Musings + Essays

Intimacy, in All Its Savage Abandon.

By: Jen Shoop

I am now Mr. Magpie’s part-time barber. He buzzed his head on January 1st — new year, new look — and his new (and handsome) ‘do requires biweekly maintenance. As he sat on a stool in the shower while I ran the electric clippers over his head, I felt an unexpected surge of fierce possessiveness. We have been married for a long time and yet still there are privacies between us. I will not trim my nails or tweeze my brows in front of him. He is blessedly demure about phlegm and other sounds and emissions of the common garden male variety. And so there are still moments where I feel as though I am opening a door to a new level of intimacy, in all of its savage abandon. On this particular occasion, as I shaved his head for him, I felt a primal sense of marital ownership: he is mine, and I will preen him and tend to him until the ends of the earth.

Do you feel this way too, Magpies, when you are engaged in the tenderest and most personal acts of care for a loved one?

I have perhaps been thinking a lot about this as I prepare for childbirth and anticipate the many indignities that come with it. Well — indignities is a loaded and unfair word, as childbirth is natural and we should not feel shamed for its collateral, but let me speak honestly and say that I could do without my husband or mother having to pick up a pad the size of Texas off the bathroom floor for me, as happened while I was recovering from my first c-section. And I have further been marinating on this theme as our home succumbed to a bad cold and I have been applying Vicks and replenishing humidifiers and doling out medicine around the clock for both mini and Mr. Add to this the fact that I have been attempting to potty train mini while tending to the minor health condition of a loved one that has required humbling hands-on care and also preparing for the arrival of a helpless, care-hungry newborn and — yes. I have been thinking a lot about the emotional terrain of caring for another.

In these moments, I feel overwhelmed with love and connected-ness, even when they are not particularly glamorous or pleasant. I am moved by the opportunity to wordlessly demonstrate the depth of my affection, often steeling myself from emotion and adopting a kind of shrugging “of course I’ll do this” posture — something I learned from my mother, who will replace a bloodied bandaid or rub an aching foot without so much as batting an eye. A girlfriend of mine called this “mom strength” a long time ago, when we were traveling through France by train together, and we agonized over the bizarre and moving proximity of a small and unkempt cemetery next to a burnt-out looking train station on our way to Annecy. I was haunted by the image; I must have brought it up half a dozen times that afternoon. Something about the modest bouquet of wilted daisies on a grave not far from the rough and surly industry of the train station left me weepy. At some point, she commented: “Some days I can’t wait until the days of mom strength, when you can look at that kind of thing and not be bothered by it.” I knew what she meant — my mom is loving and warm but also tough as nails. I think back to when I had surgery at the age of seven and I never saw anything but an encouraging smile on her face, even though she must have been horrified. She has seen things, endured grief and agony and pain at the hands of her five children and her six siblings and her two parents and her countless loved ones and come through to the other side with a kind of all-knowing endurance.

I have not achieved true mom strength yet, but I find myself increasingly capable of attending to minor and major caregiving opportunities without my emotions getting in the way, calmly welcoming new intimacies in all of their savage abandon.

*This phrase — “intimacy, in all its savage abandon” — was lifted wholesale from the beautiful film Colette; more musings on this worthwhile movie here.

Post Scripts: Fruit Prints, Sale Scores, + Cosmetics.

+I got eyelash extensions in December for the holidays. God do I love them but they absolutely destroy my natural lashes. I don’t trust anyone who says otherwise — or maybe I just have weak lashes? But I can only do them like once a year. I have been a long-time devotee of DiorShow, but I’m testing IT Cosmetics’ Superhero volumizing mascara after a girlfriend raved about it. And I have to say, her lashes looked incredible. Stay tuned!

+I’m starting to fret about what to do for mini’s second birthday in March. Our apartment is simply too small to host a bunch of rambunctious toddlers, and I had no idea how expensive and involved it is to rent out a play space for the occasion! It seems tedious to me to have to schlep decor and treats and gifts to a new spot when you only have two hours for the whole thing to begin with. I’m completely at a loss as to what to do. That said — check out the adorable party gear here. I’m loving this strawberry motif and this lemon one! Maybe I could do a little fruit-themed situation — mini’s favorite snack. (At a recent playdate, my friend was shocked when mini dominated an entire cereal bowl (<<she has this Juliska pattern and I envy it something fierce every time I see it) full of strawberries and grapes instead of the neighboring one of cheez-its. I don’t mean to sound virtuous here; the girl just loves anything sweet! She’ll just as readily finish an entire bowl of bunny grahams.)

+Speaking of fruit — love these clementine-print jammies (on sale!), these undies, and, of course, this darling dress (you can twin with your mini in this!)

+These python mules from my favorite footwear designer are A STEAL RIGHT NOW.

+A huge, oversized scarf. I love throwing this kind of thing on with my go-to jeans and sweaters to finish a look, especially with this Sandro-lookalike sweater ($39!)

