The single socks club

Whatever happens to the socks that get left behind? One day they are part of a pair, and then the next, one goes missing. Lost in the dryer or mismatched by mistake, suddenly this sock has to find a place in the world alone.

Nothing is sadder than newly single socks. You can sometimes see them sitting alone in the Salisbury House window staring bleakly out into a cold dry shivery mess of a downtown Greyhound station. They sit in movie theatres and glare enviously at all the pairs in the back row playing footsie while pretending to pay attention to their popcorn.

Or sometimes they get re-matched into an inappropriate pair — these socks never go out of the house because they are ashamed of being seen. Others give up the second that their mate disappears — these socks will rationalize their behaviour, saying that there is no hope of getting back together once they’ve lost sight of each other. Sadly, they are usually right.

What do you do as a sock when you realize all the plans you’ve made don’t work anymore now that two has become one? That’s where the Single Socks Club comes in. The club president is working hard to turn the group’s image around, but the stereotype remains that all single socks are sad, lonely and so desperate they will do anything if they think it might lead to them getting back on their feet. The problem is that it’s usually true. Most do spend their time commiserating with others about being lonely. Oh, the media may present images of singular socks striking it big, but realistically, the matching pair is still considered the basic wardrobe unit.

Meet Spencer, formerly of “Spencer and Jenny.” He isn’t sure what happened to Jenny; the last thing he remembers is them entering the dryer together. It seemed like the right thing to do; they’d been going out for awhile. The next thing he knows, Jenny is gone without saying a word. He isn’t sure if she got stuck with another sock by mistake, or if she just took the first chance she could to get out. He’s hurt, although he’d never admit it. After all they’d been through together — the long walks, those dark times in the laundry basket or even just the weeks they’d stay in the drawer cuddling without being in touch with anybody except each other.

He’d stood by her when she got mauled by a cat and needed stitches. Now, none of that matters. He can’t stand the idea of telling his mom that they aren’t together, or face her questions about what happened. Spencer doesn’t even really know himself — this is very common among socks that have lost their partners.

These days when Spencer gets off work he just comes home, pours himself a drink and watches reruns of The Office. His friends recommended getting a cat, but Spencer just doesn’t know if he can commit to anything that needy. At first he was excited about having freedom and went out to bars all the time, but soon it felt like he was constantly walking on broken glass. If you ask him why he stopped going out, he’d just say it’s not what he’s into right now. Instead, he tends to just put on the blue hoodie Jenny bought him and put his feet up.

Joining the Single Socks Club was not Spencer’s idea, it was his friend Joel’s (or at least that’s what he says). Who can blame him for not wanting the stigma?

In the immortal words of the SSC’s founder, “I just don’t want to be lonely forever.” Spencer was enticed by the club’s ads of sock pairs with sparks flying all over the place. He knows that these images are probably Photoshopped, but it still made him long for that initial feeling of static electricity. At this point, he can only dream.

Fact is, Spencer’s experience is not unusual in this day and age. Never before have there been so many single socks out there. Before the days of mechanical washing machines, dryers and Laundromats, very few socks ever lost their mate. Sure, the scouring board and lye meant that most socks wore out faster, but that also meant that each pair was always accounted for and kept together. As a society, we need to ask ourselves the question whether or not the efficiency of our new laundry technology is worth the effect it is having on the lives of individual socks alienated within the global industrialized washing system. On behalf of Spencer and all those like him, it’s worth considering.