The Fashion Magpie 2017 Review

Reflections on 2017.

I spent the better part of a day crafting a long piece on 2017 and the joys and challenges that attended it.  I scheduled it to be published earlier this week, and then, the night before it was meant to go live, I changed my mind.  It was too raw, too unruly — Magpie Unplugged or something.  I can usually herd my thoughts and observations into some sort of reasonable order and extract something meaningful from them if I give myself enough time and space — like Joan Didion, “I write to know what I think” — but this was different.  I had too much to say, and at the same time, didn’t know what I was saying.  I was “a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal” — a lot of noise, but to no effect.

I sat down yesterday to attempt to edit it, but first read through the comments that had accrued on recent posts over the holidays, which is easily — usually — the best part of my day, and came across this:

“So…what I’ve gathered since your move to NYC is that you’re a superficial, privileged, spoiled and judgmental person whose opinions are overlayed with entitlement and misdirect your audience through a poor imitation of being “so thankful”, “so religious.” With all due respect, I sincerely hope that once you’ve lived for some time in this wonderful city you will become respectful of its residents and that you will learn to recognize deeper meanings that are beyond the surface of people and things.”

The comment was arresting for many reasons, and I re-publish it here not to chastise or shame or elicit empathy, but because, after the initial and inevitable couple of moments of frantic soul-searching (“but am I…?” and “but let me re-read that post to figure out what I said that could have been so off-putting…”), I decided not to edit and publish my long post on 2017.

Let me explain.

I agree with exactly two things that the commenter said in his/her post:

  1.  I am privileged, and could stand to remember that more regularly.
  2.  There is always hope for the future.

(The rest I believe to be a misreading of me and my tone, and I think that most of my readers, friends, and family members would back me up on that.)

I went back and forth on whether to publish or delete the comment, and even solicited the advice of my sisters, one of whom said: “Haters gonna hate, Jen.”  I love her for offering that shrugging observation; just dust yourself off and keep it moving.  It made me realize that — for having written this blog for about seven years — it’s outrageous that I can count on my hand the number of negative comments I’ve received.  Non-trivial aside: I do not consider a difference of opinion or polite banter to be “negative commentary”; I welcome debate.  I love Claire for calling me out on my flirtation with the idea of a safety pin earring, and Bunny for gently scolding me for disavowing the feminist label, among the many other women of substance who have taken the time to advance their own perspectives tastefully, and with humor.  Chief among my father’s many virtues is open-mindedness, and healthy intellectual friction is the key ingredient there; please keep the thoughtful commentary coming.  But being spiteful — well, there’s just no place for it in my book.

At any rate, I published the comment — in part because I didn’t feel it was ethical to suppress someone’s opinion, and don’t want anyone to get the impression that I only publish comments which which I agree, and in part because — as a blogger — “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” and in part because it’s an important expedient to the story I’m telling here, which is why I decided not to publish a long-winded post reflecting on 2017.

The tl;dr version (tl;dr = too long; don’t read) of my deleted post is that 2017 was the best of times and the worst of times.  The worst because, a few weeks ago, Mr. Magpie and I decided, after much agony and heartache, to dissolve a business we had built together through blood, sweat, and tears, and this — in many ways — feels like the death of a dream.  We had customers and a salable product, but our vision for the business as a venture-backable concept that we would scale and then exit proved more challenging than expected.  I wrote paragraph after paragraph about the ins and outs of this business, about fundraising in Chicago, about acquiring new customers, about recruiting and managing a team, about experiencing the bumps and thrills and triumphs and devastations of owning a business — at once terrifying and rewarding and grueling — and how it led me to my highest highs and lowest lows (often within hours of each other).  How it aged me about 34 years, made me smarter and stronger, afforded me a thicker skin, made me fall even more madly in love with my beloved Mr. Magpie, which is, in its own way, the most painful part of it all, because dissolving this business marks the end of a time where Mr. Magpie and I were compadres, cowboys — just the two of us against the world, building our escape route into a bucolic dream we’d nurtured for the better part of the last few years.  (We daydreamed about an early retirement in rural Virginia.)  In short, 2017 marks the end of a dream.

But 2017 was also the best.  The best because of Emory.  There’s little to say about her or the experience of becoming a mother that won’t sound hackneyed, but — Emory is joy.  There is no other way to put it.  She is easily the best thing about me — the best thing ever to happen to me, the best part of my life.  She is joy, deep and resounding.