+Cool decor for a boy’s room or a rec room. They’d look incredible mounted on a wall!

+These boots are so cute for a toddler — love the bows. Mini has worn Donsje animal booties for the last two years, and they are so well-constructed and snuggly, but she’s now in the very biggest size for toddler feet and can barely fit into them. I’ll need another snuggly option for next winter season; I have to say those bow bedecked Uggs are probably it!

+Speaking of bows and pink, I love this heavily discounted romper for mini and this shift dress (bump-friendly) for me!

+They still had this jumper on sale in mini’s size! Win, especially paired with a cute floral blouse like this.

+I’m also tempted to buy her this sherpa sweatshirt (a few sizes up from current size) for winters to come as it’s marked WAY down right now.

+Mini has gotten a lot of use out of this Patagonia fleece this winter. The brand is worth the expense, IMHO, because it washes very well, is extremely warm, and holds up. Definitely worth hanging on to / passing down to future siblings and cousins. My eyes are peeled for impending winter sales; I want to stock up on Patagonia fleeces in sizes up and down for both mini and micro!

+With the current promo, this sweet fair-isle sweater (love the palette) is like $35! Also loving this puff-sleeved sweater, now 40% off, especially paired with those Agolde jeans I’ve been dying over! Such a cool texture.

+These mules are SO FUN. And also heavily discounted!

+These would be such a great piece for me right now — I could get one with Mr. Magpie’s initial, one with mini’s initial, and one with micro’s initial. ($198 for set of 3!)

+My mom has a set of vintage copper jars like these that she uses to stow flour, sugars, etc. LOVE. So pretty on the countertop!

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19 thoughts on “Intimacy, in All Its Savage Abandon.

  1. Beautiful thoughts.

    We just had a birthday party for our newly-minted three-year-old, and though we kept it small (3 school friends and 2 cousins), it was still an overwhelming afternoon for her, even though she loves all of them individually! Thinking we’ll do a special adventure with just one friend next year πŸ™‚

    Keep us updated on any kiddo Patagonia sales – I’d love to pick one up for my mini in next winter’s size!

    1. Thanks, Em, both for your insight and for the sweet note. I am beginning to find myself drifting away from the thought of a bigger party and planning to just invite a small contingency this go around, or maybe go out for pancakes and a playdate or something. Thanks for weighing in πŸ™‚ xoxo

  2. This is a lovely reflection on the intimacy of caring for loved ones. I thought about this topic a lot when I first moved in with my partner & jumped right into handling a few gross-but-perfectly-natural/normal tasks for his daughter, who was only 4 at the time. It helped me realize that caring for people often involves acts that are, well, intimate. I think about it still, when I consider my parents and making life choices that will ensure I’m within a few hours’ proximity as they age. These may not be priorities for everyone, but they are for me … ahhh, I’m rambling!

    The birthday party conundrum! Ahhh, this is the struggle of having a child born in the colder months β€” if mini’s birthday was in the summer, you could just have it in Central Park! If it were me, I’d try to tailor the guest list so you can have it at home β€” it absolutely is shocking just how much it costs to host children’s parties! Eeeep.

    P.S. I chuckled when you mentioned that Orolay coat in another comment β€” I had made note of it earlier this season after hearing about it from Kim France’s blog, and then saw it in person on a woman at the Hudson Yards sweetgreen last week. Haha! It looked pretty high-quality (better than I’d imagined) and I want one now! Maybe in grey? xo

    1. Wow – that must have been such an incredible learning experience, just sort of opening yourself up to helping out with a four year old all of the sudden. Amazing. I’m sure you have so many lessons and observations from that time…

      You are so right on the cost of parties here. I’m finding it will be difficult to do for under $700 at most of the childrens’ clubs/play areas around here, and that cost doesn’t include cake, favors, etc. So we shall see…

      Orolay coat — you read my mind! I have a post going live this week talking about it. I love the look! I like it in the black, army green, and gray! xo

    2. Can’t wait to read the coat post! The woman I saw in NYC had it in army green, which I really like β€” but I already have a down puffer from J.Crew in olive green, so I’m leaning towards the grey. I’m so bored of the J.Crew coat after about 5 winters, though, and pretty much exclusively wear it in active snowstorms. I have been wearing my wool coats in all other weather, and just layering with my Patagonia down shirt in super low temps. The Orolay is intriguing to me because of the swingy silhouette β€” seems easier to layer with bulky sweaters! xo

  3. Grooming someone IS very intimate! A close friend of mine had a bout with cancer this year. When it became clear she would be losing her hair, her boyfriend shaved it off for her. (and because is possibly THE funniest person I know, with a dark sense of humor, she took a mirror selfie during the process and made it into their Christmas card, with a big glittery JOY! across the bottom of the pic. Back of the card said “2018 was a close shave!” I laughed for a solid minute straight when I opened it.) Anyways, after I finished laughing, I thought to myself “wow well they are DEFINITELY getting married now, hard to get any more intimate than this!”

