawaii, but I decided to be a bit radical. Why not? I told myself. My feet are stuffed into those horrible black socks for much of the day, no one will see my pedicure anyway. Why not do something bold just for myself. So I did. I chose a blue-green polish the color of the Caribbean Sea.

While my feet were being prepared for the color application and I relaxed into the pedicure experience I began to second-guess my choice. Maybe it was too radical. What would my husband think? But the thing about being almost fifty-three years old is that I have found I’m willing to throw common sense to the wind now and then and do something just because I want to.

So I kept my minor reservations to myself and watched as my naked toenails were painted with the most beautiful blue-green shade I’ve ever seen. I was reminded of standing in the ocean in Mexico; I was transported back to my childhood when I had a brand new box of crayons and I always reached for the same one first. Blue Green.

I was almost giddy as Andrea and I left the salon and I looked down at my Caribbean-colored toenails. We laughed together on the drive home as we considered the reaction of our husbands. The men reacted much like we had expected: they laughed, they were surprised, they thought it was great. Well, that’s what they said anyway. After I showed off my pedicure and danced around the kitchen a bit I decided I needed to change into a pair of Capri pants to complete the look. I was a changed woman that evening and for the rest of the weekend, I was barefoot.

Too soon Monday arrived and I tucked my toes into black trouser socks and headed to work. It was unusually busy and more-than-a-little-bit stressful this week. But when I was in a meeting listening to the waa-waa-waa of someone who sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher going on-and-on; even when I was in another meeting and I was in the waa-waa-waa role, I remembered my toenails. I found myself smiling to myself sometimes. Because underneath my professional business-like exterior I was sporting a pedicure that would have surprised every single person sitting around the conference room table.

So yes, I covet the retirement life my friends and family are enjoying today. And I sometimes struggle to appreciate the here and now because I spend too much time thinking about my own retirement plans. But last weekend I discovered that a simple, out-of-the ordinary, unconventional, maybe-even-radical, choice can put a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eye, and make my day a little bit brighter.

Today, it’s blue-green toenails. Tomorrow? Well that’s my little secret.

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