My father demands his socks remain with their original partner

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My father is a very picky person. Not only have I witnessed this firsthand, but my mother has told me all about his pickiness in great detail. One area in which my father is particularly particular involves his socks.

He is insistent that all his socks should remain with their original partner. My father feels that his socks wear out and stretch out at different rates, and the best way to make sure he is wearing a well-matched pair at any given time is by ensuring he wears them exactly as paired by the factory.

If he mixes and matches socks, then he can't be sure they are both of the same vintages. What if he wears one of last year's socks with a new sock? It could throw off his entire equilibrium. One sock might stay up; one sock might fall down. He doesn't like that.

My father told my mother about his sock requirements shortly after they got married. He instructed her to use safety pins to pin the dirty socks together in pairs every night after he took them off.

He would drop them on the floor wherever he took them off at the end of the day. Then she was supposed to collect them, pin them, wash and dry them, still pinned together, in order to keep the socks from inadvertently "trading partners."

According to my mother, she didn't understand why my father's socks couldn't be paired with different partners. "They are all exactly the same," she said. "Plain white socks, and I bought them two dozen pairs at a time. They were the only type of socks he would wear."

However, she wanted to please him. So she came up with her own system of ensuring the socks stayed in their original pairs: polka dots.

As soon as she bought my father a new package of socks, she would pull out her sewing kit and sew a tiny colored polka dot into the top of each sock. Then she could put his socks through the washing machine and clothes dryer without worrying about sticking safety pins through every pair.

Once the socks were washed and dried, we would match the socks by color: blue dots with blue dots, red dots with red dots, and yellow dots with yellow dots. There were brown dots, black dots, aquamarine dots, turquoise dots, pink dots, orange dots, lime green, forest green, kelly green, and mint green dots.

There were dots in every variety of colors, and when I was a small child, it was my job to sort all my father's socks by colored dots.

Once in a while, a visitor to our home would notice the dots on my father's socks in the laundry basket and ask my mother about it. She would tell them about my father's demand to keep his socks from mixing with older socks or newer socks. The pairs of socks had to be matched just right.

Does my father still want his socks perfectly matched today at the age of eighty-two? He sure does, but it's easier now because my mother simply buys socks of different colors. Fortunately, he no longer insists upon wearing only white socks, and that makes the whole process of matching his socks a lot easier.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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