The White Sock Moment

by

05/25/2024

Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan

Years ago, I coined the term “White Socks Moment” to describe that instant when you are suddenly and jarringly turned off by a romantic interest because of something distasteful and unusual happening. The kids today refer to this phenomenon as “the ick”.

Once I was turned off by a guy – who had seemed so intellectual – when he started quoting “Wear Sunscreen” the famous fake commencement speech supposedly given by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. He was reciting it so soberly and with such authority that it turned my stomach to have to tell him it was erroneously attributed.  wikipedia.org/wiki/Wear_Sunscreen

I mentally flashed to the scene in the Seinfeld episode when Elaine tells a famous writer that “War and Peace” was originally supposed to be called, “War, What is it Good For?”

The white socks reference came about when someone with whom I had a long-term, if intermittent, romantic relationship came down the stairs of his Upper West Side townhouse to meet me on his busy (and dirty!) street wearing sweat socks on his feet and no shoes. White sweat socks on a man is icky enough. The fact he not only wore them on the city street, but then kept them on in his house, and then put on sneakers over them to go out to lunch with me, was just too much.

After a 10-year friendship I just couldn’t see him in a romantic light anymore. I never saw him again.

I recently experienced another White Socks Moment with someone I had been seeing for a year but had known for 34. We had recently reunited, and I adored him.

Sure, we had our ups and downs, but nothing that would make me be turned off in a way I’d want to write an essay about it.

To wit: the guy I was seeing, Marco, knows I am a writer. He was super excited, telling me he was going to bring something to our lunch that week that he hoped would inspire me to write about him. I was eager to see what he was going to present me.

So, we were at lunch near his office in the World Trade Center, when I asked him to show and tell and he unearthed a very old looking copper metal case – with a swastika on it. Brow furrowed, I asked what he was about to show me. Once opened he took out a silver-tone pocket watch with a Nazi-era plane on it.

Shocked and somewhat worried nearby diners at Eataly would stare and wonder why my companion was flashing Nazi memorabilia at what was supposed to be a fun lunch, I stammered.

“What is this? Why are you showing me this?” 

He excitedly told me he’d gotten it a few years earlier on a trip to Bulgaria with his wife when they had gone to visit her family in Sofia. They had hours to kill before the flight home, so he was shopping in a square where there had been a vendor selling old family artifacts.

I asked why he’d want something like this, and he explained in a conspiratorial tone that he felt we shouldn’t whitewash history – and that he got a good deal on it. He wondered if he could sell it and make a ton of money.

I, too, wondered what the story behind it was. Ever the skeptic though, something just didn’t sit right with me. Some rando Bulgarian was pawning off his family treasures from decades ago for a pittance to an American stranger? And the guy just happened to have a little table set up in a popular square?

Baffled why my Cuban-Chinese paramour thought this would inspire me to write a loving essay about him, I asked again why he wanted to show this to me. I also wondered what the history behind it was. I could kind of see there was a degree of intrigue in something so marked by history. The weight of years meant something. Like how did that guy get it – was he or his family in the military? Who had it belonged to before and what became of them?

My lunch date explained he’d never mentioned it to me before because we never have enough time together. For the past year, we’d been sneaking around just to be able to see each other, his oblivious wife unaware, and time was precious to us. So was nostalgia. The years flew by and here we are now, wrinkled and achy. He had been my very first boyfriend when I was 19, back in 1989. Now reunited 34 years later, it was as if time had folded onto itself. We were both those college students and AARP members living concurrently, the years in between had been entirely cut out.

Marco was right about time and history being a crucial part of our story. Tick, tick, tick. 

But none of what he had told me conjured any feelings of romance. I was instead, somehow repulsed. Not at his owning or being fascinated with the watch. It was more so that he was so excited about showing it to me. Also, he was married, cheating on his wife of 17 years with me, and I just wondered how he’d sneaked this “treasure” out of the house.

When I got home, I began researching. It didn’t take me long to find a whole thread about this very topic. Two-minutes searching on Google shows that Sofia is the home of the counterfeit Nazi watch. A ton of articles talk about people being duped by fakes – things to notice include different colors and styles of the actual pocket watch and its case, etc. fakenazitimepieces.html 

Apparently, there is a sucker born every day and Bulgarians specialize in counterfeit Nazi paraphernalia to swindle tourists eager to get their hands on something forbidden.

What Marco showed off was a totally fugazi pocket watch and case. It was never owned by a German officer in the 1940s. It had been manufactured many years later to deceive gullible buyers.

What my inamorato had hoped would ingratiate me to him instead made me embarrassed for him. Not because he wanted to own Nazi merch, but because it was FAKE Nazi merch. He held onto something he deemed precious, but that was in fact worthless. Was I doing the same in this relationship?

The whole thing also made me feel bad about his wife. Had she been so ignorant to not know about the watch and alert him of it? For all these years while he kept his treasure thinking he had something valuable he could someday sell for a big profit, didn’t she know this was just another con? Bulgaria was her homeland! Marco’s lack of street smarts was by far a bigger White Socks moment than actual dirty white socks.

What bothered me most was that if you have hung onto this watch for a long time, going so far as hiding it in a special place, why wouldn’t you have ever googled to see if it was authentic?

Still, my lover was right about one thing. His showing me the special booty did spark my desire to write an essay. Sadly, it wasn’t the one of praise he had hoped for. And now, months later, I realize that our relationship was built upon the same inauthenticity as his Nazi watch.

***

Kelly Kreth is a freelance writer who often feels trapped in a Seinfeldian Hell. She’d like people to love her for her flaws, not in spite of them. That rarely happens. You can read more by her at: youmightaswell.tumblr.com

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§ 2 Responses to “The White Sock Moment”

  • Susan T. Landry says:

    I love the way you’ve unraveled these stories, both the White Socks guy and the not-so-charming Nazi treasures heartthrob. I can’t help but relate to them; not so much in the details, but in the rollercoaster rides of figuring out intention. Thanks for the laughs, the semi-memories, and the terrific writing!

  • Jenn says:

    You are so good at both enticing and revolting the reader – I love your work but hate that this is your life!

§ Leave a Reply

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