Every November, media types, ourselves included, trot out the trope that spending time with family during Thanksgiving is necessarily a difficult thing. Your sister is hateful, your uncles are racist, your nana's candied yams are a brutal, sunset-hued chore to be endured. Today, we meet the saddest victim of these holiday communication breakdowns: a poor soul whose excellent taste in footwear left him unable to bond with the people he cherished most.
Last year, I decided to wear my Visvim FBT sneakers home to Thanksgiving.
What started as excitement to stunt on some country folk quickly became a barrage of inquiries I couldn't even begin to succinctly answer. Explaining niche fashion to a person who knows literally nothing on the subject is like being a senator and being asked to summarize how to pass a bill in one or two sentences. The difference is no one expects a senator to be able to do that.
Explaining the manifold appeal of owning luxury goods that make you look like Zoolander's Hansel isn't quite the same thing as summarizing the nuances of our country's legislative process, but to follow Woolf's metaphor, asking a senator to do it in one to two sentences isn't really all that unreasonable. Here, John Boehner's office—a member of the lower house, but bear with me—does it in eight shark GIFs.
The country folk, Jake Woolf soon learns, are not such easy souls on which to stunt:
The stress of feeling the need to explain myself was enough to make me regret my decision. But then, my aunt blindsided me when she asked, "Where can I buy a pair?" She's a yoga instructor, so I should have known she'd be into this crunchy stuff. But how could I delicately explain that in order to procure a pair, she'd have to buy them online, plus pay customs upon their arrival, and that even then the price might make her head explode? How do you explain that $600 sneakers aren't the craziest thing on the planet? And what does it say about me, her nephew in the big city, that I find it sensible to drop that kind of dough on shoes? Don't you need to, like, pay rent and cable bills? She'd wonder. I wouldn't be surprised if she concluded I must be selling drugs. Worst of all, if I told her what I'd shelled out she'd likely rat me out to my mom, whose trademark gaze of disappointed makes me sad just to think about. But I had to say something—there's only so many times you can eject from a conversation by saying you "need more wine" before people start to think you've got even bigger problems. I ended up deflecting her curiosity by telling her I would email her a link for where to buy them at a later date. Being the wonderful nephew I am, I never did.
The problem here isn't necessarily the fixation on high-dollar footwear—we all have our inexplicable habits!—but the act of treating your own family like heathens, then peddling a shared knowingness about their unsophistication to your readers. Someday, Jake Woolf may overcome the crushing embarrassment, meet his mother's trademark gaze of disappointed, and find it in himself to explain that he's proud to wear $600 Japanese booties. Until then, we'll always have this 800-word essay about it.