A friend recently described me as “a perfectionist” (in a loving and flattering way) and I’ve been reflecting on that portrait since. She’s not entirely wrong, but she’s also not entirely right. On the one hand, I do have my ducks in a row. I am hyper-organized, I am an anticipator rather than a procrastinator, and I like my linens ironed. I’ve had readers in the past write: “Life’s too short to worry about ironed sheets!” and I intuitively understand that “ironed sheets” is a metonymy for “over-engineered logistics.” Frankly, I can use the reminder. I want to live my life, not spend it fluffing the pillow cushions. Still. I like things the way I like them, and I come by it earnestly as the daughter to a mother who, when visiting our home, will whisper in my ear with concern: “There is no tissue box in the powder bathroom.” The beds are always made in the morning, my children rarely leave the house in non-coordinated outfits, and the minute both are tucked in at night, I flit around the main level putting everything back in its place and even restoring the coffee table decor that we routinely remove from the premises to make space for duplos and puzzles during the day.
Of course, I am conflating a lot of adjacencies here, because order in the home is not precisely the same thing as perfectionism, but the point stands: I run a tight ship at home.
And yet. I consider myself a true pragmatist. Writing, entrepreneurship, and parenthood have led me to accommodate compromise in countless matters. I publish around 700 posts a year, and the volume necessitates a relinquishment of aims at precision. Things go live and I look back on them and cringe. There are posts I wish I could delete but insist on keeping up, if for nothing else to ground myself and remain true to my conviction that writing is a process, not a product. I doubt very much a bona fide perfectionist would say the same. Entrepreneurship has demanded similar negotiations. I have found that entrepreneurship, almost by nature, is about navigating constraints: you must constantly find scrappy ways to make do with less, which means you are never going to ship a fully-finished, fully-featured widget, or you are never going to be able to recruit or afford the absolute best talent, or you are never going to be able to accommodate the idiosyncratic requests of customers simply because you have limited bandwidth. Entrepreneurship is the most poorly marketed profession I’ve ever encountered in the sense that I’ve rarely seen an accurate portrayal of it. It is the opposite of flashy and slick. It is all about mitigating risk and selecting the least-offensive of a range of unappealing options. In short, it, too, has foiled the perfectionist in me. And parenthood — ah, parenthood! So many of the things I thought I’d never do I have done. As a superficial example, as I make it a point of pride to ensure my children are nicely dressed with hair combed, there have also been many times where my child is the one, to put a narrow point on it, traipsing through Glen Echo Park barefoot and bedraggled. (I wrote about some of the other mental gymnastics parenting has required of me recently here.)
In many ways, I consider myself more of a pragmatist than even Mr. Magpie, who is more on-the-straight-and-narrow than I am. This is a man who does not believe in shortcuts. If he commits to something, it’s 100%, all-in, no fudged edges. I will, on the other hand, sometimes tell him “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.” There are times where I will go in with a plan, realize it’s not going to work, and jump ship. Mr. Magpie will fight it out to the end. “There must be way,” he will insist, and he will engineer a new solution, and I will marvel at his resiliency. This is not to say I don’t have grit and commitment where it matters. But I’m thinking specifically of times I’ve tried to do something DIY/Pinterest-esque and realized halfway through I’m simply not that woman and just think, “Hm, OK. Well, store-bought it is.” Mr. Magpie would be the type to say, “Well, wait a minute. What if we tried…”
In general, though, we are two peas in a pod, right in the center, with him slightly further on the “purist” side of the spectrum and me slightly further on the “pragmatist” side. So maybe it’s that I’m a pragmatist in perfectionist’s clothing? Or vice versa?
What does any of this matter, you may be wondering, as you enter paragraph six? Well, I have found that it is sometimes helpful, in this project of self-knowledge that demands our participation on a daily basis, to hang a few hooks on a wall and see where your coat belongs. As I have thought through this question, I have discovered, for example, that I believe pragmatism to be the opposite of perfectionism. But is that accurate? The spectrum I’ve conjured doesn’t even contemplate “laissez-faire” as a possible tentpole. And that says something, too.
