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a tale of belts and backcountry

my in-laws are very well-dressed, in an upscale sort of way.  my affinity for being outside in the mountains or the woods (as opposed to a golf course) baffles them.  With over a decade and a half married to their daughter, i love them and freely call them mom and dad, just like my own parents.  Yet we recognize that we are cut from different cloth. 

for a brief time last summer, they decided to cross over into my world.  sort of.  we took a joint family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  i don't know what possessed them to do this, but i was grateful.  the hiking was wonderful, but four-mile strolls with 200-500 foot vertical gains became an odyssey of epic proportions, prompting (a) some ribbing directed at me for carrying a large daypack with extra layers, hats, and rain shells, and (b) much misery about the indignities of uneven footing and very little love for the glacier-cut lakes and towering peaks (i had a morning to myself to do some real climbing, thankfully).  we rafted the snake river with our kids, they did a 'river float' down a gentler section that they found terribly boring.  oh - when a sudden lightning/rain/hail storm rolled through during a hike, they did belatedly realize that my large daypack had a purpose, and that my immediate family was the only part of our large group who were ready for it.      

otherwise, we tend to dwell in their world.  when i purchase gifts for them, i choose items they will like - think Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers.  when they purchase gifts for me, they choose items they like.  hm. 

which brings me to the source of my post today, the belts.  my holiday gift last year was a leather belt.  my birthday gift this year was a fabric belt adorned with the emblem of an exclusive country club.  i wore it once, to a family event, prompting much appreciation.  at least give me props for knowing how to earn street cred with mom and dad.  my gift for the holidays this year unbelievably expensive alligator skin belt (they left the price on).  while my profession requires business attire during the week, it is what amounts to a uniform.  the last thing i care to purchase is high end dress shirts, trousers, suits, belts, and so on.  and i really don't want to think about killing a gator to decorate my pants.    

oh, the gear i could buy, if only i could bring the belt back for cash.  alas, the alligator is already dead, and i would quickly follow if i were foolhardy enough to return it.  (actually, my wife would kill me, then my in-laws would chain my lifeless body to their Lexus and drag me around the parking lot of their country club). 

you may recall the scene in Annie Hall when Diane Keaton's parents have Woody Allen over to dinner.  They look at him and see an orthodox jew; he looks at them and sees a Christmas ham.  when i look at this belt, i see the polartec neoshell stretch jacket that i would love to try out this winter.  but, as the good son, i will keep the peace and keep the belt.

happy holidays!



I can really appreciate your situation, mine is in many ways just the opposite, but with similar tangles.

My in laws, bless their hearts, are more of the Used car, WWE, Nascar, Flea Market, Fried Chicken types.

They are very nice folks, great cooks, and generous with what they have.

However, they do not understand me. Once when I first met my wife to be I was telling them about a recent camping trip and they just stared at me, then asked a few telling questions.

The conversation went something like this:

Them - Why....what really spent the night in the woods?

Me - Yep, not to far from here.

Them - Oh my goodness....I'm glad you're alright!

Me - Um...oh no I'm fine, I enjoy camping.

Them - Why?

Over the years I have received gifts like wrestling posters you hang on the wall I guess, Nascar memorabilia that will apparently increase in value though not guaranteed in the money back guarantee, pot holders with roosters printed on them from the flea market, and a fund raiser coupon book the neighbor kid was selling.

Oh yeah, and oddly shaped sunglasses from the flea market.

One year I did get a survival knife, I use that description very loosely, which ironically, is how the handle was attached as well.

The knife had a screw off pommel revealing a hollow handle containing various survival supplies....and yes, it too came from the flea market.

Once I tried to take my mother in law out to dinner, upon entering the buffet and seeing the sign that said "All you can eat for $8.99" she turned to me and said "I can't let you pay that much for a plate of food".

I thought she wanted to pay for her own food, nope, she insisted we go to Po Folks Restaurant, a thirty minute drive from where we were so we could save 3 bucks.

Great people though, honest, hard working, and really understand about helping others.

We just think differently.

Mike G.

Keeps the tags on it and allow it to mistakenly get listed on ebay...surely you have a similarly-looking belt made of faux alligator hide, yes?

Or, logic and reasoning may "work": "Well honey, I tried to give it a shot, but the buckle just wouldn't lay right no matter what pack I was wearing, and its so thick and well-built that it just kept digging into my hips whenever I fastened a hip-belt around it...besides, I've got those other belts they got me, and I can't rightly wear two belts..."

You should have your wife nicely hint at christmas and birthday gifts for you. I think that would work better. Also that way they feel involved and you are surprised. May work.

If it will ease your mind a little, the probability is extremely high that the alligator was raised on an alligator farm (there are quite a few since American alligators were taken off the endangered species list a few years ago), and the meat was already eaten (rare delicacy, tastes like chicken - at least some folk I was acquainted with when we lived in Mississippi told me that). Supposedly it is healthier for you than chicken. Most people prefer the tail.