This commenter unwittingly offered me an opportunity to take a step back from my reflections on the past year and recalibrate.  It is true that many of the challenges of the past year bear marks of privilege, but, in the words of a wise friend: pain is pain is pain.  It was a year of dislocation, of identity shifts, of impossible decision-making, of intense exertion, regardless of how coddled my life might seem.  There was a time not long ago where I was responsible for cold-calling CEOs and convincing them, with fervor, to try our product.  I was out there, on the line, selling our wares, hustling to make it happen, and was often met with disdain or, possibly worse, indifference.  Your whole heart is on the table as you present something you’ve lovingly built to solve a very real problem, and someone looks at you and says (this actually happened): “Eh.  I like the old [manual, inefficient] way.”  (And then he looked over my head and signaled to another employee as if to say, “Get this vagabond out of here.”)  How many meetings I left with my tail between my legs!  (Only, you’d never know it — Mr. Magpie and I were very professional.  We’d smile politely, thank them for their time, and leave them with a card.)  In short, running this business was tough-going — emotionally, financially, and intellectually — and the exhaustion of direct sales represents but a meager fraction of that stress.  And then there’s the transition from a salaried executive to a married co-founder to a mother — there’s a lot of stuff there!  Identity shifts!  WHO AM I?

But, here I am, running down a tangent again.

The point is this: 2017 — in all its gorgeous, shaggy, cruel, happy glory — is behind us.  And what’s left — and here is where I concur with the commenter — is tremendous hope for the future.   We left a house we owned and loved and a business we’d built from the ground up in Chicago, and part of my heart is still somewhere in the Midwest with them.  But most of it is right here with my family in New York City, eyes and heart wide open to whatever 2018 brings.

Finally, a few of my favorite posts from this year, many of them about language…

+The Space Between.  When silence > noise.

+Pipe Dreams.  On realizing that my parents were mortal.

+Literary Life Raft.  My deep, abiding love of literature.

+I Can Feel It.  Coming to terms with my post-baby body.

+The Grand Arrival.  On giving birth to and naming our sweet baby girl.

+Real Pipe Dreams.  Sharing my innermost aspirations.

+Inside Out.  Thoughts on how language can both exclude and include.

+A Toast to My Brother.  If you need a good cry.

+Dear Mr. Magpie.  If you need an even better cry.

P.S.  I got this in my stocking and IT IS AMAZING.  A reader had JUST suggested this — I couldn’t believe it when I saw it in my stocking!  My ring looks clean for the first time in a long time.

P.P.S.  The most popular item on my blog this ENTIRE YEAR, followed by this (haha, guess we’re all organization freaks?!) and this (best bra ever).

P.P.P.S.  Currently in my Amazon cart: these socks, recommended by a reader as EVEN BETTER than my trusty Smartwools for super-cold temps; this shampoo and conditioner, which were written up by a beauty blogger as THE BEST; and these floating wall shelves for mini’s ever-expanding library of books.  Also, a few of you have recommended these, and I’m contemplating ditching my current reading list for them.

23 Comments

  1. This is a fantastic post. I only wish I’d commented sooner — it looks like most of what I wanted to say was already covered 🙂 2017 sounds like a year of dramatic but positive change for you and your family, and I look forward to all of your stories from 2018.

    Cheers to a new year … and thank you for continuing to post in this space! I hope you know how much we love reading about your life and thoughts. You certainly have a way with words, and I love coming here regularly to follow along. Thank you for making it such a fulfilling, inspiring experience!

    1. Thank you for writing this — I appreciate the encouragement and look forward to seeing your name in my inbox whenever you post a comment. Thank you for being such a loyal reader! xo

  2. It’s a dry cleaner now?! That’s so funny! The only constant in New York is change. It used to be a cheese and antique shop (an odd combo for sure but somehow made total sense on the UWS).

    1. So true — New York feels like it’s going through a constant state of metamorphosis. Central Park reminds me of that every day — in late fall, as the leaves turned and then fell; then as snow covers and melts; etc.

  3. Obviously the rude comment came from someone who has no clue! You have not a mean bone in your body. I am sorry that she misinterpreted you. Maybe she should head to other blogs that she can read without having rage. I look forward to your posts daily – love curling up with a cup of coffee, just added every item from your PS and PPS to my amazon cart 🙂 xo!

