Dr. Jan Meyer: There are lots of reasons to bedazzle

A lot of funny and maybe out-of-the-ordinary things happen when you’re around people, but I have learned that maybe that is more so when the people you’re around are old.

We were traveling this weekend, and to pass the time I was engaging in some very light reading. Specifically, I was reading a book in which a woman got very upset because her purse got dirty in some kind of tussle. It was her “bedazzled” purse, and she had bedazzled it herself, meaning she had added lots of sequins and other kinds of decorations. She claimed she was well-known for her bedazzling skills and had a little side business bedazzling purses and other items of apparel. I fell in love with that word, thinking of all the great uses for it, well beyond putting rhinestones on various things like purses.

Our destination was Arizona, where we were going to oversee the loading of our stored furniture and household goods onto the moving van. We were staying with a friend, and wanted to bring her a hostess, or “bread and butter,” gift of fresh flowers. Obviously, I could not bring those from Minnesota, and I was counting on buying them at a grocery store where, from experience, I knew they always have fresh and beautiful cut flowers. That’s not something easily found in the desert.

We were in the check-out line at that store, and watching the woman ahead of us as she checked out and engaged in a great conversation with the cashier. At a lull in their conversing, I jumped in to tell that customer that she looked just great. In fact, she looked bedazzled. From head to toe, she was sequins and other glittery stuff. She was wearing a hat, decorated with rhinestones and embroidery. Her jeans and her jacket were also covered in intricate designs, as was her purse. Even her shoes were sporting “jewels.”

By now, the cashier was listening to us discuss the decorations on her stuff. I told her she looked bedazzled, and then related how I had fallen in love with the word. The glittery customer explained that she is 75-years-old, her husband had died very recently, so now she was “doing whatever she wanted to do.” She said that included going out to fun places at night, and the cashier said she wished she could do that, but she didn’t like driving alone at night. That led to them exchanging phone numbers, and it sounded like plans to meet up for evening adventures. I’m sure they were going to share some bedazzling times.

I know I’ve been enamored with bedazzling in the past, just not that specific word. At one time back in my career, I was doing a seminar for corporate instructors who wanted tips on making their classes more interesting. I cleverly titled it “Put Some Bling in Your Classroom” with a subtitle something like “instructor techniques for experiential learning.” I started out by donning a sequin-covered cap, and explained that the bling in the course title meant creating more interest and participation in whatever topic was being presented.

More recently, when I was totally bald after having chemotherapy, I was attending a holiday bash. I wanted to add a little pizazz to my outfit, so I got a small container of glitter and sprinkled that on my bare head. If I’d been aware of the word back then, I’d have joked about my bedazzling pate.

Now, years later, I realize that bling was the same as bedazzling. I checked for dictionary definitions, and one unknown source listed it with two meanings, one to “greatly impress someone with outstanding ability or striking appearance.” That described my reaction to the woman at the Arizona grocery store. The second meaning was to “decorate or personalize clothing or accessories using sequins, beads, glitter and more.” That was the customer at that store.

I went further looking at definitions. Definitely a verb, Merriam-Webster’s meaning is “to confuse by a strong light,” and “to impress forcefully.” Dictionary.com defined it as “to impress forcefully, especially so as to make oblivious to faults or shortcomings.” That must have been what I was doing at that holiday party with the glitter on my head. One source listed related words, such as blind, dazzle, dumbfound, bewilder, overwhelm, confuse, astound, stagger, daze, enchant. I concluded that bedazzling is powerful. That is what I call “cocktail party knowledge,” a way to create some interesting conversations when meeting strangers.

It’s continually amazing to me the directions we can pursue as old people. We can dazzle people so they become bedazzled, and if it turns out to not work so well, we’ll be excused because we’re old. In the case of those flowers we bought for our hostess, they too were bedazzling. We found “Minnesota flowers,” peonies and irises, both of which she and we were familiar with from childhood, but which do not grow in the desert. She loved them, and we told her about bedazzling, and she agreed it was a good term. In fact on our last evening there, a group of us went out to dinner, and she wore a bedazzled shirt. She did inform us that she had not done it herself, however. But either way, it works.