Musings + Essays

Soft Pencil.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above via Jo Rodgers.

I must sometimes remind myself to write in soft pencil. Not everything — in fact, only the scarce sacrosanct — deserves copperplate engraving. This is not to say I should not feel intensely, but a reminder to take care with what I put out, and I mean that not only in the literal sense as a writer, but in my interactions as a mother, friend, wife, stranger, neighbor, sister. It is OK to change my mind, to erase and try again, to write over my own penmanship. It is OK to not feel firmly about everything. As Rainer Maria Rilke put it, “Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

I used to mistake opinions for intellectual sophistication. Now I find myself more drawn to the people who ask questions and posit hesitation and nuance instead. Of course, there are occasions and principles that do call for fervency, and in those, I must take care not to let a wishbone grow where a backbone ought to be. But in the vastness of the quotidian: I’d rather sit amongst women who write in pliable lead than staining ink.


+This is a corollary to my post last week asking: “Who are the five women you’d like to be the average of?”

+In praise of getting dressed up.

+A woman contains multitudes.

+More on wishbones and backbones.

+What superpower would you want?

Shopping Break.

+These under-$30 shorts remind me so much of the pair by SEA so many of you own and love!

+I must tell you that I have a secret beauty weapon: Kevyn Aucoin’s Sensual Skin Enhancer. I have used this for a long time now specifically to combat my dark under eye area. Now, this is heavy duty stuff. You only need a tiny bit and then you must blend carefully (I use an Artis brush and then pat with my finger) — this is not like a dewy, dab-on-imperfectly-and-go. But I am telling you, for how full-coverage it is, you will never find anything that looks more natural. I just reordered a pot.

+Totally obsessed with the fit and wash of these jeans.

+Another gorgeous new arrival at H&M.

+Kind of loving the 90s cutaway tanks I’m seeing everywhere, including at J Crew, BR, and Michael Stars.

+How stunning is this caftan?!

+Cute raffia shoes!

+Loretta Caponi vibes for less.

+Crate and Barrel is having a big spring sale, including on this attractive entryway bench (with storage!) and this chic table lamp.

+I have been anti-crocs for so long but all the children wear them at school as their indoor shoes and this color was cute, so that’s where we are now.

+These woven chairs are SO fun for extra outdoor seating.

+Perfect summer wedding guest shoe. (Under $125!)

+Ordering a few of these little printed pima cotton dresses for everyday summer wear for mini.

+SUCH a fun print for vacation!

+St Laurent vibes for under $30.

+Speaking of St. Laurent, do you like their trapezoid shaped sunnies? Have seen them on chic peas all over the place.

+LOVING these counter stools.

+Monogrammed tissue box cover!

+This swimsuit comes in such a pretty color, is under $50, and reminds me in texture of something by Marysia.

+This reminds me so much of a Zimmermann dress.

+Cute little bag/clutch. Love a scalloped detail!

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10 thoughts on “Soft Pencil.

  1. Oh wow, love the Rilke quote and so many of your turns of phrase! Really appreciate these quick bites of your deep thoughts.

    1. That Rilke one is such a gem — I think a Magpie reader first introduced me to it a few years ago. Now it presents itself constantly in my thinking.

      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂


  2. I have been trying to get more comfortable with using the phrase “I don’t know enough about that to have formed an opinion.” Something about our hyper connected culture and social media saturation really encourages instant opinion formation, but it’s ok to say you’re still gathering data.

  3. The YSL trapezoid sunglasses are amazing! Need.

    I totally agree with your point about favoring curiosity and nuance over brazen opinions. I may be misremembering but I swear you mentioned the influencer/TikToker Tinx here once, whom I also love. What you said instantly reminded me of something she posted recently: “Strong opinions, loosely held.” I thought that summed it up nicely.

    1. Hi! Yes, I love the way she phrases that — totally. She is funny and has great perspective but also open to feedback, carries herself lightly. I admire that about her!

      Thank you for chiming in!


  4. Michael Stars — now there’s a brand I hadn’t thought about since high school!
    Some combination of excessive ellipticism and bandwidth have led me to seriously prune my opinion garden (I’m old enough to know that ignorance and opinions are poor bedfellows, ha). But asking more questions— yes! I still take notice of people who ask more than they answer.
    Also, Jo Rodgers’ sussex rental is EXACTLY what I want my house to grow into.

    1. Oh gosh, I know – her home is gorgeous! Can you imagine writing at that nook?!

      I love the way you phrased this — “pruning my opinion garden.” And yes to asking more questions — yes! My Dad is that way. Incredibly smart, well-read, sophisticated, and yet he will be the first in the room to stop and ask a question.


  5. I feel your pain over succumbing to Crocs for the kids. I thought I would NEVER, but oh boy, they are easy for kids to get on by themselves, easy to clean, and indestructible. So, as you say, “that’s where we are now.” One of the joys of parenthood! 🙂

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