Fiery orange fingernails

On vacation in the summer of ’99 I saw a youngish mother like me, with two girls roughly that same ages as my two sons. But while I was matronly and plain, she was fit and stylish with strong, lean legs, a bouncy ponytail and brightly lacquered orange toenails. I hadn’t polished my toenails since 1993, the year my first child was born.

“She probably neglects those girls while she pampers herself,” I sniffed. This despite the lovely smiles she shared with them and the laughter that floated over from her little family’s picnic blanket. I watched them talk and pass sandwiches around, her girls comparing their own freshly polished toenails.

I never met that woman, but her equally orange fingernails squeezed marks in my brain. How could she take care of herself like that but still be a good wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee? The answer swam around for years, just beneath the surface of my consciousness. Like a tiny tadpole, it grew stronger, bigger and more restless. Until it finally broke through.

Taking care of herself was what gave her the strength and energy to take care of those she loved.

Trying to do everything for everyone, keep everyone happy, calm and supplied with clean socks and homemade cookies, and rarely uttering the word “no” had slowly depleted my own stores. As I approached my 40s, I was dangerously close to empty. This good girl thing just wasn’t working for me anymore.

So I tore up my good girl contract. And I’ve been ungood ever since.

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