  4. I don’t read many blogs anymore – let alone comment on them – but yours is one of the few I look forward to. As another commenter said, “some years pass quietly” while others transform you. A year of transitions, while at times overwhelming, can offer so much potential for growth.

    Unrelated, but how high off the ground did you install those floating bookshelves? I love the look of them, and love the idea of the baby being able to reach the books and “choose” ones to read – but am also worried she’ll use the shelves as her personal ladder as she pulls up on everything these days! But aside from putting some books in a floor bin, I’m not sure what alternatives there are…

    1. So true — change = growth. I was very excited to ring in the new year; I feel like the date change alone has given me license to officially turn a page and think back with a little more wisdom and distance on what’s behind us.

      I haven’t yet received the shelves, but I’m planning on installing them higher up. I love the idea of her picking them out herself, but agree that it could be more trouble than it’s worth. I also have baskets filled with books. Books everywhere. Eh, well, there are worse things! (Also, selfishly, I prefer the look of the shelves higher up!)

      xoxo

  5. Some years pass kind of quietly and others you come out at the end a completely different person than when you started. It’s clear this one was the latter! A few thoughts…
    I think you handled that commenter’s criticism beautifully. It’s true that it could have been presented in a MUCH more respectful and thoughtful way, but I think you were right to give it a little reflection rather than just dismissing it outright. I think you’re ultimately right about the reaction being largely a misunderstanding of tone (or maybe something just hit a nerve in a weird way for that person), but there is value in knowing that someone has misunderstood something (even it seemed so clear to you!)
    Also, your talk about dissolving the business reminded me of that great little scene in You’ve Got Mail when Birdie tells Kathleen that her decision to close the shop is the brave thing to do — “you are daring to imagine that you could have another life!” It was just exactly the right thing to say in that moment, and I think it is also very true. Also, if you haven’t re-watched You’ve Got Mail since you moved to New York, you should! It is an absolute love letter to the UWS (some places that are sadly gone now, but such is life in NYC…). Nora was such an UWS-er, and her piece Moving On about living at and then leaving The Apthorp is a favorite. I walked by those mysterious gates all the time and her accounts of living there don’t disappoint!

    1. Hi Alison — So beautifully put, and with such perspective! You are so right — some years are full of static and others are more “all quiet on the western front.” Thanks for your thoughts on responding to the commenter, too — I have been thinking a lot about how I might be inadvertently projecting myself in various posts, and it’s always good to take a minute to think through that filter. Anyway, glad I published it, too. Another reader wrote me a gorgeous email and said: “If we do not have honest debate and discourse, and if we filter what we like/dislike, or what makes us feel good or not, we are not preparing ourselves for more difficult situations and discussions later.” Very true.

      ALSO, yes to You’ve Got Mail. I was charmed beyond belief when I discovered that my new dry cleaner at 69th and Columbus was ACTUALLY used as the storefront of Kathleen’s book shop in the movie! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?! I died a little bit. But, more to the point–that’s a lovely quote, and one I’d forgotten. Sometimes I think Nora is speaking dirctly to me at various points of my life…xoxo

  6. I love reading your blog every day and I could literally be your mother ! I buy more of your recommendations than any other blog. What is so interesting that we have in common (even though I am a zillion years older than you) is that we are downsizing also, our mini- twins are in college and our older daughter graduated. We sold our big house and are renting a townhouse for a year . I have been scouring your blog for small space recommendations and loving everything you recommend!
    If I could do it all over again I would say my number one advice to you is don’t worry what other people think of you Also stay away from bitchy mean girl moms….and their daughters!

    1. Hi Gilli! Thank you so much — so interesting how we’re in such parallel experiences at different stages of our lives 🙂 Thank you for being such a loyal reader! And, glad to know that my small space ideas have been helpful elsewhere, of course. xoxoxo — cheers to a happy new year!

  7. Ahhh yes that was the other thing i wanted to note, but wasn’t quite sure how to do so— about one of your businesses closing. To me i can imagine it was like a death— especially for your identity as “mine BEFORE i was a mother”. Or at least that is how i would have taken it bc i too am Italian and therefore feel things, um, deeply. But that part of you is always there, in my eyes. That was/will be there independent of the business, that was just one manifestation. It makes me happy to see that you are using your other profession (writing, here) to share that part also.
    Tanti baci

  8. I’ve never commented before but I read your blog everyday. It is the one I look forward to most when I read through them daily. I admire your style of writing, your lexicon, and your perspective on life. While I enjoy some blogs for the photos, I am pulled in most by what people have to say and your posts are always thought-provoking. So thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, experience, and items you love!

