De La Salle-Zobel was one of the more popular schools in the country for the rich, especially back in those days when there aren’t so many international schools in the country yet. So imagine how hard it must have been to be sent there for the privilege of quality education and the promise of great expectations in the future, but not privileged enough to live like your rich classmates do. They always had new toys, branded clothes, expensive watches and money to spare. They went abroad for the summer, they treat their peers to candy and they were all growing up to take over their parents’ business.
My husband’s father ran his own company. They lived in a big house, had a car, and never wanted for money to pay their bills. But his Dad never believed in spending more for something he can get for a lower price so his eldest never got to enjoy branded clothes and stuff. For the most part, Pappie was okay with this, even though he did not fully understand his father’s logic. Not yet, anyway.
Pappie was a teenager when Nike Air became vogue. Suddenly, all of his peers had a pair and peer pressure reared its ugly head. He started harassing his parents for one. Ultimately, his father gave in, on the condition that it will be bought on his terms. My father-in-law brought him to Cartimar instead of the mall and got him to choose from the ones being sold there, which were not really imitation pairs but pairs with factory defects just the same. It was a lot cheaper than those sold in malls but still more expensive than the average pair of rubber shoes. Pappie didn’t mind the compromise and for six months after that, he was a happy teener strutting around in his Nikes.
Then the air soles of his shoes were damaged and he couldn’t wear them anymore. For about three months after, he still held onto the pair, hoping he can salvage the shoes somehow and none too eager to prove his Dad right about how the purchase was a waste of money.
Fast forward to fifteen or so years after, both father and son are still haunted by this incident. Jojo’s dad still reminds him of this story when he confronts his father about lavishing on his sisters. Because well, his Dad is more generous with his daughters than with his sons.
But Jojo isn’t hurt by the double-standard or by the memory anymore. In fact, he even feels validated somehow for he has grown up. Now, he knows the amount of work that goes into having money. Now, he knows that though quality does come with some brand names, it still isn’t always the case. And now he knows to buy something because of quality, not because of brand and certainly not because his peers have one.
What’s more, now he can afford to buy all the shoes he wants. And when he does, he thinks back to that day he was scouring this big box of Nike Air shoes with defects to look for the one with the least noticeable one.
And even though he CAN afford to buy all the shoes he wants, he doesn’t. Right now, he has two black pairs and a brown one for work, a pair of rubber shoes and two pairs of sandals. And he doesn’t replace them till they’re really worn out.
Sometimes, I even have to remind my husband that he CAN or that he SHOULD buy himself a new pair already. He’s earned the privilege and it’s time to reap his rewards for being the man that he is now: a man our son can look up to and learn from.