About a year ago, one of my best girlfriends (we’ll call her Miranda) sent me some pictures of men that she had been matched with through an online dating service.
I am generally not one to judge solely by appearance, but bless their hearts. Most of them looked like they needed baths more than dates. My favorite of the lot was bare-chested and beer-bellied with low-cut jeans, a trucker hat, a pronounced overbite and a giant largemouth bass. He boasted that he still lived in his mother’s basement.
To her credit, she cancelled the online service with this flourish of a memorandum:
“I am cancelling my subscription because the dating pool has started to resemble the arts and crafts room at a maximum security prison facility for violent offenders. I'm not saying that anyone has necessarily become violent and/or inappropriate with me. Sometimes, poor grammar and photos of wild game "trophies" can really speak volumes. I'm just sayin’.”
Miranda is quite the comic. She actually sent them this letter.
I thought of Miranda this afternoon while I was dealing with my mismatched sock basket. With six people in our household and visitors in and out, I have quite a collection of odd socks in a two bushel laundry basket.
Some are distinguished looking dress socks, quite a few athletic socks, a few cheerleaders with pom poms, a few of our more spiritual stockings (they are hole-y – couldn’t resist, sorry), and an old tired stripey knee sock who has been there since 1998.
They’re all looking for a soulmate. One without too many holes that isn’t too faded or stretched out. Someone with a little life. A little spunk. A little decency and self-respect.
About once a month or so, I dig out the basket and try to find mates for lonely socks. It’s a ritual that I take comfort in. I put on some good music, pray a prayer to St. Jude (the saint of hopeless causes), and pull out Old Stripey as the Helen Thomas of this monthly hosiery conference.
“What are you doing?” my husband will inquire.
“Changing lives,” I respond. “Just call me Yenta.”
I clearly need to get out more.
But today, I folded socks, and I thought about Miranda and finding that perfect match. The online service was, if you’ll forgive the analogy, a bit like my laundry basket. Throwing all of the singletons into a pile and sorting through them to help them find one another.
They make a lot of promises, these dating sites. The commercials advertise falsely. I should know. I’ve seen the real pictures and not the airbrushed actors with perfect hair, cut abs, and come-hither gleam.
As I was pondering the problems of finding forever love in the modern world, I picked up what I thought was a match. Both white, low-cut athletic socks. I started to fold them together until I noticed that one had pink toe stitching while the other had gold. No one would know but me. But then, I would know. Back to the basket.
Sighing, I thought again of Miranda, whose online hopes had been dashed time and time again by some man who seemed charming on the first date, but who generally had some sort of character flaw that became quite apparent as the weeks went by. Okay, I am underestimating: alcoholic schizophrenic is not quite what you want to bring home to the folks.
And then I thought of my own dating life. As you might guess, it was not only interesting but highly entertaining. My general rule was that I’d go out with anybody once just out of sheer curiosity. This proved to be a brilliant strategy for my career as a writer: 95% of these jokers provided excellent future material.
Some men appeared to be a fit at first, and then I would see some gaping hole in the heel. I tried the emotional equivalent of darning socks, which no one does anymore and for good reason. Turns out that darning can make for some nasty blisters, and it isn’t worth the time or heartache.
Old Stripey is a constant in my life, a confirmed Old Maid who used to attend raves and wild nights on the river in St. Louis in her youth. I can’t part with her. She’s a tough old broad who has been to the puppet show and seen the strings. Old Stripey has seen many a sock come and go, get mated, leave the basket, only to end right back there a few years later.
I know that the analogy is breaking down. Please cut me some slack. I match socks as a hobby. This alone could be grounds for psychiatric treatment.
The good news for me is that Miranda is now a constant again after a bit of a hiatus after high school. I hadn’t seen her in over a decade, but we found each other again through the miracle of Facebook a few years ago. It was like I was stuck in a basket, and she was under a bed somewhere, lost to the known universe until someone decided to move the furniture.
We picked up where we left off.
I’m thinking of making a lot of sock puppets this summer with some of these confirmed bachelors in my basket. The baby socks. The too small soccer socks. The beige dress sock. They have been just taking up space for way too long.
Maybe with this new calling, they’ll find some new friends that don’t seem to mind holes, wear and tear, or differences in toe stitching. A little makeover with some felt, yarn, and googly eyes. They’ll laugh more, probably, and cry less.
Old Stripey is staying just as she is, if only to remind me at how hard this matchmaking thing is. And how nice it was to find my forever fit – who believed that the dryer had long since eaten any possibilities for him.
Turns out that my guy and I look nothing alike in terms of color, size, or utility. The great American actor, comedian and genius Steven Wright once quipped that he matched socks by thickness. That’s what I think I did in life. I found my match by thickness. We go together in our own way. We will never be found swinging in a hammock in a commercial for dating ecstasy and eternal pleasure, but we’ll never need two separate bathtubs either. So there’s that.
I’m happy to report that Miranda now has a sweetheart that we all really like. In her words to the online dating service, “he did not appear to be a homicidal maniac, although he did point out that homicidal maniacs look just like you and me. He was kind to me and didn't try to get to second base, even though I did wear something kind of low cut. Not that I'm that kind of girl. I just like to keep my options open is all.”
Most importantly, she really likes him. He gets her. They play a lot. She doesn’t even have to explain herself to him. He just knows. And she knows. So they know together.
I like that in a pair.