Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

When you were young, what superpower did you want most of all?

A reader (hi, Beth!) sent along this stirring mini-film Burberry produced and it immediately brought to mind my youthful musings on the matter. I was always torn between wanting to fly or be invisible. I presume these aspirations to be fairly common for children, as both hint at freedom from authority, and isn’t that the crux of childhood/adolescence for many of us? Nowadays, I am close to allergic to the idea of flight in both the metaphorical and real-world senses. If anything, I have sought out terra firma these past few years, and I have a horrible fear of heights to boot. Mr. Magpie and I used to take guests up to the Willis Tower when we lived in Chicago and the first time we reached the skydeck, I simultaneously burst into tears and let out a hiccuping laugh. It was the strangest thing — it was as if my body could not figure out how to respond to the horrifying stimuli and so it flailed into multiple modes of expression at once. Suffice to say, I could not wait to retreat to ground level. As far as invisibility, a few years ago at a dinner party, Mr. Magpie and I got into a long conversation on this exact subject (our shared childhood obsession with superpowers) and the consensus was that invisibility is only useful to “bad guys,” as people on the straight-and-narrow never have anything to hide. I remember my brother-in-law saying: “I mean, really — what would you do if you were invisible for a day? What possible help could it offer unless you’re doing shady things?” And we all realized that there were no practical or convenient applications. (By the way, the conversation sprang from my daughter’s Table Topics set, which is a funny prompt for dinner time chatter, whether with children or not, though they also have adult versions.)

All of this to say — what superpower would you want now?

I think I would want to manipulate time in some way — to be able to time travel, or teleport, or simply slow down those golden moments to savor them more fully. But on second thought, I’m not so sure. The evanescence of a golden moment only adds to its allure. And while I have on occasion thought of transit time as “lost time,” I also think that driving in my car affords me important processing time, and invites me to call my loved ones and friends with more regularity than I might otherwise muster. I know that many of my friends were shocked to discover, while working from home in the face of this pandemic, that they missed their commutes. “I needed that time to transition from Work Me to Mom me,” one of my friends said. And so maybe transit time is a natural way of affording us pockets of freedom, and tampering with that mix does not promise to be therapeutic. Can I even imagine a vacation without the journey? If I were able to push a button and instantly disembark on a sandy beach, would I be erasing a critical part of what it means to “get away”? Surely part of the psychology of escape is the process of anticipating, navigating to, and then arriving at, the destination. (There was a hilarious and apt article on the closure of National Airport’s Gate 35x, “cursed portal to the rest of America,” in the Washington Post earlier this year that has forever imprinted itself on my understanding of how physical spaces transform experiences, and especially the very physical process of air travel.)

So, what then?

When I think about abilities that would be most helpful to me at this time in my life, I assemble the stodgiest line-up of candidates: patience, cheerfulness, agility in the face of changed or failed plans, gentleness. That is, they take the shape of small virtues rather than majestic faculties.

But perhaps they are superpowers all the same.

What about you? What capabilities do you consider “superpowers” nowadays?


+Adjacent to a superpower: a serious backbone.

+Things that mattered to me at 18.

+On the feeling of freedom as a child.

+On getting my driver’s license as a teen.

+Underrated traits.

Shopping Break.

+These cashmere gloves look like heaven and would be the perfect accompaniment to the oat/white stripe La Ligne sweater (<<still a few left, and on sale for $115!) so many of us own. Gorge.

+More chic cold weather accessories here.

+I do not need another cardigan…or do I…? I love the length and pockets on this style. So sweet!

+Tuckernuck is offering up to 30% off site-wide in a spend-more, save-more Cyber Week event. A few head-turning picks…






+Just added this just-released book of essays by Ann Patchett to my tsundoku pile. I absolutely loved (loved!) her novel The Dutch House. It’s one of my favorite audiobooks, too.

+Shrimps continues to slay it in the statement earring department. These are just SO good.

+You can get a similar Shrimps vibe for less with these, and honestly I’ve fallen in love with the entire boutique — how amazing are these clover drop earrings and this clover necklace lariat? The shop also sells some fabulous home furnishings/holiday accessories, including these clip-on candle lights for your tree that you can control with a remote, this reclaimed wood console, and this stone guardian angel statue for a garden.

+Talbots generously sent me this vest, which felt like next-level wizardry because I literally mentioned debating between it and another puffer vest in this post, and it showed up the next day. I have been layering it over everything. Super love. It’s shockingly warm, too!

+This bunny romper looks so similar to the much more expensive one I bought my new nephew from Livly (<<though it, too, is on sale ATM!).

+OMG. I can’t believe Longchamp is still making this style of bag. Seeing it was a major throwback. I bought this exact bag while traveling abroad without giving any thought to the fact it had no shoulder strap and, as a young college student traveling nearly every weekend around Europe, I would often be on the hook for lugging it around airports, down narrow Italian city streets, etc. Still, I thought it was impossibly chic and well-designed, which it still is after all these years. Brilliant to be able to unzip the middle panel and earn a couple extra inches of solid packing space. Just would not recommend it for backpacking-esque travel in your college years. But GREAT for car travel! Love the colors it comes in, too.

