The Fashion Magpie Country Mouse

City Mouse // Country Mouse.

When Mr. Magpie and I are feeling especially world-weary, we wax poetic on a shared vision of bucolic bliss in rural Virginia.  We imagine ourselves living in a squat farmhouse on a verdant, undulating plot in Appalachia, surviving off of cottage industries and the fat of the land.  (Incidentally, I’ll take this one pls and thank you — love those built-in bookshelves!)  Mr. Magpie enjoys the meditative labor associated with yardwork and gardening, and I’m drawn to the quietude and simplicity of an existence devoid of throngs of people and especially the coddled, rehearsed self-importance we find so distastefully prevalent across so many of the people we’ve met in so many of the industries that crowd the large cities in which we’ve been blessed and cursed to live.  My foibles are many, and I am not absolved of this particular sin either, but I aspire to live a life free of haughtiness and pretension.  Is there anything worse than being made to feel a rube?  An outsider?  An idiot for not knowing the patois, or conforming to certain practices, or recognizing the arbitrary order of operations that everyone else seems to know?  (FWIW, this is why I’m skeptical of the success of start-ups like Class Pass, promising and enticing though they may seem: I think they underestimate that many of us find it daunting to assimilate the idiosyncracies of a new gym/studio every other day of the week, casting quiet glances around the locker room to observe whether the classmates wear socks or bare feet; whether phones are permitted in the room; which mats to use; what to wear; where to sit; how to clip in; how to turn on; where the towels and water are.  Then we return a few days later with the put-upon airs of a veteran: blank eyes calmly stowing our belongings as we pretend not to see a fellow newbie cast her own furtive, unknowing glances around the room.)  One of my longest-running, deepest-seated bugaboos is the casual use of acronyms and argot in a mixed audience: “Oh, we just ran the CPDs and it’s all good.”  “What are the KPIs that matter?  What are your CACs?” “I just joined the PLS, and two guys from JDD told me…”

…You know.

The insular jargon that leaves you feeling three bricks shy of a full load.

I’ve written about this in the past — how language can fence people in and out — and could easily bang on about the topic ad nauseum, but the point here is that there are days and weeks and even months where Mr. Magpie and I cotton to a vision of a retiring, quiet country lifestyle free of the rarified pretense of big city life.

A friend recently asked how I felt after we dissolved our business.  “Mixed emotions,” I said.  “Bitter, excited, nostalgic, relieved, sad, ready for something new, happy for the opportunity to write and stay at home.”  The non-sequiturs poured out, litany-like, before I concluded: “I don’t know.  Sometimes we just want to wipe our hands and move to the country.  Do something completely different.  Buy some land, start a farmstand or something.”

“Could you really do that?” she asked.  “My brother lives on a farm and it is lonely out there.  I’m there for only an hour and I start to get itchy.  And it puts pressure on the relationships with the people you live with.”

I chewed on this.

There’s no question that Mr. Magpie and I would be fine — in fact, we’d probably thrive in isolation.  We just lived through the pressure cooker of starting, running, and dissolving a business together while getting pregnant and having a baby together and all of the emotional, financial, and intellectual friction that those endeavors entail — and we came out on the other end stronger.  In fact, at the risk of sounding cloying, I’ll admit that one of the hardest parts of this transition has been going from spending close to all of our time together to only a few hours a day together.  But it dawned on me that, of all of the places I have lived thus far, New York is easily my favorite.  There’s no two ways about it.  So how would I fare, moving from the magical hustle and bustle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with all of its cultural amenities and clashes, to a sparsely populated rurality?

I’m undecided on this front.  Could I do it?  In some ways, I find myself well-suited to a slower paced, more contemplative lifestyle, with lots of time and space to sit and write, uninterrupted.  But in other ways, I think I’d drive myself crazy, given my predisposition to overstuffing my days and keeping myself busy, flitting around from errand to errand, bakery to grocery, Gymboree to Central Park.

What about you?  Are you a country mouse or a city mouse?  Can you be both?

Post-Script.

