Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

A few weeks ago, Jenny from Dinner: A Love Story wrote:

“When I had young kids, a lot of activities fell off the priority list — happy hour drinks with coworkers, catching the newest Wes Anderson movie in the theater, mascara — but I was determined to continue having people over for dinner. For whatever reason, it was the kind of activity that reliably brought me joy and connection, not just with friends and the community but with my old pre-mom self.”

The phrase “connection with my old pre-mom self” has been floating around obtusely, purblind, in my consciousness since, as though something I’ve left in the next room. I have been groping after it. Do I nurture any connections in this way? I find myself thinking about things shed instead, and must pointedly provoke myself: What habits, customs, activities, sources of joy have I insisted upon?

Twin thoughts alight. First: the silhouette of a girlfriend of mine at an outdoor dinner table earlier this summer, her face lit by candle, her eyes large and wondering. She told me that night that she felt she’d lost her identity while having three children. All of the things that had defined her in her teens and 20s seemed to have disappeared in the hospital. She had been an athlete in high school and college, and now she had no time to even play scrimmage on the court. She used to enjoy skiing, and social clubs, and now she felt distant from both. “I don’t even know who I am,” she concluded. I was jarred by these admissions, because I thought to myself, “But you are still so you.” I remember what she was like before children and I still see her in the same way, even without the accoutrement and accessory of her former pastimes. She is still the one who gets the gang together, who fills the calendars, who proactively asks for coffee, and lunch, and remembers all of the details of where everyone is going for the holidays. She is a center, an organizer, a queen of unflustered logistics. She has prioritized her friends when so many of us as young mothers have found ourselves with minimal energy to socialize. She probably doesn’t see this about herself, but I see a sameness, radiating through, and I see, too, the effort she puts in even without knowing it.

The second thought: over the weekend, I participated in a DEI training related to some non-profit work I have been involved with, and the facilitator mentioned that “identity” comes from Latin for “repeated beingness,” or “being, over and over again.” I loved the poetry of those words. They curled up nicely against some of my reflections yesterday on “containing everything we need inside” as well as the burgeoning observation above that perhaps we aren’t even always aware of the elements of ourselves that we grab onto in spite of sea swells and droughts of different varieties. I sit here and realize that though I did not persist in as ostensible of a tradition as Jenny did with her dinner parties, I have, in fact, continued to cultivate the parts of my life and myself that have always mattered to me, almost without thinking, reflexively. For one thing, Mr. Magpie and I have always sat down to dinner together. Most nights, Mr. Magpie cooks, but even if it’s takeout — as it was above, when we ordered in from Polo Bar in NYC on a cold winter night — we plate everything, and we sit alongside one another. A friend of ours mentioned that he and his wife rarely dine together — they prepare their own meals, eat at different times — and I could not have been more shocked. To each their own, of course, and I don’t know about the scheduling constraints they face, but it was like an alternative I never knew existed suddenly appeared. It dawned on me that we have always made time for this ritual because that particular mode of connection — sharing a meal, the clatter of plates, the unpacking of the day that unfurls naturally from sitting alongside one another — speaks to us, and the fact that it speaks to us gestures to things deeper-held. So, too, with writing every day. So, too, with getting dressed every morning. So, too, with a nearly tyrannical insistence on a tidy home. These are elements of my life that gesture at who I am that have remained unchanged. They feel as natural to me as walking, but, come to think of it: they require vigorous reprioritization of all else. The world could be on fire (it felt that way in 2020), and my bed will still be made, and I will be wearing mascara and something I love on my body, and I will sit down at my battled-tested keyboard, used so heavily that the “A” and the “E” have worn faint, to write so that my world can, for a time, come into crisp focus on the page in front of me. And at night, I will place the napkins and cutlery at our designated spaces; I will praise the food in front of us; I will share my day and he his; and after, as I was the dishes, and I will know, even if the thought is inarticulate, that I am a kernel of myself at the moment. I am at my essence.

Do you feel you nurture connections with previous versions of yourself on a regular basis? Are there habits, customs, activities, sources of joy you insist on because they make you feel connected to how you define yourself?


+Coffee, hiking, and interrogations of my own ipseity.

+Major breakthrough moment: realizing that I am a true rule follower.

+What “house rules” do you have?

Shopping Break.

+Love this boxy sherpa sweatshirt. I have a similar one from Everlane I wear frequently in the chilly mornings, but really love exaggerated/large collar on the COS style. I also would not have thought to style it with dressier pants as they’ve done on their site — inspo!

+FUN $20 earrings to pair with all the festive things.

