Women Carrying Things.

By: Jen Shoop

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I was moved this week by an excerpt from a Ted Talk by visual artist Maira Kalman, titled “Women Carrying Things.” She begins the segment:

“One day at a farmers market, I saw a woman carrying an absolutely gigantic cabbage. When I asked to photograph her, she looked really annoyed. And for some reason, I was so delighted by her crankiness. It seemed so authentic and true.

Let’s just say what we feel.

It made me think of all the things women hold, literally and metaphorically.

Balloons and grudges. And heavy loads and cabbages. And stupendous love and courage. And the pink ukulele under a cherry tree.

And from this a book was formed: “Women Holding Things.”

I immediately ordered a copy of the book to send to a loved one who will appreciate the sentiment, and who, more importantly, deserves to be seen for everything she carries — which, as is common with the women of substance in my life, is a lot.

I want to be concrete about this.

I have seen this woman carry:

A jangling tambourine, so as to encourage and graciously deflect attention from fellow karaoke performers feeling a bit nervous at the microphone;

Babies belonging to other mothers, without any appearance of being put upon;

Her own wants and needs, but lightly;

The wants and needs of others, more heavily;

Three pregnancies;

Laundry baskets up and down the stairs;

Tequila, on the rocks;

The snack wrappers, miscellaneous belongings, and wet bathing suits of her children;

The unthinkable grief of losing a child;

A new language and new customs in a new country;

The onus of smoothing out a path in that new country for her young children;

Love-worn books;

Small afternoon dishes of apple slices;

An easy laugh and a good tune;

And, me, in the backseat of an Uber, weeping into her shirt.

A Prompt.

A little prompt for you this Friday: take a minute to think about a woman who holds the universe together. What does she carry?

You can, obviously, keep whatever spills onto the page close to your heart, but I think she’d love to be seen in it, so you might think about sending it her way when you’re done. If that feels awkward to you, let me tell you a little story: our gruff neighbor in New York routinely avoided us in the hallways, yelled at our dog, slammed his door, but then a few days before Christmas left a small canvas he’d painted at our doorstep. I was so moved by the gesture that I entirely re-wrote my reading of him. And that was an amateur canvas from an unfriendly neighbor! So imagine how much it will mean for her to receive lovely words from someone she trusts.

And if you’re game, share some of your sketch in the comments section here, too. It could make a beautiful composite portrait of all the things we carry.


+Another note to women who put others first.

+A concept welcome in this conversation: yutori, or living with a sense of spaciousness.

+My mom: the original woman of substance in my life.

Shopping Break.

+It’s transitional coat season! This Barbour is so fab. Also love the Everlane liner jacket for this in-between time — perfect weight.

+These happy heels are in my cart. Kind of like my Watermill bag — have all the colors to go with anything and everything.

+The verdict is in: my son LOVED these healthier snack bars from Skout. My daughter hated them. So, maybe you’ll get lucky with one child in your home? Ingredient list is simple.

+A sweet initial sweatshirt for your little love for springtime.

+Pretty sheets for a little one’s bed — $29! While you’re there, you might consider these colored wine glasses and these candlestick holders for your Easter table, as well as this gorgeous coffee table book.

+Marshall’s also has furniture inspired by higher-end retailers, like these end tables, which remind me of the Serena and Lily Driftway series.

+Alex Mill’s new spring collection (launched Wednesday) is full of cheerful and remixable basics for the season ahead. You already know I love the Paris cardigan (in my “What I Loved Wearing This Week” post later this morning, you’ll see I wore it three times this week), but you might also consider this ribbed maxi, their iconic Nico cardigan, or their striped shirtdress.

+This tiny portable printer would have been such a fun party trick / distraction at my daughter’s seventh birthday — she could have posed with all her little friends and gotten pictures to pass out right away!

+The SoldOutNYC “Everything” button down I raved about earlier this week sold out and then was re-stocked for pre-order. Run! The quality of this shirt is nuts. The most elegant and silky fabric you’ve ever felt on your skin.

+My favorite solution for keeping desk and kitchen papers organized — sort into categories in these.

+Frank & Eileen launched some pretty new spring colors in their fleece capelets. I’m a big fan of this brand.

+A charming floral frock. It feels like birthday cake to me!

+A perfect serving platter for Easter.

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3 thoughts on “Women Carrying Things.

  1. Apologies for fighting the hypothetical, but a counterpoint to consider: I’m kind of tired of women being put upon (/given disproportionately more to carry) and then being praised for it. It feels like concealed misogyny on a societal level. You want to honor me? Take some of the load! My wish for my daughter isn’t recognition for alllll the things she carries. It’s a lighter load.

    1. Hi Elle! I relate to this sentiment, too – thanks for sharing it. Good way to reframe my thinking about this prompt!


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