There are certain things where it just pays to buy the name brand.
Mama taught me that lesson from an early age.
She’s always emphasized how quality can save you money in the long run, telling me time and time again, “You get what you pay for.”
Which is why I didn’t understand why she ever bought me Cugas.
Cugas were Pic ‘N Pay’s version of Nike but looked nothing like them.
They did have different colors than what the Nikes came in, but the most important thing to Mama at the time was the fact they were a fraction of the cost.
I’ve loved shoes since I can remember, once even making my uncle get me a pair of silver strappy shoes that were way too grownified for me, but I felt like Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu when I wore them.
Don’t ask me how or why they made me feel that way; I had not even seen Xanadu at that time, I just thought they looked like something Olivia would wear.
I begged Mama for weeks for a pair of Nikes.
“Please, Mama,” I pleaded. “Please! I need them. My life depends on these shoes.”
I can be quite dramatic when it comes to footwear.
My life didn’t depend on that swoosh symbol, but my social standing was probably in peril.
I was the only kid in my class without a pair of Nikes.
“Okay,” Mama promised. “I’ll get you a pair this week when I get paid.”
I was so relieved. Finally, I would have those coveted shoes.
When that day came, I couldn’t wait to see which ones she had bought me.
I ran to the car during the afternoon pick up and clamored into the front seat of her Monte Carlo, searching for the bag.
Only to find the Cugas.
“Where’s the Nikes?” I asked.
“They didn’t have them,” she said. “But, good news, Kitten -- I got you two pairs for what one pair of Nikes would cost!”
I shrieked and cried all the way home. I wore those knock-offs once; the shame was enough to prevent me from wearing them again.
This was evidently learned behavior from Granny, who got me the fake adoption dolls about a year or so earlier. Her argument was the same line of malarkey Mama had given me about the shoes: she had gotten me two for the price of one.
I was horrified.
I was surrounded by cheap people and they had no shame in buying these atrocious fakes. It wasn’t like those imitation Birkin bags that from a distance may pass for one; no, these were upfront and outright fakes.
Mama’s argument with the shoes was that I was growing and she didn’t think it made good sense to spend that much on a pair of shoes I would only wear for a couple of months. For some reason, I was the tallest kid in my class until I peaked at about 5th grade and haven’t grown since.
Granny, never one to sugar coat it, said it was nonsense to pay that much for an ugly doll.
I resigned myself to the fact my family did not see the value in buying me name brands.
But, I had to draw the line somewhere, and that line was in ice cream.
When the Oreo Blizzard came out, I thought this was the most amazing food ever created -- ice cream with cookies blended in it.
I had to have one practically every day.
Mama, in a domesticated mood, had the idea to go to the Bi-Lo and get a carton of vanilla ice cream and a pack of cookies.
Mind you, they weren’t even Oreo, but Hydrox, the knock-off of the famous twist and dunk.
“What are you doing?” I asked, shocked to find her in the kitchen.
“Making you a Blizzard,” she announced.
I watched -- quite in horror -- as my mother proceeded to dump the whole carton of ice cream in a big, plastic mixing bowl and then crumble the fake Oreos on top by hand. She then took a big wooden spoon to try to mix it together, all while she held her Virginia Slim 120 between her peachy-colored lips, promising me the whole time it would be just as good as the real thing.
“I’m not eating that,” I declared. “That’s nasty, and it’s not how they make them at the Brazier.”
“It’s just as good, I bet you! And you’ve got a bowl of Blizzard for the price of one!”
I crinkled up my nose in disgust.
“No, thank you.”
Mama couldn’t understand that her efforts at saving money were wasted because I was not going to eat a knock-off Blizzard.
She frowned and covered the bowl with plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer, where it would die a slow freezer burn death.
All was not wasted though, as my grandfather found it about an hour later.
“Are you really going to eat that?” I asked him.
He grabbed a spoon from the drawer. “It’s cookies in ice cream. Of course, I’m going to eat this.”
“They’re not real Oreos.”
He shrugged. “Lil Un, my stomach doesn’t care real from fake. I’ve got a ball game to watch and just found my first snack.”
Evidently, I was the only one who wasn’t impressed with the not-so-great fakes.