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About Socks

Copyright © 1998 by Malcomb Davidson

This article appears in Vol. 1 #3 (Summer/Fall 1998) of Men's Voices journal.
 Men's Voices: So men can find their voices and speak their truths

 

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I carefully empty the hamper of freshly laundered clothes onto the bed and sort everything into its respective pile. Boxer shorts, (I hate Y fronts they're too restricting) dress shirts, T shirts, socks and trousers. Focusing on the colorful mass of socks I begin sorting, white, gray, blue, and patterned. Please let their be an even number of socks, no odd ones, no reminders of the past, just simple sets of two. An ordered wash, no loose ends, no missing pieces. No, it's not the cost of the socks that matters, it's seeing it more as a simple straightforward task, completed. No excess time needed to hunt down the woollen strays. A simple affirmation of order, a reminder that life can remain in control. In this chaotic world of mine one less thing to worry about.

This sock thing seems such a big deal! Not really, I'm not a control freak or anything but they used to get lost all the time and it would drive me crazy. You see, I was married and my wife did the laundry 95% of the time. We had a foster daughter, so there would be socks of all types and sizes flying in and out of the washing machine drier combo on a never-ending weekly basis. It didn't bother me at first, I probably didn't even notice. But then we got into a routine where I would help with the wash and most often "fold the clothes." It became apparent, as the odd socks would stare forlornly at me from the bed, jealous of their paired colleagues in the sock drawer, lonely, dejected at losing a mate, that I really knew how they felt. Somehow they weren't getting the respect they deserve, the Rodney Dangerfields of the wardrobe. Through thick and thin, good (smell) and bad, these oddments were now to be cast off, thrown into that backwater of family life, the "bag under the bed". Every few months I would quietly pull out the ever expanding bag and rummage through it. The argyle sock that I wore to that interview, the old rugby sock I'd had during my first season in the USA. Feet memories by the woven yard.

Every so often I would find a matched pair, there would be a sudden brief surge of excitement at the reuniting of socks and feet and, just as quickly, it would be replaced by a feeling of sadness in the realization of what I was doing. I would sometimes retrace the path of the socks, laundry hamper, washing machine, drier, even other clothes, hoping to find a single sock, lying on the floor, clinging to a still warm sheet, or maybe even snagged on a hook. When we got dogs, I suspected them, but I never did find any clues and they were certainly not going to own up to any canine mischief.

I spoke to my wife, "Look I know it's a small thing and its not the money, but can't you, sort of, check up on them at each stage in the process? See where they go missing?" "I keep track of the socks when I wash them, why can't you?" She looked at me strangely and I began to see that this was going to be one of those conversations. For me it is all symbolic. A metaphor for the relationship, a small thing, but my socks are your socks are my socks and I'll care for them, nurture them through good times and bad. I always thought that losing a sock is the type of experience that would be trivial, inconsequential, but somehow I began to realize that with it happening over and over it could push someone over the edge.

I live alone now and do all my own washing, and each time I pair up the socks I think how such a minor thing could be such a beautiful indicator of a flawed relationship. If there is a next time I hope I am smart enough to marry a woman who appreciates and respects my desire for order in the sock drawer, regardless of the chaotic rest of my daily life. I have been alone now for eighteen months and have yet to lose a sock!


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