+On the country mouse side of things: channeling Rosie the Riveter, I recently wore this headband in an Instastory (P.S. – I have updated my Insta profile to include links to some of the products I feature in my Instastories and other recent discoveries!) and had lots of questions about it.  I love the headband trend!

+On the city mouse side of things: I stopped by the J. Crew in the Time Warner building a week or two ago and these mules are SO chic in person!  Then I saw a very chic lady of a certain age wearing them in the airport en route to Naples with dark-wash denim and a simple white button-down and was SOLD.  So chic!

+Does anyone have experience with the skincare brand Dr. Jart?  This is in my cart RN after reading rave reviews.

+Someone recently told me that this is the secret to the perfect blowout.  I’m going to test it out…

+I love the lightweightness of this transition-to-summer sweater, and the textures/colors are so fun!

+I saw my new friend, the gorgeous Grace of The Stripe, looking like a SMOKESHOW wearing this dress in an Instastory and immediately added it to my shopping cart for a future date night or evening out.  (Under $130!)

+I just wrote about white footwear yesterday and needed to add this as a contender: I LOVE HOW THESE JEANS ARE STYLED, WITH THESE STARK WHITE HEELS ($120).  SO GOOD.

+How stunning is this calligraphy?!?

P.S.  I hate these words.

P.P.S.  A recipe for a rainy day.

19 Comments

  1. Such a great post. I grew up about 45 minutes from Manhattan and subsequently went to college in a smaller but still firmly a city (including a year abroad in a major European city), and subsequently have lived in NYC for 8 years and now the smaller city where I went to college for 3.5 years. I would say I am firmly in the city mouse camp, but I do appreciate the slower pace of a more rural life (in my case, I dream of living on Cape Cod, which I’ve heard is quite isolating and lonely in winter, so that’s something on which to chew, as you say!)

    I don’t know. I don’t think I could ever fully step out of city life, and pray that by the time I’m ready to have children, I’ll be able to afford a bigger place closer to the city rather than going far out into the suburbs. We shall see! For now, I get a taste of “country” life by visiting my parents and aunt and uncle, each of whom live outside different cities. It’s nice to be able to have an escape.

    1. Yes, that’s the blessing of having a distributed family. My brother lives in Billings, MT, which isn’t rural, but it’s not urban, either, and it’s so close to big sky territory. I need to get out there, come to think of it…!

  2. I live in Zuni, NM which is 2.5 hours from the nearest airport, 45 minutes from the nearest Latte, and when a package of mine from J. Crew got lost the lady at the post office found it without an address and gave it to me saying, “you’re the only one around here who orders from this place”

    My husband and I moved here to work as doctors on a reservation. We had previously lived in Atlanta, Paris, Minneapolis and New York. It was a huge change and I can confidently say that after two years I’m used to it and I love it. Sure, I miss Thai food and Lattes and activities and playgrounds for my kids. But, I don’t miss traffic, keeping up with the Joneses, weekends that are booked out for months in advance, eating out too often, feeling pressure to look a certain way, etc. I only use a car on weekends, I never feel I don’t have the right items or need to buy things (except when I’m tempted by your blog), and my kids have learned to have fun with rocks, sticks, dirt, etc.

    We are moving back to Atlanta this summer and I’m nervous. I know it’s the right move (professionally and for our kids’ education) but I’ll miss our quiet life here. My goal is to bring some of my country mouse lessons (get outside in nature daily, spending money doesn’t make you happy, and days with no plans or activities are good for kids) into my city mouse life.

    1. That is SO funny about your post office lady — so quaint, charming…and entirely foreign to me! Ha. I think you’ve nailed the cons on the head, and you’ve also made me realize how expensive city life can be, and not just for the obvious reasons (rent, price of groceries, etc) — but because there’s an insidious pressure to constantly be doing things, trying new restaurants, attend a class, etc, etc, and all of that comes with a big fat price tag! (I basically saw dollar signs floating out the window as I read your list.)

