NOT FROM A GOOD FAMILY: THE STORY OF A T-SHIRT
Here at WTTF, we regularly generate promotional materials that bring our trademark, light-heartedness to the game. We’ve done notebooks and silly t-shirts, Valentine cards, cookies and coffee cups. We’ve declared long term clients our “second favourite” clients, worn A Team t-shirts to meetings, (complete with theme music), and sent mock report cards, in which Jason’s high school teachers profess his enduring lack of competence in the creative arts.
But the latest merch is different. It’s a t-shirt that says “not from a good family”. Sure, it’s still a t-shirt, but it actually comes from a different place. Bear with me, while I tell you the story. There’s always a story…
A few years ago, when our youngest was in grade 1, she came home perplexed that she hadn’t been invited to her BFF’s birthday party. Given they were super tight, we too were a little confused. Nevertheless, we explained that not everyone can be invited to every party and all that good stuff. The next day, our daughter returned home and said she’d asked the other little girl why she wasn’t invited. Horrified, we jumped to explain the etiquette, until curiosity moved me to ask how her mate had responded. Our then six year old’s face crumpled as she reported that her friend’s Mum said our daughter couldn’t be invited because… she isn’t “from a good family”.
Wow. That stung. There was our daughter’s grief and, hot on its heels, our own sense of shame. Now, at this point, when you’re yawning and about to relieve yourself from the torturously, tiresome, pettiness of a school-parent hoo-hah, I’ll pick up the pace. In a sentence, we hardly knew this family, we fed them one night when they turned up late and hungry to collect their daughter from a birthday party at our place, there was nothing awkward and Jason definitely didn’t do any karaoke in his mankini, the Mum then totally ghosted us, we asked if everything was OK, she said it was fine, then came the “not from a good family” palaver.
We ruminated about what led them to the brutal conclusion that we weren’t a “good family”. Was it our house, or our values, or the BBQ we served, or that weird salad I make that’s full of fruit right alongside lettuce and haloumi, or our (lack of) religion… or was it simply something that people from a “good family” can ‘smell’ on those of us who lack such credentials. Suffice to say this stole more energy than it really should have.
We administered some emotional first aid to our daughter but, truthfully, the scar remained for all of us. When I walked into school, I felt stained. This Mum was popular, always surrounded by a laughing group of women in fashionable clothing, whom, we presumed were also from “good families”. I tried to believe that perhaps, in the tangled web of children’s communications, our daughter had somehow got the message upside down but, alas, the statement was confirmed by another Mum (skimming over some boring details here). The upshot was, popular Mum had deemed us “not a good family”, our daughter had worn it, and that was that.
I’ll admit to some broken sleep as I turned this information over and over in my mind. I was right back in the dark depths of bitchy year 9. Then, something happened. By George, we got a bit of grown up perspective. You see, separate from the crushing fact that it hurt our daughter, when we really thought about it, we didn’t actually want to be a part of that club anyway!
Jason and I have always felt like fringe dwellers, and this latest barb tapped into some early experiences. We’ve never really fitted into the ‘group’, whether it was choir in 1980, or the soccer team in 1990, or the cool kids at the disco, we’ve always hovered around the edges. We realized that, perhaps initially, our outsider status wasn’t by choice and it hurt, but, somewhere along the way, it became less about exclusion and more about walking to the beat of our own drums.
Clubs, groups and agencies don’t really appeal to us. On the one hand, it looks so inviting to be in the thick of the crowd, but on the other, it can also bring expectations and compromise and claustrophobia. At their worst, groups can move into nasty territory, gate keeping, judging and gossiping. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve also seen the positive power of a group, particularly a group with purpose. We joined the mud army, we join in to make sandwiches for kids without lunches, we gather with old mates to holiday and we’re tremendously grateful when, in times of need, our people circle the wagons. But still… we both naturally prefer to dance around on the outskirts of groups, enjoying the wonders of a sense of solidarity, but able to break away when desired. It’s just who we are.
And, on reflection, it’s worked for us personally and professionally. We’re able to stand alone, to take creative risks, to forge our own path, to be sure-footed in our values, to join in yet opt out, to catch our prejudices, to speak up when it’s needed, to be different and to celebrate difference. We’re not perfect, and we may not be from a good family, (whatever that means anyway), but we try to act tenderly and bring our best selves to those with whom we cross paths.
Our tribe is not homogenous, not part of one big, prescriptive entity, but instead is comprised of individuals who we’ve been lucky enough to encounter along the way. We’ve found ourselves surrounded by an eclectic bunch of extraordinarily, beautiful humans, who on account of their wild differences, may not warrant a collective noun, but who are so dear to us, we consider them a “bloody good family”. Included in this gaggle are old mates, colleagues, young creatives, clients, mentors, young folk and ring-ins. One of these is someone you might know…the marvelous, Gina Lyn!
So back, just for a second, to the petty school-yard crap that was totally owning us and made our kid cry. What did we ‘do with’ the codswallop that we’re “not from a good family”? Well, of course, we took steps to support our youngest and her friendship with her mate, but I won’t go into that here. For us, we decided to reclaim the label that stung. We printed some kick ass t-shirts proclaiming “not from a good family”, and we proudly sported them all around the joint, including at school. But we weren’t trying to exact revenge. Truly, we weren’t. We were just standing proud. I don’t think popular Mum drew a breath from talking about what high school someone’s kid was going to, to even notice our t-shirts, and it didn’t matter anyway. The shirts reminded us of who we are and the better than “good family” we have alongside.
And… this is where it gets interesting… without knowing the context, heaps of people commented on our shirts, each projecting different meanings, from the hilarious, to the bizarre, to the heartbreaking and ridiculous. My favourite of these was from the person who said, “Oh, you must wear those t-shirts because you feel like you’re not just from a good family, you’re from a great family”. Yas!
We’ve now made 100 more t-shirts to share. Wahoo! Whatever meaning you give your merch, may it continue to elicit good chat. And if, like us, you carry the scars of ‘popular-group’ rejection, may wearing yours make you feel welcome in our good family. Here’s to the fringe my friends…
06 November 2019
- True story
- Almost a true story
- Fictional, inspired by a true story
- Completely fictional