Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth Rewrite the Rules of Midlife

Purist founder, Cristina Cuomo, leads a conversation with the duo behind chic jewelry line ASH + AMES, and best-selling authors Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth on their latest book, Just When You're Comfortable in Your Own Skin, It Starts to Sag.

Cristina Cuomo: Just When You Are Comfortable in Your Own Skin, it Starts to Sag is the fourth book in a series of bestsellers. I thought I’d get started with some questions having dissected this book on a long plane ride home from LA, which of course made me want to reassess my entire life strategy. [laughs] But, I feel pretty good about Purist. When you talk about midlife for women, you have coined this new term, “perennials.” Can you tell us what a perennial is?

Amy Nobile: Sure! To take a step back, we interviewed hundreds of women for our books. Our first book is called I was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids, our third book is called I’d Trade my Husband for a Housekeeper, and women are tracking with us. All the hundreds and hundreds of women are now in what we call midlife, which is the grossest word on the face of the Earth, and every single woman we talk to is like “disgusting, do you have to use that word?” We don’t feel like we are our mother’s midlife. We feel younger, are more fit, healthier, and our outlook is different. We’re looking at midlife like “alright, this could be the better half.” The word “perennial” seemed to resonate where “midlife” just fell flat.

CC: And what are some of our unifying factors as mothers?

Trisha Ashworth: It’s interesting. We are all looking at “What’s the next chapter?” and really taking the time to observe all these different issues. Whether expectations of what we have had in the past about who we think we are or who we think we should be and really looking at this time in our life to reinvent it. And to look at the next chapter as “What’s next?”

AN: Yes, when we talked to women they said, “I feel really stuck. Is this it? I checked all the boxes. I got married, I had kids, I did all this stuff—I carved a specific path for myself but now there is something empty, there is something missing.” I know we have choices that our moms didn’t have, so we don’t have the roadmap. Our moms didn’t have one to give us.

TA: And that’s one of the things we look at in the book: What is success? How do we define success? And here we are, as Amy said, we have done everything that we thought we would probably do and still feel like, “Gosh, is there more? Is this it?”

AN: This generation equates success with achievement, not with inner joy or fulfillment—and we ask women, “Are you happy?” and they say, “Well, like, happy, happy?” [laughs] It’s a trick question. For them to get there, is a little bit confusing.

TA: A lot of women feel like they are not where they thought they would be emotionally, feeling fulfilled, feeling like all these things didn’t get them to where they thought they’d be.

Amy Nobile and Trish Ashworth

CC: How do you align expectations and reality in this concept of rebranding yourself?

AN: The first thing you have to do is step back and say, “Are these expectations, of what I am doing in my life, for myself or for other people?” We talked to a woman who said, “My mom always said, ‘You are a good party planner, that’s what you should do.'” And she went into the events business and she hates it. Now she’s fifty, going back to school and she realized, “I am doing everything for others. These are not my choices.”

TA: We don’t even recognize it. It’s alarming how we go through life and don’t take the time to step back and say, “Am I making these choices that are best for me? Or am I making them because others have chosen them for me?”

AN: Or it’s ingrained in me in some way.

TA: Right, we’re just moving forward on who we thought we should be.

CC: So then how do you prioritize yourself?

AN: It’s funny because we ask women to state who they prioritize in their life and they would leave themselves off the list almost every time. And we were like, “What do you mean? You are not on the list. Put yourself on the list.”

Brooke Shields: So how do you deal with or reconcile, when you decide to take that leap and choose something for yourself, the resistance it’s met with?

CC: In the family.

AN: A lot of that is owning it. Many of us are making these choices just because we’re supposed to and we’re not owning our choices. It’s hard to say, “no,” when you don’t know if you should or shouldn’t. It’s much easier when you really know. I have sat down, I have made this choice, I have done the work, I have thought about what I want to not do, or do, or change in my life.

TA: And here’s why. And presenting it, not in a way of waiting for acceptance, but presenting it as “I have done the work and I am so excited, and this is the path.” Then everybody kind of comes on board with you. A lot of times we’re pleasers and we’re looking for that acceptance.

CC: And then your happiness trickles down, right? Of course, nobody here has any fears or inferiority complexes I don’t think [laughs] but, how do you break through all those?

TA: Part of it is these expectations, right? That the fear of failure, the fear of people judging you, the fear of making these choices and not succeeding at them in our lives is what’s holding most of us back. So again, going back to really making these choices for yourself, conscious choices.

CC: So, being best-selling authors and having a successful jewelry collection—which you know, you didn’t go into haphazardly—you came together and thoughtfully came up with this concept of ASH + AMES. How would your family describe you two?

TA: Crazy. [laughs]

AN: Everyone thinks we are totally crazy. We had to write this book in secrecy because we are in the middle of building ASH + AMES and our husbands, who are friends, were like “What?” No, nothing! It’s fine.

