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Published:
4/18/04

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Folding Socks

By H.G. Miller

Who said I couldnít write a whole column about folding socks?

Nobody?

Well, screw it; Iím going to prove I can do it, anyway.

The immediate obstacle, it seems, will be avoiding all of the standard clichťs that writers resort to when pontificating about the process of laundering clothes in general. That means I wonít bother disseminating any of my many theories about the inevitable loss of leggings into some kind of oblivion beyond the washing machine.

Oh, sure, Iíve got some ideas. Fascinating ones, actually. For example: The JFK assassination? All because of missing socks. Oh yeah. But, weíre not going into that now. Itís been done. Iím over it.

Holes? Yeah, I could probably do a thousand words on the holes in my socks, easy. Foregoing any mention of the holes caused by the razor-sharp edges of my toenails, Iíve got random spots of skin peaking through places on my shin that donít even have seams.

I mean, is this some kind of renegade leg hair eating away at the fabric of my stockings? Will said hair go after my pant legs next? Will I be lounging out before a job interview and suddenly see that my suit pants are melting away, exposing the lily-white skin I work so desperately to keep out of the sun 365 days a year?

No, weíre not going to talk about any of that.

Iím going to examine the process of folding socks. Take a step back and try to look beyond the physical act of putting two matching pieces of footwear together and rolling the ends into a ball, and instead reflect on what this process teaches us about ourselves, our society and our need to be validated as human beings by existing in a relationship with another of our species.

As youíve probably guessed by now, I joined an Internet dating service a few weeks ago. Iíve been reluctant to enter this world of the web for a while. I enjoy many things about this technology Ė news on demand, the ability to watch my team tank it in the sixth inning in real time, a vast cornucopia of women taking their clothes off and performing many unnatural acts for a low monthly fee Ė but, for the most part, the web has always been a venue used for entertainment, existing in a world not Ďreal.í

This whole dating thing is very real to me. Awkward introductions, carefully-crafted clever anecdotes and hundred-dollar dinners that lead nowhere have pretty much whittled my libido down to a whimpering puppy begging for some table scraps.

Why would I want to use my favorite toy to bring about those same feelings of inadequacy I can get at a bar for much more time and money?

Anyway, enough people touted the virtues of virtual dating, so I finally caved. The way it works, is you put a profile onto the server and people search for you among so many other hopeful singles as if trying to find that matching sock in the pile of cotton under things freshly pulled form the dryer. (You didnít forget about the sock analogy, did you?)

What you do, once youíve found somebody you like, is send them a Ďwink.í This immediately makes me nervous, because in the real world, I canít wink. Every time I try, I either close both my eyes, or my mouth lifts up on the side that Iím trying to wink with, and it looks like Iíve got some kind of nervous tick going on.

The beauty of a virtual wink? Well, itís digital, so some little green happy face is doing all the hard work for me.

At any rate, I winked at a few people. Got nothing. Winked at a few moreÖ still nothing. I was that tan on tan argyle sock sifting through a pile of whites, knowing my tan brethren was in there somewhere.

I have since received a single Ďwinkí back. The dating program then instructed me to send a personal email reply, citing seven tips for breaking the ice. I did as told, and now I'm waiting for a response. Sort of like the guy who suavely buys a girl a drink, then sweats it out hoping the waitress delivers to the right girl.

Basically, itís just like real dating. Only, now, instead of thinking I wore the wrong kind of shirt, or perhaps shouldnít have spilled a drink all over somebodyís blouse, I have to lay awake at night trying to figure if I've described my self in an attractive way.

Do I listen to the wrong kind of music? Eat the wrong kind of food? Should my picture show me working out? Should I not tell them Iím from Kansas? Should I avoid mentioning I have a real job and pretend Iím an actor? Should I spend more time describing my wavy brown hair? Less time describing my fondness for Billy Joel and silk stockings? (Umm, disregard that last part.)

Is it okay if I come off looking like a tan on tan argyle sock?

I wonít lie to you. Folding socks is hard for me. Iíve lost a few, and it breaks my heart to know that a sock with phantom holes in it will be paired up, while the right foot with some character must go through the spin cycle one more time in hopes that his partner turns up.

But, like nobody in particular said: Fold onÖ Fold on.