+Oh my goodness, I adore the color/pattern of this blouse. This smaller-print floral from Baybala has a similar color palette. I’m daydreaming about pairing either of these with greens and burgundies to ground them for fall.

+Influenced by Becky Malinsky to consider this well-priced navy sweat pant and sweatshirt set! I’m not really an athleisure girl, but this chic and retro-ish duo is currently in my cart!

+These safari cocktail picks are SO fun.

+I need small glasses for a punch I’m making for a little dinner party and I am torn between these unfussy Spanish-style ones (which remind me of our time in Spain!) and these colorful footed ones.

+An affordable personalized wreath sash! So cute. I really think my MIL would love this as a gift…

+Chic one-and-done outfit.

+ADORE the details on this dress for girls. Heirloom vibes!

+How adorable is this wipe-clean personalized “chore chart” for children?

+Totally inspired by La Ligne to wear more bold stripes this season. Love this neon scarf, this fun beanie, and this Harry Potter-esque knit scarf. The red and navy would look so good paired with stripes of a different width/guage, like this.

+Speaking of La Ligne, this dress is on sale!

+Doen has my number this season. Love this dress, too. Would be a great Thanksgiving dress! More Thanksgiving outfit ideas here.

+This $30 patterned fleece for girls reminds me vaguely of the ones from SEA!

+I mentioned that one of the women I used to babysit for had a nubby/sherpa Prada bag she wore in the fall and I always thought it was the epitome of chic. Prada came out with a similar style THIS YEAR. I’m getting the look for less with this.

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10 thoughts on “Connections.

  1. I love what you (and the other commenters) have written about identity here! So much food for thought, as usual.

    I saw that COS sweatshirt in person this week and it’s so good — I also have the Everlane fleece sweatshirt (mine is 3-4 years old at this point!) and the COS is a lot more plush … though that may just be the age of the Everlane showing, as it’s become a bit more tough with the passage of time. I really liked the COS! I also love that you are a fellow Becky Malinsky follower — LOVE her newsletter and I actually just bought that set on her recommendation! I had been looking for navy sweats, so the timing was perfect. They’re waiting for me now, and I’m excited to try them on when I get home tonight 🙂


    1. Obsessed with Becky! She has such a point of view, and really does the hi-lo shopping experience wonderfully.


  2. … speaking of Doen, I’m obsessed with their bedding, particularly the ditsy blue and Songbird toile patterns!!

  3. As my friends have started to have kids over the past few years and I have remained childless, some of our relationships have changed but not in the way I had expected. Instead of a divide forming between us, I actually feel closer to to them in certain ways and I think it’s because of what you touched on here. I think our friendships serve as a reminder of their non-mom selves and allow them to easily access that self in a way they might not with friends who have kids. Sure, we sometimes talk about their kids because the kids are a big part of their life, but I think they enjoy the opportunity to turn that part of their brain off and just enjoy the company of someone who primarily knows them as THEM and not as “so and so’s mom.”

    1. I love this and think you are SO right. This might sound strange to some, but every now and then, when we hang out with friends who do not have children, Mr. Magpie and I feel almost exhilarated to have a conversation NOT centered around the children. Not that we don’t adore them, love them, spend every other minute talking about them, etc, but — it feels so good to remember there is space for other conversation! Glad you provide this for your girlfriends. You are a loving person — I can just tell. So astute to have this insight!


  4. Yes! So interesting how identity is so often construed as “what you do” (hobbies, work, etc.) and not who you *are* in the most fundamental ways — as you suggest, the “being” that you don’t even notice because it’s so natural to you. This feels very aligned with what you recently wrote about not losing the child inside you (if I recall the phrasing). People can change, but also, our identities and selves are hearty creatures!

    P.S. love the colored, footed glasses for a party!!

    1. I love this turn of phrase — “our identities are hearty creatures.” Yes! I love that configuration/phrasing because it’s a reminder that we have BACKBONE. We have substance. Intrinsically!


  5. I love that assurance that your friend still retains so much of what makes her “her” to you. I find it encouraging as a mother of four children, the things that I might feel I lost that were part of my identity (like daily makeup and watching the latest shows) actually were not part of my truer identity of the person who shows up for my family or my identity as a faithful Catholic. Really, when it comes down to it, I’m okay losing what I now see as hobbies and are not part of my identity that I’m lesser for not having.

    1. I love this, Christianne. What a beautiful thing to write about yourself, too, that shedding some of the hobbies/accoutrements/etc has made no change to who you are. I wrote about this concept elsewhere, but it reminds me of the notion of “chiseling away what isn’t.” Not changing, adding, clinging, but purifying, removing to get to the core version of yourself. Love this. Onward!


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