CC: Because they weren’t on board with it?

TA: Because they thought it was just too much. “How do you have time to do that right now?”

CC: Men don’t like change.

TA: Yeah, men don’t like change. But we follow what speaks to us. All of our books have been about where we are in our lives and where this generation is.

AN: It’s also our gut checks. We are really spiritual, we’re meditators—and when it happens, it happens. We looked at each other like we just have to do this. And the book wrote itself.

CC: What are some of the tools our own children, especially our own daughters, can offer us? What are the things we should be looking for?

AN: That’s a really good question. One of the biggest gifts we can give our children right now is owning their voice. Dozens and dozens of women have said, “I am turning forty, fifty, sixty, and am just finding my voice now.” So, what a gift it is to give our children the gift of their voice—building their voice and owning their voice now. We have daughters and it’s amazing. They’ll come home and say, “I beat the boys today. And you know what? I am stronger than them.” It’s such a different generation we are building, but owning that voice is huge. And on the other side of that, we can learn so much from our kids.

TA: It’s true! We like to look at it through the lens of a teenager. If you look at how they live their life…they don’t give a shit. They do what they want to do.

AN: They take risks, huge risks.

TA: They take risks, they don’t let people get in their way of what they want. Looking at it through the lens of a teenager, and living that way is a nice place to start.

AN: And we do.

CC: I was impressed that you touched on The Four Agreements in your book, which was a book I read that was really inspiring. Can you talk a little bit about The Four Agreements?

AN: It’s this tiny little bible of a book that pointed us in so many great directions and it’s just four simple agreements. One of which is “Be impeccable with your word.” Little agreements that are so powerful and you can flip to them at any point. If you find a mantra, or you find something that speaks to you, just simplify it. We always go back to our same mantras or little bits of wisdom. 

CC: I like that. Can we talk about the four phases of a woman’s life?

TA: Yes, we look at it in four phases. There’s 0-25, the dreaming years. It’s such a beautiful time in our lives and then we look at the building years, 25-45. You’re raising kids, having a career and busy doing everything. And then you hit this next phase, which is sort of what we call the reinventing years, 45-65. Maybe your kids are going off to college and you have a little bit more time, and your really solid in your career and able to step back and say, “Okay, what do I want? How do I reinvent myself now?” And take the time to again, ask yourself, “Who do I want to be when I grow up? What are the things that I love to do that can re-inspire our souls.”

AN: We talked to a bunch of happiness experts, and the time in our lives when we are the happiest is 60+. When women report they are so fulfilled and know who they are. What a great thing to look forward to. To know that. [laughs]

CC: How do marriages factor into rebranding?

AN: They don’t. [all laugh] No, totally kidding. We have a whole chapter on relationships and resetting friendships and marriages, and pruning friendships, but the marriage piece is tricky. After forty is the highest incident of divorce.

TA: 3 out of 5 have been initiated by women. It shifts a lot after forty.

AN: And right now this generation of women are telling us, “I am more confident. I am not willing to be in a relationship that is not serving me,” and a lot of women feel stuck in their marriages, having affairs without any guilt.

CC: How does social media factor into all of this? It’s moving at such a rapid pace. I can barely keep up with it. The social media outlets that my daughter is on, she’s got access to every single thing I do, and I can’t seem to keep up with what she’s doing. It’s very challenging and frustrating, but how do we take advantage of that as we’re building and rebranding, and building our own businesses?

AN: The tricky part first is a lot of women say that social media is making them feel bad. Because it’s sort of a “fakebook” effect where everyone looks so perfect and shiny.

TA: But not even celebrities. It’s your eighth grade best friend, who looks like she has it all together and it makes you question yourself.

AN: Like the couple who posts a picture of themselves and then comment all through “Love you babe.” “Love you, babe.” Just stop.

TA: And are divorced the next week. [all laugh]

AN: But it is a powerful tool for all of us. The whole kid thing is another story. We could talk an hour about social media and kids.

TA: It’s another book. [laughs]

CC: What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?

TA: From a business standpoint it was, “Fail fast.” I think in life too, it’s like, pick yourself back up, dust off the dirt and move forward. 

AN: But do it. We are all going to fail, but do it quickly. We tend to squeeze the living life out of everything. And life is about connecting with people without any expectation. If you go into it like that, it’s really beautiful and things just blossom.

CC: And who gave you that advice? 

AN: My mom did.

CC: Your mother? That’s beautiful. What about the “fail fast” one? [laughs]

TA: That was learned. [all laugh]

CC: What did you want to do when you were a little kid?

TA: I wanted to be a singer.

AN: You still do.

TA: Even though I hate being in front of the public.

AN: I wanted to be a gas station attendant. I am not sure what that says about me. [all laugh]

TA: You can still do it! You can still live your dream. I am out, it’s over.

AN: Oh, you aren’t going to do it with me? Okay, that’s fine. You can sing at the gas station. [all laugh]