One way to measure a person’s age is by the superstitions they have adopted and discarded. By eight or nine, a child usually begins to suspect that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are in fact cruel practical jokes that the adults in his life have been playing on him since birth. The imagination then refocuses on super heroes (never presented as non-fiction, but also never quite disbelieved) or true love before finally succumbing to more febrile adult delusions like honest politicians or vaccination-induced autism or the War on Christmas.
Among these lurks a relatively innocuous but sly parasite known as the Sock Monster. The Sock Monster is supposed to lie in wait until his host does laundry, at which point he emerges unseen and somehow - perhaps slipping inside the washer’s lid just as it closes - manages to abscond with one of a pair of socks, leaving its now-useless mate behind. As Oscar Wilde said, to lose two socks may be regarded as carelessness; to lose just one looks like The Sock Monster. The Sock Monster is assumed to account for a large number of sock disappearances in the United States today.
Let me first state that I do not believe in the Sock Monster. I lose enough things that aren’t socks to realize that it’s completely within my power to lose absolutely anything, including socks. I’ve lost my car keys within 15 feet of leaving my car, never to be found again. I once managed to lose a brand new bespoke jacket on a ten block walk that included no stops. So I’m pretty sure I can lose a sock without any help.
But still, where do they go? They go from your feet to the laundry hamper to the washer, then to hang. Then back into the sock drawer until they’re back on the feet to start the pattern all over again. There is no cache of mismatched socks near my laundry hamper or washing/drying areas. And to preempt the nattering naboobs, no, I do not remember any sock-deficient walks of shame. In any case, I try to stop worrying about what happens to these wayward socks and focus my attention on what to do about it.
Tom Ford, in his list of 15 Essentials, suggests staving off The Sock Monster by buying new socks and underwear every six months. Spoken like a man with a personal assistant. There’s a limited number of things I can remember to do every six months, and buy new socks is not on it. Visiting the dentist and paying my credit card bill just barely make the cut, and the dentist only because perfect teeth are Tom Ford’s 15th essential.
But I know that when I am down to my last few pairs of intact socks, I need to order some new ones, and at that point I might as well order a lot. I’m old enough now to know that I’ll need them all eventually.