    On a separate note, I’m curious to hear your perspective (possibly a future post?). I’ve heard several working moms comment on stay at home moms and how they spend their time. They seem slightly judgmental of the fact that they’re a stay at home mom (so many reasons this could be) and have expressed that they have trouble relating to those who aren’t working moms. I disagree with many of their comments but would love to hear your opinion/experiences.

    1. Ah, Allison! Such a knotty issue you’ve raised, and one I’ve already brushed up against dozens of times since moving to New York. I’ve seen this divide, and witnessed dozens of off-handed comments/insults on both sides. I’ll have to share some thoughts on that at some point soon, as I have certainly given it some thought.

      Thank you so much, too, for taking the time to write in today and for making the time to read Magpie regularly. I love that I’ve heard from you — I often wonder about who is at the other end of the screen, reading what I have to write. I’m glad to meet you 🙂

  9. I agree with Bunny that you are one of The Last Great Bloggers. Your blog feels like your life and not just your business (a great thing that is hard to find). I read everyday (and have been for a long long time) although I rarely comment. I’m also expecting my first child and have gone back to your pre baby posts and then arrival or Emory posts quite often (I’m probably solely responsible for any jumps in traffic on your baby registry post). I can’t wait for the compiled baby best post when it comes out! In short, I come here every day because I enjoy your writing and what you choose to share. Please keep sharing and being open in 2018 and remember one negative comment is just one negative person. They can choose not to come back to your site anytime!

    1. Hi Anderson! Thank you so much for writing this; I’m so glad you enjoy reading along and so flattered at the compliments and so happy that the baby posts have been helpful. I occasionally read through some of the last posts before her birth and can hardly read them without crying — such a tender but intense time! I’ll be thinking of you. Best of baby post to come soon, too. xoxo

  10. Whoa!!! So much here. Don’t know where to start. I went back to work so i haven’t had as much time as usual to comment but rest assured I’ve been creeping here daily. Also how dare you forget when i chastised you about considering the hideous Chanel booties!!!!

    As for a lot of the strong opinion NY comments, there is, as usual, a line from a favorite country song that springs to mind for me: god is great, beer is good, and people are crazy (although i disagree on the beer is good part). Also a line from j-hova: they don’t play my hits/ i don’t give a shit/so. NYers are pretty ruthless in their opinions, but again, in my eyes (and jay’s, ha!), they are just that- opinions.

    It makes me sad though that this commenter essentially stole a post away from my curious eyes. You are pretty much The Last Great Blogger, in part because you write with your whole honest soul. Please consider sharing, if one day you could. Your posts are (I’m guessing for many of us) little novellas of interest and spice every morning.

    Also I’ve been missing the monthly updates!!

    Post script: the funny thing about comments like those are that they blast the writer for being rude/assholes….. and yet…. they are written in the tone of a rude asshole….

    1. Oh my, how could I forget those BOOTS?! Haha 🙂 I’m sure we have a lot to connect on with regards to role changes and identity shifts this year (per Rachel’s note below), as we both became mothers around the same time — I’ll continue to share. I look forward to your comments and notes and occasionally wonder how things are sitting with Ms. Bunny. Don’t worry about the commenter stealing anything — honestly, she/he helped me through a major writer’s block. I’ll have more to say soon — and guarantee it will be better written than what I had in store. MUCH LOVE! Happy new year!

  11. I hope your 2018 is amazing – and I also hope you elect to share more of your 2017 stories with us! I can sympathize quite deeply with identity shifts and the volleying back and forth of different emotions, and would love to see how you’re sitting with those things. Thank you for continuing to share with us!

    1. Hi Rachel — Thanks for the encouragement. I will definitely have more to share on the identity/role-shifting front. Crazy year in that regard! As I was writing the original post, I realized I just haven’t quite figured out what I have to say about it; I’m still in the throes. But maybe that’s how it is for some time –wading through things. I’ll definitely share updates. Thank you for reading along and for writing this today. xoxo

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