      I love the idea of retaining a lot of your country mouse lifestyle preferences in ATL. I think it’s doable. I need to take the “no plans or activities” line item to heart a little more seriously…

      xo

  3. Born and raised Roanoke, Virginian here – left the area for about 8 years for school before returning with my husband 3 years ago. It’s definitely a slower pace without a lot of the fun and conveniences of a bigger city (no classpass, although maybe I’m not missing out!), but we are definitely the country mouse type and we love it!

    1. Love that you feel so good about where you are. That’s the goal! I believe that I’m pretty adaptable and would thrive as a country mouse, but…hm!

  4. I’ve had the same cravings to move to a quiet area away from the city lately. I’m currently a city mouse and our apartment is right next to a road many commuters would consider a second home. I’ve been daydreaming about wearing shorts in the middle of summer and hanging out in a big backyard of freshly cut grass. Seems crazy as I write it but I hope to be a country mouse sooner than later.

    1. I hear you — I remember feeling shocked, awed when I took a vacation in Colorado two summers ago. The silence! The solitude! It was good for the soul…

  5. I’ve had the same thoughts about Class Pass! Knowing the culture of a workout studio (or anywhere, for that matter) is so important that going to a new one always wracks my nerves a bit.

    Ideally, I’d love to have a house in a bigger walkable city and then a beach house for decompressing… so city mouse, beach mouse?

    And thanks for the link to my calligraphy! It’s inspiring me to get back to creating…

    1. GIRL, that is THE DREAM. Mr. Magpie and I daydream about a similar arrangement: country house in rural VA, city loft in DC or NYC…one day?? xo

  6. Oh my gosh…this post! YES! I think about how completely wonderful it would be to live on a large stretch of land and actually enjoy simple things without judgement or rushing on to the next thing at least once a day while living in NYC. I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, so it’s not like living on a farm is in my blood, but it sounds so incredibly appealing sometimes. Living in a big city like this, I think what irks me is the “should” of it all. I feel pressure because I “should” be successful in a cool industry in a job that has a certain level of esteem, I “should” know all of the trends running throughout the city and I “should” love the hustle and bustle…but what I forget is that sometimes, I don’t WANT these things. That’s a little different than your ClassPass note, but shares some of the same sentiments. It’s hard to tune out all of the noise of a big city lifestyle and feel not even just a little bit “square peg, round hole” when some days, you would rather have a life where the big event is a movie night at home. My parents, who still live in the suburbs, are thrilled to run errands together, make a nice meal and enjoy reruns on a Saturday night and I’m more than a little bit envious of that. That is what I want to find – joy in the simplicity without the desire to go-go-go and not miss out on the next big thing. All of this is to say I think you can be both a city mouse and a country mouse and see the joy and magic in both things, but just have to find a way to land on that happy medium in whichever one you settle on (I haven’t yet).

    1. Such a great way to describe it — the city of “shoulds.” Exactly. As you note, I do think it’s potentially possible to achieve your parents (admirable!) lifestyle within the city — funnily enough, you’re basically describing our life right now with a baby! We either need to plan ahead and arrange to have a sitter/our nanny around on Friday or Saturday, or we’re homebound for the evening after 7 pm (mini’s bedtime). You’re making me realize that it’s not a bad arrangement at all! xoxo

  7. I could not agree more re: Classpass and the gym routine situation. That was my biggest qualm with the service…I even hate going to studios semi-frequently rather than very frequently because it feels like everyone around you knows some secret routine you don’t.

    Also: the Dr. Jart cream is phenomenal. I have very, very sensitive skin that hates everything, and I discovered this cream in 2013 (thanks to Birchbox, actually!) and it’s been the only hefty moisturizer that won’t make me break out and battles dryness at impressive speed. Hope you end up loving it!!

    1. Haha — “secret routine.” EXACTLY. I always feel like a bumpkin. It just happened this morning — I went to a new pilates studio and entered the room and everyone was hushed on mats. I had to basically wake up a woman to ask where the mats were / what we needed. I felt like a dumdum.

      Ooh, great to know about Dr. Jart!! xo

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