• John Burton

How (not) to pass on a tradition.


Recently, last night, a newcomer to Ivy over at the FB group I moderate posted a picture of himself. He was (still might be) suited, with a tie, French cuffs, a great bag and even more great sunglasses (I know there is no such thing as "more great"). It was, I believe, his first post. It wasn't Ivy.


You would've thought somebody threw a rare steak into a cage of hungry wolverines.


Above my desk is a painting on a scrap piece of wood that my daughter made for me when she was 7. On my desk is an - I don't know what you would call it - but it is framed and she made it for me in kindergarten. She went to a private preschool, one that practices Reggio Emilia. Which is not English for, kinda, it takes a village. The idea gets mixed up with Montessori but the premise is that the student must have some control over their learning, and a relationship with both what they learn and the other children around them.





The piece on my desk looks like an accident in a ribbon factory. The piece above my desk is brilliant, far better than I could ever create, and not because she is my daughter because believe me I wanted her to play guitar and it ain't happening. And I am forced, as I switch focus between that journey of hers and mean people mocking a guy in a suit, to call out the differences.


Here. It is probably this. Ivy has been around long enough to be called a tradition. The difference between a tradition and the off ramp into historical dress is - - how you hand down the tradition. Again with the daughter and the art, but when she gave me the ribbon accident - that is how you pass on a tradition. You lift it up, not hand it down. You say, "This is what I made," and you don't bring anything else to it. Then, if your dad, or whomever, has any horse sense at all, he shuts his mouth and gets out of your way and in very short order - you are better at whatever than he is.


Which, for a group studying a fashion birthed out of higher education, shouldn't be that big a stretch. And yet.


Mean people can kill a tradition faster than a can of paint can kill a fur jacket at an old Yale game. It has to do with fear. It has to do with a shaky infrastructure. It has to do with the gnawing repeater that maybe what you made isn't good enough, and by the way you didn't make it you just wore it, or lived it, because somebody else taught you to. So when your tradition is changed (dammit with the untied bow tie) your reflex is, that isn't right. And you quickly forget, there is no right, including yours. There is only you, standing in front of whomever else, with your ribbon accident of a fashion, lifting it up and saying, "This is what I made." You hope it winds up on their desk. If it doesn't, that's delegitimizing all your time spent fresh out of the shower making decisions. Or, in mean people's case, it is delegitimizing their life choices.


Once my daughter's piece made it to my desk, she didn't stop trying to get better. Or even trying new things, whether they be better or not. And I didn't stop her either. Get it?


The mean people suck article has been done and bumper stickered (I know bumper sticker ain't an adverb). But mean people do suck. The life out of whatever they are trying to protect. Because I untie my bow tie doesn't mean you made the wrong call when you picked your major or that you married the wrong whomever. It means I like it that way. That it strikes a condescending-trying-to-be-lofty nerve? That's on you. It's a good thing to take a look at in yourself.


A tradition isn't passed on by mean people praying you don't eff with it because that means they were wrong. It is passed on by generous people who are proud of what they made and hope that you can put you all over it too, the way they did.