+While on this subject, two absolute workhorses for travel: this MZ Wallace (ON SALE FOR 50% OFF — RUN! — and I recommend buying it in the medium size; it fits a TON, has a zipper, can be wedged under an airplane seat, and weighs next to nothing on its own) and this Paravel, which is kind of my favorite thing for the inevitable “extra random stuff” that you have nowhere to put, which for me is almost always an extra pair of shoes, a curling iron/my Revlon One-Step, and a bulky bag of cosmetics/skincare. I almost always end up with those items just hanging out on top of my suitcase looking for a home. The Paravel has become my favorite for that miscellany, and it holds a TON. It’s also great for a day trip with children.

+BTW, the MZ Wallace medium metro (again, 50% off!!!) is a great diaper bag. The biggest complaint is that the shoulder straps tend to slip off your shoulder if you’re carrying it for any meaningful amount of time. You can twist the straps under one another to prevent the slippage, but TBH I rarely have carried this for long stretches. I usually hook it onto my stroller/put it in the basket or, if I will be walking a lot, use my MZ Wallace backpack. Anyhow, a full review of the tote here.

+But really, my secret to diaper bags is internal organization via pouches.

+If you want *just a sip* of sequins for the holiday season, these under-$30 earrings are so fun.

+This rainbow of chopsticks is so fun. I bought Mr. Magpie something similar earlier this year, and it brings so much joy to our table!

+I added this faux mini Weber kettle grill to micro’s holiday gift pile. So cute. Mr. Magpie is a charcoal grilling enthusiast and I love that he’ll be able to emulate his dad!

+More great holiday gifts for young children here.

+Jasmine-scented shower gel in the prettiest packaging.

+This turtleneck tunic sweater has been v popular this season.

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15 thoughts on “Superpowers.

  1. Teleportation or being able to speak/understand any language. I would love to be able to travel and see the world without the hassle of airports, flight times, or saving precious PTO days to maximize visits to new and old favorite places.

    While teleportation isn’t realistic, I am actively working on gaining dual citizenship so I will eventually have an EU passport and be better able to travel, live, work and maybe even retire abroad!

    Q4 at my company is insanely busy and I have missed staying caught up on your posts. Thank you for continuing to post so I have content to read when I have some time 🙂

    1. So glad to have you pop by when you can, and hoping your Q4 comes to a close swiftly and without too much stress.

      Love these ideas for superpowers. Who knows about teleportation — if we all start moving around with self-driving cars…maybe not “teleportation” per se but a lot of the frictions you mentioned might give way…!!


  2. As a kid I wanted to be invisible- I think it’s the introvert but also nosiness in me. To be able to observe and not be a part of things is appealing!

    But really the more practical one would be to have the magical ability to move objects, so that I could immediately put things away. I suppose it would be better if my powers were more for the good of the community but selfishly, I want to be Mary Poppins.

      1. PS – Such an interesting point, that it’s appealing “to observe and not be a part of things.” I can for sure see that!


  3. My superpower would be the ability to snap my fingers and be ready for bed—teeth brushed, face washed, lotions applied, in pajamas, whatever quotidian tasks are standing between me and sleep. Such a mundane thing, but I have wished for it on so many bleary-eyed occasions. After three years of wrangling (often literally) our daughter to bed way too late, my husband is on board, too!

    1. I TOTALLY hear this one, Leigh! Man — it’s sometimes a really rough final push. I am so exhausted by that point!


  4. The ability to speak any language would be my superpower of choice, both as a kid and now as an adult. To be able to communicate with anyone in their mother tongue would open up so many doors and facilitate so much connection.

    1. Ooh this is a really good one — practical, convenient, considerate, and inclusive all at once. I love it!


  5. I’m so flattered that the video I shared with you prompted a post. And what a great post! Obviously, my desired super power is to fly. I’m a retired dancer and when I watched the Burberry video it struck me on a visceral level. So often in dance, I felt like I was flying. The video also captured the wonderful comradery I remember having with my fellow colleagues.
    But my immediate “super power” wish is that tomorrow’s meal turns out, well-coordinated in timing, tasty, and enjoyed by all my guests. Fingers crossed!

    1. Fingers crossed! But at the end of the day, to borrow from the old quote, “We were together — I forget the rest.” Even if it all doesn’t go as planned, you’ll still have a great time and great memory 🙂

      I love your comments on dancing/flying! What a spectacular feeling that must have been!


  6. Sitting in the dark holding a feverish toddler (we’re on week 7 of rotating illnesses), I’d wish for healing powers. Happy Thanksgiving, always grateful for this corner of the internet you’ve created.

      1. Tricia — Thinking of you and sending you love! It is so hard when little ones are unwell! It is worrisome and exhausting!!


  7. Sitting in the dark holding a feverish toddler (we’re on week 7 of rotating illnesses), I’d wish for healing powers. Happy Thanksgiving, always grateful for this corner of the internet you’ve created.

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