Musings + Essays

L’Esprit de L’Escalier.

By: Jen Shoop

I have —

A five-foot-nothing frame and barely-size-five feet — inheritances from my petite Italian grandmother.

A scar down the middle of my forehead — God’s way of reminding me to slow down.

Blondish hair, an addiction that developed in my late 20s from which I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to wean myself. I am naturally a dark brunette — my brother used to taunt me by commenting that my hair was “raven black,” which was incidentally not true but also incidentally a curious sort of thing to get upset about — and then one day I read that Frederic Fekkai had said that every woman should go platinum blond at some point in her life and I couldn’t rid it from my mind. I don’t care to go platinum, but I’ll take just-back-from-the-beach highlights from now ’til eternity, please and thank you.

Hair blow-dried straight and shiny, thanks to a new year’s resolution and my discovery of this wunderproduct.

Bruises up and down my legs from schlepping an travel stroller over my shoulder up and down the subway stairs — the marks of an active and (can I say it?) devoted mother, determined to take her children everywhere in Manhattan.

A six inch long scar across my abdomen from two c-sections and a childhood surgery. I’ve had that scar for as long as I can remember and so I barely register it but every now and then I pause and think how grateful I am for modern medicine and the miracle of giving birth to a breech baby and then a very overdue baby via caesarean.

Brows that need tending, one of those personal tasks I continuously demote in my never-ending list of to-dos.

Arms too toned for my wholesale rejection of formal exercise at this stage in my life. I have “mom arms” from carrying my over-twenty-pound baby around on my hip at all hours of the day.

A chipped manicure — irritating, but such is life with two little ones and a lot of hand washing, cooking, and cleaning.

Lingering sniffles and coughs from a nasty bout of the flu.

Under-eye circles so dark that no concealer’ll do from going on three years of early mornings and middle-of-the-night wakeups with small children.

A look of distraction, because I am often thinking about fifteen different things at once, many of them mundane and most of them oriented around my children, but some of them wild and far-flung and destined to make their way onto this blog.

Dry hands from their constant coating in Purell.

A round-cut diamond solitaire engagement ring and a diamond band telling the world “I am taken” but also, still, to this day, leaving me entranced with their beauty.

Wrinkles, mainly from smiling and sun, reminding me that I have lived a pretty damn good life so far.

A stain on my cashmere sweater from baby spit up (should be fun to clean).

Jeans that still technically fit but that have never quite looked the same after this second baby. I am the exact same weight as I was before Hill came along, and yet. Certain sections of my body have permanently changed shape.

Very long lashes (thank you, Dad) enhanced by very black mascara (thank you, Giorgio).

These externalities make for interesting sign reading. But they do not reveal this bigger truth, unseen and mainly undetected owing to years of assiduousness developing my confidence and earnestness: that I have a tender heart worn, more often than not, at the very cuff of my sleeve.

This from a gal suffering from the most intense case of l’esprit de l’escalier*. Does anyone else suffer from this predicament from time to time?!

(Drive gently, dearie.)

*French phrase referring to the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late. I am often of this spirit. I am quick on the uptake but desperately slow by way of retort. Perhaps a gift, after all — I’ve never suffered the consequences of blurting out the wrong thing.

Post Scripts.

+One way to combat l’esprit: write down your thoughts on paper (love these notebooks and these pens) after the fact. More often than not, the exercise reveals to me my insecurities on a given topic and enables me to let it all go. Sometimes, however, it equals quiet vindication.

+Speaking of desktop supplies: this charging phone stand has been a lovely convenience. (One of my stocking stuffers from Mr. Magpie!)

+Three pairs of shoes I am drooling over for spring: a classic pair of Manolo maysales (love everything about these), these floral captoes, and these adorable bow-at-the-toe sandals. I generally prefer a thinner heel but am open to testing the waters with these given how feminine the rest of the shape is.

+Three bags I am drooling over for spring: this Anya Hindmarch bow tote, this fun Gucci floral, and this pearl-studded Pamela Munson.

+Just ordered these precious scalloped mary janes for mini. ($18!)


+Absolutely adorable toy storage for a nautical theme bedroom.

+Have been wearing this $30 sweater (originally $70) on repeat. Love it with white denim.

+Another contender for an Easter dress for me…swoon. (More spring beauties here.)

+Speaking of Easter: how cute are these $6 bunny plates for little ones?

+Pink mocs for a preppy little boy! (Maybe with this well-priced pink gingham shirt and jeans?!)

+Mini might need these Beatrix Potter jams for her upcoming Peter Rabbit-themed birthday.

+Would wear this under my white joveralls for a day out with my children.

+Super cute swimsuit for a little girl, and under $25.

+Ordered these knee socks for mini. In years past, I have spent a small fortune shipping European-brand knee socks from Children Salon (love Pretty Originals and Carlomagno) — these are a great alternative!

+You can find some absolutely stunning vintage Wedgewood at TheRealReal. I mean THIS 33 PIECE SET IS 70% OFF.

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8 thoughts on “L’Esprit de L’Escalier.

  1. Love this. I’m reminded that I should use my own Revlon brush more — maybe I will do so tomorrow! I’m so lazy as I work from home and have relegated it to days where I have in-person meetings, which are not terribly frequent at this time of year. I should get into the habit of doing my hair more instead of always opting for a casual air-dry!

    Love those Loeffler Randall Gracie sandals! V. elegant, and I love the block heel. Their shoes just *work* for me. I have about 7 pairs (!) and love each of them.

    And OMG, that Karla Colletto suit … going straight to my Pinterest board! haha.


    1. Yes — I think that’s WHY I love the Revlon brush — it enables me to spend a total of maybe five or six minutes wrangling my hair since I let it airdry for maybe an hour before using it. So it feels SO low-lift to me. I always tell myself, “You can afford five minutes to run that thing through your hair…” It’s been a gamechanger for me in terms of actually getting me to dry my hair.


  2. I saw that suggestion and I tried it but didn’t make a ton of difference…I think the only way to get height is to get layers…which I had and now have grown out…haha…the eternal quest for the PERFECT haircut (and color and length and products…etc etc)

  3. Have you found a way to get some height on top with the dryer? I love mine but struggle with it sometimes being too flat by the crown. Might be a product or cut issue? Any suggestions?

    1. I have not yet! Some readers had some good suggestions earlier about drying it in the OPPOSITE direction you want it to lay, so like dramatically blowdrying it over the top toward the right of your head if you wear your part on the left. I’m still not dextrous enough to get the effect of volume though…

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