Emily Gerard was a late-nineteenth century Scottish author, who married a Polish cavalry officer and moved to Transylvania to be with him. This move inspired her most notable work on Transylvanian folklore, which is believed to have greatly influenced Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula.
My Writer’s Quote Wednesday features a proverb from Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest. As she explains, the proverb is rooted in folk magic.
‘Still more infallible [as a love-charm] is to procure a piece of stocking or shoelace of the person you desire to captivate, boil it in water, and wear this token night and day against your heart. This recipe has passed into a proverb, for it is here said of any man known to be desperately in love, that “she must have boiled his stockings,”’ Emily Gerard. The Land Beyond the Forest : Facts, Figures and Fancies from Transylvania (1888).
I’ve chosen the proverb, “she must have boiled his stockings,” as a means to explore the underrated romance of washing your lover’s socks.
Believe it, or not, the romance in washing your lover’s socks is not immediately obvious to everyone! Meet Diane and Ted, a couple portrayed as seeking marriage counselling in John Elderedge’s The Sacred Romance:
‘At this point Diane asked Ted about his deepest desires: “If I could be more of what you wanted in a woman, what do you secretly wish I could offer you?” It’s a question that most men are dying to be asked. His response? Clean Socks. That’s all he could come up with. Life would be better, his marriage would be richer, if Diane would keep his drawer filled with clean socks.’ John Elderedge, “The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God” (1997).
Neither Diane nor the therapist are happy with Ted’s answer. People should want more than clean socks; Ted should want “intimacy and adventure.” I concede that there isn’t much adventure in the romance of clean socks, but the intimacy is clear.
Actively caring for the person you love is an intimate act.
In an average day, how many people see your socks? Some people so seldom show their socks to anyone that they don’t bother to match them and don’t care if their socks are filled with holes. What about the smell? Who would let anyone get close enough to smell those?
Providing someone access to your dirty socks involves trust. Beyond sex, caring for someone is the desire to keep them well, to ensure their happiness. Socks are an intimate and necessary part of our lives, washing them and putting them away in our drawers is something we learn to do for ourselves. When we begin to do that for a significant other (regardless of gender), we become a team that looks out and cares for each other in the most basic way.
It may not, as Gerard’s proverb suggests, indicate that one is “desperately in love,” but it does indicate that one is trying to be a caring partner. Sometimes those little things are the most romantic things we can do for each other and no one likes waking up without clean socks.