I’m a big fan of wool socks. I’m not sure when my love affair with thick, warm, wicking socks began, but probably some time in my teens when I realized that although cotton socks with colorful creatures on them are cute, there’s nothing like wool socks for keeping your feet warm and dry in the woods or when you’re working. I wear them to work almost daily, under my safety toe workboots to keep my feet comfortable and clean.
Once upon a time, socks were expensive and hard to come by. I’ve seen the mills in New Hampshire, powered by water, where the wool of the sheep raised in rocky New England pastures came to be made into socks. Long, warm, woolen socks woven on little circular looms… but it was labor intensive, even if it yielded a product faster and finer than most women could manage on their knitting needles. Poor folk still relied on the handiwork of those women. Socks were a measure of wealth, once upon a time. So when a sock wore thin, it was darned. Carefully. You and I both know that we’d just throw out a sock with a hole in the heel. Socks (even my wools) are relatively cheap, and the art of using a darning egg to carefully mend the threads that have snapped is lost. Poor darning will make you feel like you’re walking on rocks, and give you blisters if you’re not careful.
And with that lengthy explanation of sock history and care, I wanted to turn to marriage. Marriages are like a pair of socks. Good, sturdy wool ones, or perhaps cheap thin colorful ones that bleed on the washing. His and hers, worn together, and sometimes you wear right through the threads. Unfortunately, like darning, the art of keeping marriages in good repair is becoming a lost art. Marriage has become a cheap commodity, really. Like that pair of socks, we’re more likely to swallow the cost of replacement (alimony, property division, what have you) and just throw them away when the holes appear. And I’m certainly not saying that divorce is never the right option. I’m divorced, myself, and it was vital for not only my success as a person, but my continued life. It had to be done, the sock was turned into a garrote.
Knitting up the ravel’d socks of a relationship is worth doing. And just like every person is unique, every relationship is unique. What works for one couple might not work for another. One common thread runs through all marriages, though. Work. Love gets all the credit, and again, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of loving your partner. However, true love, the deep and enduring connection that abides the tests and trials of time, takes work. Like those socks, the threads that tie you together by the heartstrings can get worn and frayed, and start to snap. This is where darning comes in. Good darning isn’t the same as sewing on a patch to a pair of jeans. That’s a lot easier. But if you sew on a patch to the socks, it doesn’t stop the unraveling process, it just hides it. And the stitches, the lumps the square of fabric makes when it tries to mold around the curve of your heel, all of that will become an irritation to your skin. Just like badly done work on your marriage. True darning recreates the fabric of the sock, fitted around your foot, without the potential for pinches and lumps that will make you stop wanting anything to do with that evil sock.
Handmade socks didn’t always stay up on the leg well. Socks were once longer than the modern style, and men and women alike wore garters to keep them from slumping into their footwear. When your socks get slouchy, you get wrinkles under your tender feet and start to limp, to slow down, to want to sit and not be up and about and working your hardest. Which is why ‘pull up your socks’ became an idiom. Pull up your socks and get to work. When the marriage starts to pinch and slouch, it’s time to think about what needs to be done – better yet, when you feel the elastic starting to go and the sock migrate downward, put on garters. In marriage? It’s conversation. There are many ways to say ‘I love you’ and if you look up the book The Five Love Languages, it’s an excellent supplement that can be used to help decipher how to tell your partner you care in many ways. But talking is a necessary part of marriage. The problem is… after a while, all you are talking about are the wrong things as you discuss the children, the house, the endless lists of what needs to be done.
As life whirls relentlessly past, and we keep plodding through it, and then there are children and we are run hard all day until we fall into bed, it’s very easy to ignore how thin the sock is getting until there are gaping holes. The discipline to carve out the time for mending socks is sometimes difficult For one reason, a lot of folks fear the ‘we need to talk’ which is why you should never say that. For another, if you are like my Beloved and I, we really enjoy spending time together, so planning that into life can feel self-indulgent. It is. And you should indulge in it often and regularly. Take that time, plan it into life, and hold fiercely to your indulgence in one another as it rebuilds the fabric of your marriage. It’s not selfish. It’s vital to survival.
And keep your socks on in bed, too! Marriage is far more than sex, but sex is important to marriage and intimacy. Depriving one another of it will fray those socks beyond belief. Sometimes you just can’t. But make plans to have sex. Yes, spontaneous moments are marvelous. But once there are children in the house, spontaneous may have to give way to plans, a locked door, and some quiet giggles behind it. You’re not going to scar the kids if they realize you’re in there doing the thing. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite if they see it as part of loving, healthy, happy relationship. Which is what you’re building by indulging in sex, in time spent together, in time spent just the two of you. Stop with the guilt. You’re not depriving the kids of your presence, or the house of your cleaning skills, or work of your braininess. You’re darning.
Darn right. Darn often. Darn with love and care to avoid the sore spots and keep those feet wrapped up in love. They have to keep walking in tandem through the dark nights, the sick halls of the hospital, and one day, up to the coffin for the final farewell. But they can do all of that and so much more if you take the time for yourselves to mend when threads fray.
5 thoughts on “Pull Up Your Socks and Get to Work”
well darn. i need new socks.
I gave up on cotton socks when I was in my early teens. Nothing but wool, aside from trouser socks or hose (Sunday-go-to-meeting and more formal events). And there are few things as comforting as thick, well-fitting wool socks when it is cold, wet, and miserable inside and out. Good socks can’t fix the world, but they make it much, much more bearable.
This reply is actually about socks, not working hard on a marriage, although I appreciate your thoughts on that too.
I now wear an AFO, and would like a sock that rises all the way to just below the knee so that the AFO’s shin wrap gets some padding. Even the ones labeled “extra long” only come 1/2 way up the calf.
It would be good if they also had padding at the top of the bend of the ankle (on top) and had medium compression to retard swelling of my diabetic feet.
So do you have a source socks that come up all the way to my “knee pit”?
Sanford, Mackey, or Charlie can also help if they have a source.
Long marches were much less agonizing after I grew experienced enough to wear THICK wool socks with my combat boots.
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