What do you think, friends? Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? A pragmatist? Or something I’ve not even included as an option? Has this changed over time, or because of profession or life stage? Or do you see yourself as a perfectionist in some spheres and something different in others?
+Are you good at negotiating?
+”I can say this, though: the or maybes is the great gift of a degree in English, the vindication I might offer my friend, should we ever revisit the topic: the accommodation of a multitude of narrative possibilities. English trained me to look at a single word and ask: “but why this one?” and to recognize a certain rhyme scheme and ask “what if it were another?” I am forever shaped by the way those questions both exact and forgive….”
+What do you think of the imperative: “If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave”? Thoughts here.
+Creativity demands “a wild mind and a disciplined eye.“
+This floral puffer has been a best-seller for weeks and is currently on sale.
+This Etsy shop sells the most beautiful personalized bows that will be perfect for the holidays (check out this poinsettia-inspired one!), and the sweet seller is offering my readers 10% off with code magpie10.
+RUN. This adorable tartan shirtdress with ruffled shoulder is only $60 and absolutely perfect for countless holiday festivities.
+OK, I swear I won’t talk your ear off about this but I’m seriously obsessed with this new Marc Jacobs bag my girlfriend gave me (she works there and is, like, kind of a big deal). The colors are so fantastic for my fall wardrobe (though it also comes in fabulous cream or black versions) and it’s the perfect shape and size. It has enough structure to hold a phone, card case, keys, sanitizer, mask, and is therefore ideal when out and about chasing kids and wanting to keep your precious items on you (versus in a tote bag in the stroller). I’m traumatized still by the time I left my bag on my stroller at an NYC playground and saw a man reach into it while pretending to look after a child there. (!!!). I know I don’t live there anymore, and also shame on me for being so naive, but — !! I will never ever leave my valuables/precious items off my body again.
+Bergdorf’s is offering 30% off prestige beauty products that rarely go on sale — especially at a discount so steep! Consider Tom Ford’s lipsticks or the GloPro, which I’ve never tried but understand enjoys a cult following.
+Seriously the cutest little sweatshirt for a little one.
+Still a few of these fabulous reversible coats left. Coats are a smart way to invest — you get so much use out of them in a given season (versus, say, a dress you might wear a handful of times).
+My preferred way to drink red wine. A good gift, too!
+This maxi skirt is so well-priced and CHIC for fall.
+Have been really feeling rugby shirts this season. I bought Mr. Magpie this one, micro this one, and am now contemplating this for myself. I have a vision of layering it beneath this puffer vest with these suede flats or statement sneaks for weekend daytime.
+Just bought mini this rugby dress (!) too — currently an extra 50% off, making it $23!
+If the rugby stripe vibe is too sporty, try my favorite polo-inspired sweater for a softer take on the trend.
+Thanks to the reader who recommended this Etsy shop for a beautifully-crafted children’s easel!
+Do ice rollers actually work/do anything? Contemplating testing.
+These outdoor lights are insanely chic (!!!)
+We spend a lot of time hanging out in our cul de sac with neighbors and their children, and in the evenings, we often enjoy a glass of wine while supervising the children together. I was thinking we might need to buy some of these roadie cups!
+Have you heard about this “space disco” party trend? I don’t fully understand its origins, but if you’re invited to one, you must wear this.
+Frilly Frog is offering 30% off a fantastic collection of classic pieces for children with code FRIENDS. I’m all about corduroy jumpers, classic overalls (<<used the promotion to score this exact pair for micro!), and printed turtlenecks this season, so this sale spoke to me. They also have some adorable current-season knits and collared dresses included!
+Love these corduroy hair clips for mini.
+I ordered myself one of these Hotel Lobby candles over the weekend in the Holiday scent (now sold out), but they still have some other great winter scents and their signature is supposed to be gorgeous, too.