Musings + Essays

How to Stop Time.

By: Jen Shoop

On the Tuesday before Christmas, Mr. Magpie and I went out to dinner at The Dabney in D.C. It was the perfect pause from the holiday rush. We lingered over cocktails and Mid-Atlantic fare at the largely-empty bar, pleasantly marooned together for a few hours on a bitterly cold night.

I was reminded that night of a note I received from a Magpie several years ago, in which she wrote:

“Your relationship with Mr. Magpie is so tender and loving. Do you have a round up of relationship/marriage advice?”

I have carried this request around with me for a long time. I have felt wrong-footed offering advice on this front for many reasons. First, I feel too green: we have been married twelve years, but there are many couples far more seasoned who are better fonts of wisdom. Second, and I don’t write this to be cute or coy or self-deprecating, but I think Mr. Magpie is the magic. He is patient, he is romantic, he cares about a lot of little things that (I have observed) many men do not, he is a noticer, he is an equal. I could go on and on, but I suspect that no one wants to hear all of the reasons my husband is paranormal when contemplating her own relationship.

All that said, one tactical bit of inherited wisdom I have borrowed and found richly rewarding: remember to date your spouse. Any time we go out, just the two of us, I remember Mr. Magpie at 20, at the start of everything, thick into the headiness of the befores. Can you remember the thrill of the beginning? The way you couldn’t wait to see him/her? The way your stomach would drop when he/she said something flirty, or wrote something sweet over AIM? Sometimes I write about the beginning of us here on this blog, and I feel reborn. Going on a deliberate and mildly unexpected date (e.g., not to the corner restaurant, or to the convenient spot you both know and like) — to lunch on a random Tuesday somewhere adventurous, or for an 8 p.m. cocktail (e.g., when you’re usually curling up on the couch) at some ridiculous downtown bar, or to a controversial art exhibit — is the easiest way to unclip from “the everyday stuff” that can obscure or mute the magic of your relationship with your spouse. A few finer-tipped suggestions: 1) Eat at the bar. We always have the best, most intimate conversations when sitting side by side, and there is something winningly low-key and last-minute about the experience. Plus, you usually get better service because the bartender can survey your meal progress more easily than a server. 2) Arrive separately. We aren’t able to do this as much anymore in our current living arrangement, but in NYC, it was easy to ask him to meet me at a bar after work. There is something romantic about appearing in the door decked out to meet your date. He/she hasn’t seen you primping in the mirror, swapping shoes, spritzing with perfume. He/she just sees you at your best. 3) Controversial, perhaps, but I love this: have him/her order for you (or vice versa). There is something about belonging to each other implicit in the act, and it’s an unexpected surprise. Variety is the spice of life, etc.

This most recent trip to The Dabney reminded me of a quote from Matt Haig:

“How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.”

Spending an evening with your loved one — really seeing him, really leaning into the conversation — is a surefire way to hit pause on everything that does not matter in order to take in what does.


+3 a.m. parties with my husband have changed over the years.

+Marriage is an act of optimism.

+I won’t soon forget any detail about my husband when I first met him.

+Twilight on the Potomac.

Shopping Break.

+I absolutely TREASURED your comments on this post, and I ordered a few of the recommended items! I’m very excited about this spatula in particular, which a few of you upvoted.

+Have these Goop balms in my cart, too, thanks to that convo.

+My mom bought me this sweater in navy/white for Christmas and I can’t stop wearing it.

+Totally obsessed with this woven, Bottega-esque dumpling clutch from female-founded business Maria La Rosa. Love the hot pink, but lots of options at Tuckernuck too. (Test codes YOUROCK and YOURULE for 20% off.)

+This slouchy pullover is in my cart.

+These tiny heart print pajamas have a Lake vibe to them — under $20 though.

+If you’re headed on warm-weather vacation…and this, too. (Such fun colors!)

+Lusting after a pair of these sandals.

+Adorable star garland!

+Have been hearing good things about beauty brand Kjaer Weis

+Love this $30 teddy fleece pullover.

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6 thoughts on “How to Stop Time.

  1. YES to sitting at the bar! I don’t drink alcohol (I usually ask the bartender to surprise me with whatever mocktail they’d like to make) but it is such a different feeling to sit at the bar vs table. We’ve had really enjoyable conversations this way!

    1. It really is the best!! Most intimate dining experience. Feels like the pressure’s off, feels lowkey, feels cozy — just love the vibe at the bar.


  2. Related to your third point, I think there is such intimacy in “I”ll have whatever you’re having.” Doesn’t even have to be romantic intimacy, but it shows complete knowledge of and trust in someone else’s taste.

    1. Completely agree with this – and I love the intimacy it organically builds in the moment, too! I feel this way, too, when we have friends over (the kind who don’t mind asking for what they want) and they just say “pour me whatever you’re having.” Kind of leaning into shared adventure/experience.


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