By Lori Weiss
It was March 17, 2001. To many, it was just another Saturday. For me, it was the day I surrendered to a world of sameness. I changed the color of my nails from the perfect shade of red to a simple, but quiet, French manicure. I was a woman who’d always revelled in her uniqueness, but that day I felt as if I'd put down my sword.
The week before, the vibrant life I’d been leading had suddenly faded out. A television show I’d nurtured from the seed of an idea had been cancelled without warning. Days later, my best friend, Janet, died unexpectedly in her sleep. It was if everything that mattered had suddenly been erased. I wanted to blend into the crowd, for people not to expect me to be the entertainment. I even considered interviewing for corporate jobs.
My nails were a symbol of everything I once celebrated -- a fast lifestyle, filled with friends who sometimes lived on the edge, but always made me laugh; and with work that was constantly changing and challenging my every thought. But that day, I decided it was better to live a quieter life.
My manicurist thought it was a temporary divergence, so at first she humored me. But after a while, I noticed that she seemed disappointed, and even stopped showing me the newest shades of red. Instead she reached for subtler colors, like Ballet Slippers and Waltz. Even the names sound more like a whisper than a smile.
All these years later -- and for reasons I don’t quite understand -- I've begun to feel the pull of red again. For instance, I recently went into a car dealership, where they tried to sell me a silver coupe. But I found myself obsessed with finding one in the exact same cherry red that I’d had once before. Not long after, I found myself standing motionless in front of a Furla store, staring at the perfect red purse in the window. I'd never spent $600 on a purse before, but at that moment, I was sure I had no choice.
Then today, as I walked by the flower stand I pass by every morning, I picked up a few red tulips, paid for them, and felt tears come to my eyes. I realized that red is winning.
Buying those tulips was a statement -- that I am ready to live again. Don’t misunderstand -- it’s not that there haven’t been some good times over the years. I had moved to New York for a fairy tale job, with an office overlooking the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. I’d had a steamy affair that will one day be the premise for a romance novel I’ll write. And I’d spent summer weekends with my toes in the sand on the Jersey Shore.
I was living, for sure. I just wasn’t living out loud.
Sometimes in life, we need to go through a quieter time, to figure out who we are and what it all really means. It sounds silly to figure your nails into that equation, but for me, they were often the first thing people noticed about me. I guess for a while there I wanted them to see something different.
What I've learned is that you are who you are; and while you can hide for a while, your soul can only stay crammed inside for so long. Eventually it all just starts to spill out--and, for me, it’s spilling out in vivid color.
Right now I'm on my way uptown, harboring the hope that the $600 purse is on sale, and that my manicurist can fit me in. While some people might prefer to put one toe in the water at a time, today, I may even take the plunge and get a pedicure.
Lori Weiss is now a freelance writer and story consultant