Musings + Essays

Do You Have a Secret (Incongruous) Indulgence?

By: Jen Shoop

My Dad is a pretty serious guy. Not only is he a tenured and successful attorney, investor, and philanthropist, but he is — by nature — scholarly, studied, inquisitive, sharp-as-a-tack. A string of my core childhood memories involves him carrying a four-inch-thick tome on Churchill or some arcane battle in some arcane war. He was (still is) never without this kind of heavy reading material, whether getting his hair cut, picking us up from playdates, killing time in the pews before an awards ceremony. There was a joke (or was it a joke…?) among my brothers-in-law that, while dating my sisters and I, any anticipated interactions with my Dad meant they’d be hurriedly beefing up on current events and skimming recently-published op-eds in the New York Times and Washington Post. “Better have an opinion at the ready,” was the chorus, because my Dad is the type to sit down at the dinner table and ask someone to pass the salt and share her thoughts on the ongoing war in Ukraine. Recently, my father was extolling the virtues of an acquaintance he respects. “He’s just a real smart, serious guy,” he concluded. Afterwards, on the drive home, Mr. Magpie said: “I think your family might be the only family I know that considers ‘serious’ an elite descriptor.”

Of course, my Dad is also charming and funny and self-deprecating. He fits the description “strong opinions, loosely held” — always willing to change his mind, accommodate pushback, poke fun at himself. But, on the whole, he’s a pretty serious dude.

That is why I absolutely treasure the fact that he loves ice cream. It seems incongruous, like, perhaps, a Supreme Court Justice retiring to her chambers to eat Skittles? Even better: he eats the ice cream out of those crunchy, styrafoam-like cake cones. Always has. I think he may have kept the Joy brand in business for the better part of the 90s. When I think glancingly of my Dad, then, I think of two things. First, a quote from As Good as It Gets where Melvin says: “I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do…and in every single thought that you have, and how you say what you mean and how it’s almost always something that’s all about being straight and good.” My Dad is a “straight and good” person. He walks the hard line, unflinchingly.  He is serious, ethical, precise in his thoughts and actions. But I also think of ice cream, of his long-time favorites Butter Pecan and Cherry Garcia, scooped up in cake cones, eaten in about ten seconds — two or three bites — flat.

And the balance of the two is kind of perfect?

I suppose it reveals the multitudes each of us contain. We are irreducible, complex, full of treasure and surprise.

I’m curious today: what secret, possibly incongruous-with-your-personality, indulgence do you have? I’m thinking off the top of my head of a cousin who drinks Dr. Pepper every morning, and a brother-in-law who eats Lucky Charms, and the pack of Jujyfruits in my desk drawer…but it doesn’t have to be food, either. There must be someone out there who has a secret and unexpected ASMR source, or watches true crime documentaries for hours on end, or can’t stop tuning into gift wrapping TikToks?


+Not to be morose, but what your last meal be? (Love the comments on this.)

+I guess my dad’s love of ice cream is why I’m especially moved by “Ice Cream Moments.”

+A lot of you have asked me to re-share this post in which my Dad offers us all some good, galvanizing advice in the face of a big life change.

+This post, on making it through a really tough year during the pandemic, still brings me to tears.

Shopping Break.

+Obsessed with this skirt. Love how they paired it with this pop of neon sweater.

+This $12 trinket dish had to be mine. OMG.

+This sequin top is SO good, and under $100 — it reminds me of styles from Vampire’s Wife! A few other fab sequin tops to shop for NYE:








+Currently in my cart. I love the idea of wearing this around the house (alternative to nap dress) in the evenings/mornings underneath a chunky knit.

+Would love a pair of these cashmere bed socks. Also strike me as a chic gift.

+These hair ties are SO fun.

+Alice Walk’s popular cotton sweaters were just restocked!

+Random stocking stuffer I bought for my children: these cups. We call mini “ladybug” (nickname) so I had to get her that one, and the lion one reminds me so much of my boy!

+These under-$100 glitzy heels are SO fun and remind me of styles from Mach and Mach that retail for over

+Cute statement sweater in a fetching shade of blue.

+Oh my goodness, this cashmere knit set for a baby girl is beyond adorable, and surprisingly well-priced!

+This Lela Rose dress is, truly, exceptional. A spectacular pick for a mother of the bride/groom, but I’d wear it to almost any black tie situation.

+I wish this dress were in my closet.

+La Coqueta’s new spring collection is so adorable — I love this dress.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

8 thoughts on “Do You Have a Secret (Incongruous) Indulgence?

  1. I tend to order 3-4 beverages at brunch…diet coke, hot cocoa, orange juice, and water. I used to watch wife swap which was a guilty pleasure. And watching cooking videos is so relaxing for me. The ones on insta or YouTube if I’m wanting something longer. I loved the frosted series Martha Stewart had.

    My Mom loves to play solitare and suduko hours on end.

    And ice cream is always a plus! Favourite treat year round!!

  2. This made me think of President Biden, another famous ice cream lover. Apparently he doesn’t drink and otherwise eats very healthfully, but he cannot say no to an ice cream cone!

  3. My dad is also a fan of butter pecan ice cream 🙂 And not Cherry Garcia, but occasionally black cherry.

    This reminds me of a recent text conversation between my husband and some of his friends. Somehow tv was the topic, and it came up that we are faithful viewers of mtv’s The Challenge. They said, what?? You watch mtv? How did we not know this? Haha. I wouldn’t say he is a particularly serious person, but he is a nearly-40 year old CPA and father of two, so maybe not the target demographic of the Challenge! He’s been watching it since before we got married, when he could get all the seasons free on Prime. Sometime along the line, I got hooked too – probably during some late-night feeding/pumping session…

    1. Haha! I love this detail. My brother actually had a similar obsession with one of the MTV franchises — I can’t remember what it was now, but it was SUCH a stark contrast with his very serious academic program of study. (He is now a published professor.)

      Love this detail about you — thank you for sharing!


  4. I love this piece, being the proud daughter of a serious dad myself. I honestly think it’s one of my favorite things about him. I see him carry himself in the professional world with such integrity, he never bends. Yet, though he easily and deservedly has the respect of those around him, his humility makes him feel more kinship with a janitor than a CEO. My memories growing up always involve my dad with multiple newspapers and setting out his suit the night before work – sometimes he’d let me pick the shirt and tie (i always picked white shirt and sharp red tie). To the world he is serious, but to me, he uses a lot of exclamation points in his texts. Like, a lot. Just this morning, I sent a picture of my daughter and he responded with several exclamation points. It is one of my other favorite things about him. Anyways, i loved this essay – thanks for sharing and prompting a little reflection over in my corner today.

    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth – I’m so glad it resonated. Sounds like our dads are cut from the same cloth. Love his exuberant and unexpected use of the exclamation point! So sweet, so endearing.

      Thank you for sharing.


Previous Article

Next Article