Mezcal for Charity
Bombas are very good socks, if you are particular about your socks. They fit snuggly, so they stay put and don’t wrinkle uncomfortably, even when worn for long periods of time. However, they are not too tight either. I never identify with Mr. Pitt so clearly as when I’m headed home from a long meeting, after a longer day of work, and realize I didn’t need to take my shoes off and adjust my socks all day. My socks just silently, supportively, simply did their job.
But the appeal of Bombas also lies in the knowledge that somewhere else in the world, another person is enjoying the same top-notch sock experience as you, thanks to you. Someone who arguably has longer days than you. Someone who needs so many things, you wouldn’t know where to begin to help them, or how. So Bomba has started that task for you. By simply buying your own socks, you can rest assured that not only is a stranger not being exploited to create them, but a stranger is benefiting.
The joy in checking off a practical nuisance from your long mental tally of them is multiplied by the relief of easing that nagging feeling that nothing you do matters, not truly. Bombas is selling you the idea that all your work and effort and time is in fact, making a difference: first for you, who can now afford some small nice thing, and then for others. This footnote do-goodery is the millennial capitalist “fries with that” of every product we hold dear.
If we have to buy socks, we want them to be reimagined to be better. And we want to help others have them too. This logic is like offset credits for our souls; sure, we cannot seem to escape the onslaught of product and productivity that plays out daily in its vicious, self-consuming cycle. But we can buy back a loaf of our soul by gravitating toward products that promise us a side order of human decency.
I recently tried a trendy new dining experience in Cleveland that I would highly recommend: Ohio City Galley. It’s a restaurant incubator featuring four fantastic vendors with limited but extremely strong menus, joined by a single bar and tons of seating. It’s like a grown up food court, tastefully appointed, and anchoring Detroit and W 25th, a location considered prime for only about as long as the place has been open. Every element of this place appeals to me, so much so that I had been avoiding it.
Surely this preemptive contempt for something I suspect I would truly enjoy isn’t unique to me? I am HIGHLY uncomfortable by the thought of being at the dead-smack, beating heart center of any demographic or group; I fancy myself to be slightly eclectic, not avant-garde, but always off-center, slightly asymmetrical, unique. But of course, I am not. Sometimes I am so uncomfortably on the edge of the pack I worry that I’m no longer in the pack at all. And other times, of course, another person’s sensibilities are so aligned with my own, and apparently, a sizable horde of others, that something like this place can exist and be profitable, and why is that notion distasteful to me? It isn’t; it’s lovely. Life is short, and it’s wonderful to go out, I enjoy it, and that ought not to be a thing I only admit through clenched teeth.
But this place. OCG has not been open a full year, and it’s already packed (comfortably packed, no less, busy enough on Monday nights and not too busy on Saturday nights alike) with stylish, effortless hipsters. This would be the perfect place to try out that pork pie hat you bought last year, but then never had the courage to wear out of the house.
I had actually never had Mezcal before (although, technically, all Tequila is Mezcal, so, yes, I’ve had one specific kind of Mezcal for years) but I had read about it and was not at all surprised when I saw it on their menu. I was surprised that it was in a little box with three other cocktails, with a heading that $1 from each of these drinks goes to charity.
I just keep going over this in my mind, the phrase “Mezcal for Charity” a mantra slowly embedding itself in the fleshy pink folds of my incredulous mind. I laughed out loud when I read it; I’ve since told like 10 people who smile vaguely at my delight but seem not to get the joke. Because it’s not a joke, there is a hipster bar in Cleveland that sells hipster cocktails, four of which come with a sidecar of existential relief.
I couldn’t tell you what the charity is (okay, I checked my Instagram Stories archive, and the menu says “Ask your bartender about our current charity of the month.”) The point is that you don’t have to think about it. All their cocktails are presumably good, these four are good in another dimension, +1 point for Good on the scoreboard running throughout time and across space, good in consequence.
I’ve read articles that talk about millennials being the moral compass generation. I enthusiastically binge “The Good Place” and even go so far as to order some of the books they mention from the library, although when they arrive and I realize they are not being summarized by Chidi they lose some appeal. We’ve seen the destruction, the actual harm that comes from “trying to help” when you are not informed about the full problem, and so you rush in after-school-special style and manage to make matters worse. It’s not that we haven’t thought about all the problems in the world, it’s that we have, and before we can even process it we have a new notification about a whole new crisis with its own set of nuances that we can’t even begin to unravel. We worry about our increasingly connected world and our own decreasing power within it over and over until our minds are tires stuck in the mud. It’s tempting to come to the conclusion that the puzzle before us has a null set solution.
We just want to not cause harm. In the same way that the 20th Century was defined by unintentional harm inflicted by certain masses onto other masses through purchasing decisions that gave heft to the small, pointy, diamond-tipped cruelty of those in power, we are finding a livable compromise for life in the 21st Century as an era of “Enlightened Capitalism.” We want goodness and reason baked into the system the way greed and short-sighted evil used to be, and we fear, still is. We know that those in a position to make a choice often make bad ones, but we still, by and large, don’t want to make that choice. We just want to not cause harm.
And so socks and shoes and cocktails and clothing that can mitigate some of the horror of this world would be our first choice. The only place we have some modicum of true power is in our purchasing, and so, even if on the whole, we are buying less, we are looking to buy better. And I can’t decide if the joke is so unbelievably depressing, the idea that millions of people believe they only have agency as a consumer, or actually, sneakily uplifting, that even knowing full well how horrible everything has been, is, and is becoming, an entire generation still believes they do have some agency after all.