Unbundle Your Socks

I lost something. I lost it a long time ago. Well, “lost” may not be the correct term. It’s more like it was taken from me. Yet, even “taken” is not the most accurate way to describe what happened. In the end, I gave it away. What was it? It was my love for electro-funk. That’s right, electro-funk.

I was with my friend Ted Shaw. Ted and I were very different people. Ted had two older brothers who were always working on their muscles cars. I had two sisters who were always working on their ballet. Ted smoked. I did not. Ted was a metal head. I was not. Ted was tough. I was not. Ted had these massive forearms. Mine were still in the development phase. We were very different. But, in the sixth grade, we were friends.

Ted had invited me to come along with him to his church’s sleepover. We were traveling to the off-site location in a school bus packed with all the other kids from his church.  We sat by his friends. They were a bunch of older high school guys. They were big. They had facial hair. They were decked out in leather jackets, patches and Iron Maiden, ACDC, and Black Sabbath t-shirts. For most of the bus ride, there was an endless exchange of one guy starting a few lyrics of a song, another guy finishing the lyrics, while the other guys played air guitar and whipped their hair around in a frenzy.

I had nothing to contribute so I just kept quiet. That is, until someone asked me “What kind of music do you like?” With that question, their commotion came to a halt. Everyone sat quiet. I looked up at them with a smile. I was excited to share. I was happy someone invited me to participate. “I love Midnight Star,” I said.  They just stared at me and said “Who?”  “You know”, I continued, “They sing No Parking on the Dance Floor and Freakazoid.” There was still no reply. So, I started to sing a few lyrics. “If you don’t get a move on this body, I will be forced to give you a ticket – so get with it!”

Understandably, Ted’s friends just lost it. They started laughing uncontrollably and rocking back and forth in their bench seats. Ted just dropped his head. I went back to being quiet and looked out the window. Then I felt it – shame. It was not the first instance of shame I had experienced nor would it be the last. However, it is one of the more memorable ones.

In an effort to avoid shame, I began to strip away my individuality. I abandoned the things that I loved in an effort to fit in with those around me. I smoothed out the edges of my personality – nothing was allowed to stick out. I did anything and everything to avoid feeling that feeling of shame again. The kid who loved electro-funk started listening to other music. The kid who loved to dance, he stopped. The kid who had crazy curly hair begged for it to be cut short.

But, you know what, that kid was funky.

I want to know that kid again – that kid who’s huddled in fear deep inside of me. I am determined to reclaim him. Writing is part of that process. It’s an exercise in vulnerability. Indeed, I know when something I’m writing is getting me closer to him. How?

I get scared.

When a voice inside me tells me to retreat and to leave well enough alone, I know I am on the right path. And, each and every time I do what this voice does not want me to do, I loosen the shackles of shame that bind me, bind him and separate us from one another.

However, for a time, while I was loosening my shackles, I was tightening my son’s. As a little kid, Dillon used to wear different color socks on his feet. His socks never matched. And, whenever I asked him “Why?” he would just smile and roll along. He did not have a care in the world about what others thought. I admired him for his tiny act of audacious rebellion.

I almost snuffed it out.


I like my clothes folded in a particular way. For example, I used to match up my socks and bundle them together before putting them away. Naturally, I folded his socks the same. Spiderman sock goes with Spiderman sock. Green sock goes with green sock. Red-fire-truck sock goes with red-fire-truck sock. It was a habit. Yet, through the mundane task of folding clothes, I was acting as a conduit by which my society was letting its expectations be known to my son about how he should wear his socks. Namely, he should always wear matching socks. He should conform.

Without knowing it, I was stealing some of his electro-funk.

So, I started unbundling his socks. Now, whenever I fold his clothes, I put his socks in a mismatched pile and dump them into his drawer.

I started doing the same with mine.

Now, each and every morning at 5 am, when I stumble into my closet, I dive my hand into a pile of unbundled socks and randomly grab two. Sometimes they match. Sometimes they don’t. Whenever they match, I dive my hand in again to make sure they don’t. I put them on. Slip into my boots. And, start each day with a tiny bit of electro-funk rebellion.

It feels good.

I invite you to do the same. 


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Thanks. – shawn