My Secret Socks Life

by

10/25/2002

E 49th St & 5th Ave, New York, NY 10017

Neighborhood: Midtown

Illustrations by Elisha Cooper

Some people come to New York for the thrills. Some for romance. My desire starts lower down–well below the knee–in a hidden, private erogenous zone, where I get my kicks. This is the story of my socks life.

I was travelling along Broadway in one of those reassuring black Town Cars. My agent was with me. She wore black. I wore black, all frivolity buried, this was working-woman funeral chic. Then she noticed my socks, which were made of silk, and patterned in the thinnest possible black and dulled-silver stripe. When I wear trousers, socks are to me what ties are to guys–the only way of discreetly breaching the uniform, a way of adding difference without drawing attention it.

“I love those socks.” She said.

“Saks.” I said.

“In small sizes?”

“The smallest.”

This matters. While your average Ugly Sister can paddle about in size 6 and going up, we Cinderella princesses take a 3. A sock has to fit. I don’t want the toe folded over like a hotel bedspread, or the heel puffed out like a snake bite above my ankle. Worse, I don’t want socks without heel or toe, you know the sort of thing–a badly made tube that could be used to warm winter pipes or store tennis balls. It’s not a sock it’s a leg bandage.

What I want has to be beautiful, natural, perfect. A tall order in life and love, but worth the hunt if it’s socks or art. Anyway, I’m a Virgo with Leo rising, so beautiful, natural, perfect, is where I stand–at least when I can get something to put on my feet.

I live in Cool Britannia, or Cruel Britannia, or Kooky Britannia, or Cotton Socks? Forget it Britannia, where the Land of Compromise is most at home in retail. We are a nation of shopkeepers, and as such, know that the easiest way to turn a profit is to sell shoddy goods. Shoddy goods are always expensive even when they’re cheap. They’re not worth buying at all, that’s why. So, if you find yourself unsocked in England, too bad. Look on the labels and you’ll find Cotton-Mix. Silk and Lycra. Woolrich. Woolrich? What the hell is Woolrich? A sheep? No. A sock made of 40% wool. The rest will be nylon. This marvellous euphemism leaves the language as threadbare as the goods. If I am rich, I have an abundance, not 40%. On the Footsie, my sock-stocks are junk bonds.

So I am prepared to travel 6,000 miles to New York, Saks, 5th Avenue, looking for toe to toe contact. I am severe. I am practised. No-one pulls the lycra over my eyes. I take a magnifying glass to read the labels, a calculator to convert the price, and scutter off with my booty in bags the size of cabin trunks.

If you want to know where I am, that’s where you’ll find me, on the ground floor, in the corner, with my feet up, head over heels, in a new romance, with that elusive, must-have, slinky little number that glides over the foot like a geisha.

Home is where the heart is, but lower pleasures must be accommodated too. I’m thinking of buying that New York pied a terre.

Jeanette Winterson has a great web site, full of original material. It’s inspiring. Jeannettewinterson.com

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