  4. I love Patagonia. Their clothes are incredibly well made and their lifetime guarantee is great too! On the subject of winter clothes, I am in need of a new winter coat that withstands rain and wind, and keeps me warm to below freezing temps, but is as light as possible. Have you seen any good winter sales? I’ve looked but I’ve either missed them or they haven’t started yet.

    As far as Mini’s birthday party goes… I’ve always been astounded at the lengths parents go to to throw birthday parties for their 1, 2, 3 year old children. I’ve seen a parent spend close to (if not over) $1,000 on their son’s 1st birthday, which truly blew my mind. I do not have children but I’ve always thought that if I do in the future, they probably won’t have a formal birthday party until they’re 4 or so, unless we have family living close by who comes over for a little dinner or something. While I know this sounds very scrooge-y, it just doesn’t make sense to me to do otherwise. That being said, to each their own! No judgement if a person wants to have a big fun party for their child πŸ™‚

    1. Just wanted to clarify that I do love birthday’s and would absolutely cook their favorite foods and have a cake at home, just wouldn’t throw a formal party and invite the whole preschool.

    2. Hi hi! OK, my first thought on the winter coat was the much-touted “Upper East Side Amazon Coat”: — have you been following this? It’s taken NYC by storm. You can hardly leave your house without spotting a few on the street! They are super chic (I think they look like a high-end designer with an urban/trendy vibe), cost around $130, and are apparently crazy warm. I’ve had a few pregnant friends mention how much they like the coat because it’s expandable and accommodates a bump. Anyway, if you snag this, you’ll be very on trend and for a fraction of the price of a Canada Goose πŸ™‚ BUT. If you’re looking for an investment piece, I’d say Canada Goose. And if you want something in between the two, a friend of mine has — and loves — her Marmot coat, which is super lightweight and compressible (like you could fold it up and stuff it in a bag/backpack) but also surprisingly warm: . She usually wears hers without the fur trim for a super sleek minimalist look.

      I hear you on the children’s parties! Someone else wrote in that they really won’t even appreciate/understand until they are older anyway, and would probably have just as much fun with one friend than with a whole bunch. Oof, lots to consider here. xoxo

  5. Oh, how relevant this post is. My husband slipped on ice while walking our dog on Friday and broke his ankle. Add to this a 5-month-old daughter, a golden retriever who absolutely MUST be exercised, and all other quotidian minutiae that must be tabbed and dealt with. I definitely had a few moments this weekend where I thought, “I need to turn off my emotions right now,” because I was afraid I’d succumb to the overwhelming tedium of it all. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been wholly successful in just powering through; I’ve been resenting it all a little bit (further exacerbated by my daughter’s lackluster sleep this weekend). But you’ve reminded me that the next few weeks are an opportunity to practice my “mom strength” and care for those whom I love. Thank you for helping me reframe this whole situation.

    And even if I am not always successful in remembering that this is an opportunity, I will hopefully remember my father’s words: “it will end.” hah!

    1. Annie! You’re a warrior — that is not ideal and it’s totally normal to find yourself sludging along. It will end, but it’s a lot in the interim…sending you good vibes!! xo

  6. Colette! Please do let us know what you think – it was available on my long flight yesterday but I was unsure of it. I was also thinking the other day if you still have the same mascara β€œroutine” with the primer as well. Mascara is one of those things that always makes me think something better exists but always return to my trusty Defincils. I would also love to try lash extensions but do hear they are brutal on your real lashes. As always, thanks for the recommendations, as well as the emotional depth of musings on intimacy.

    1. Definitely recommend Colette. I thought the costume, dialogue/script, and overall aesthetic (even the sound mixing, which both Mr. Magpie and I commented on separately — not something we normally notice) were unbelievable. I haven’t used the Chanel primer for awhile because I still have a few of my extensions clinging on for dear life and I find that the primer plus mascara are pretty tough to remove gently. I would say lashes are Worth It for a big, big occasion — like a wedding, the birth of a child, etc. Some time when you want to look EXTRA for a few days on end. But it really is so hard on your natural lash line!! I always feel massively guilty though I love having the extra OOMPH. It’s kind of magical to get up and just throw on some tinted moisturizer and go — and look like the best version of yourself thanks to those lashes! xo

  7. My two cents on the two year old party – if you need to go big, do it at a Kidville and I think they do an amazing job with the theme. By the time you buy all the plates, favors, etc. it ends up being so spendy – and a lot of work. But for a two year old you could have just one family over – get amazingly cute decor for home, a cute cake, and take pics. She won’t know the difference…and there are many years she will!! (Kevin and I just had Cecily’s 7th birthday party and realized she is just now really appreciating them.) Okay bossy boots is done giving advice…have a great day

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