No, I have never eaten it, nor even been offered any. But I did worry a bit when canoeing some of the rivers and bayous down there about having some of those "logs" along the banks and floating in the water making a meal of me.

As for the gifts, Barb and I were lucky in that our families were woodsy folk and so we both were raised in the woods and hills, with lots of time hiking trails and backpacking. Our gifts were often gear for the outdoors, like a good tent while I was still in grad school.

"but honey, i needed the bioform belt...."

I am a new hampshire native, my dad took us up the presidentials when we were kids. Best gift I ever got.

Find something from Patagonia that would be good for casual wear or a shell for golf and leave the price tag on it.

mmmmm alligator , I grew up in MS. That is some good eats! I had the same kinda situation as you, but two years ago I starting giving my wife a list of items along with website links etc where said items could be found and she emails it out to the family. I have not recieved any more random fashion accessories since, though they still think I am crazy for going into the 'woods'. I can only imagine what they think of me shopping at goodwill etc lol

This makes me smile :) 

My wife's family is not all that different, though I am quite grateful that her dad was an avid outdoorsman as well. He kind a got them used to it, and bore most of their confusion before I entered the family. I just wish I had been able to spend more time in the backcountry with him. He was taken by cancer two years ago. 

Though my Mom-in-law is understanding (even enthusiastic sometimes) about my various outdoor activities, she still worries that I will get lost or injured. She really wanted me to get some kind of locator/messaging system to carry. I spent a good bit of time helping explain the objective dangers, and lack there of, as well as the limitations of locators. I ended up telling here that I wasn't apposed to carrying a SPOT type device, though I wasn't going to spend the $ for the device and subscription, but she was welcome to if she wanted. I am pretty sure  she's giving me a SPOT for Christmas :)

In-laws. After being married fifteen years I finally met my mother-in-law last year. Don't ask me how I pulled that one off but I will pretend that its simply because Hartford, CT (I think; its wherever Yale is) is so far from Eastern Washington (the state). We had gotten along so well for those fifteen years I thought it would be a bad idea to risk my relationship with her mother by actually meeting her. Shamefully I tried to get a temporary assignment to a sister plant with the company I work for but to no avail. I won't boor you with the visit details. Being the "outdoorsy" son-in-law I always get those gifts that are only sold to people with "outdoorsy" sons-in-law. You know what I am talking about, electric socks, that talking bass, the works. I just smile and say thanks for the love they are trying to show. I even reciprocate the efforts. Now I know that if I ever travel to CT (or wherever they live) there's a brand new, unused I am sure, Mossberg shotgun I can use while I'm there.

FromSagetoSnow said:

because Hartford, CT (I think; its wherever Yale is)

 Yale is in New Haven, CT :)

Thats right!  Thanks for the correction.  My East coast Geography isn't that strong obviously.

The act of giving a gift should always be appreciated by the reciever however its unfortunate that your in-laws dont experience the enjoyment of giving a gift with thought that indicates to the reciever how much they care.  Its hard to teach old dogs new tricks.  Some folks just cant understand how others can have different interests and world views. 

I forgot to mention this: the price tag thing is real funny ,  i have a family member who always leaves a price tag on everything except its the retail one. The sale price or clearance price has been torn off.  Its an inside joke that everyone is aware of (except her).  often its the wrong size but the deal on a brand name was too much to pass up.  Last year i had to hold back laughs when my brother and i opened gifts one was an extra large and the other a small. We both wear large.  Of couse the tags were as described above.  Doesnt bother me just makes my wife and i laugh on the way home

I remember Karl Malone (basketball player) in an interview once saying..."I see a golf course as a great waste of a pastureland." Although I do enjoy golf, it's still a great quote.

As far as the gifts thing my in laws are supportive and do try to support my "outdoorsy" lifestyle. Sometimes though, they can be just a little off the mark. Luckily for me their idea of outdoor apparel is Eddie Bauer. Now while Eddie was once very good quality, I don't find it is there anymore. But the First Ascent line I've found to be decently priced and mixed with their often highly discounted prices I've scooped a couple things up. So that plaid shirt all of a sudden becomes the Ignitor jacket, magic!

Now I gotta agree with Jock and would not return things if I felt I was going to offend the gift giver, in this case the in laws, but they include a gift receipt with every present and seem genuine in saying they wouldn't been hurt if I switched it.

Man I feel for you... My own parents still think I'm crazy. Although they brought us up in the woods and I was born on a farm. Every year I ask for something climbing relative, like an ice screw or something, and every year I get something usefull for getting back in school. Like a rugby shirt from my or college, or a scientific calculator. None the less it's always fun and plesant. I get back at em with buying them rafting or parachuting lessons. You shoupd hear my dad scream on the video...

August 9, 2020
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