Mom, back in the days
when she was forced to
wear black socks.


How To Scare Children

In any wartime conflict, it is essential to understand the weaknesses of one's foe. I won't bother to mention the tactics of MacArthur, Washington, Grant, Napolean, King David, Attila the Hun, Muhammad Ali, etc. But suffice it to say, all of these considered the knowledge of their enemy's Achille's Heal as the very foundation of their tactical designs. Why, any third grader on the playground will scan his adversary for the old chink in the armor before embarking on a scrap.

And speaking of children, let us continue our discussion of the mistreatment of the younger set by the adult population. You have learned already, in The Great Green Persimmon Debacle, how the adult Lee Tate made use of the common military strategy of playing on one's opponent's need for food. In the case of the weaker sex (the wife, Janet Tate) however, a much more devious and cunning approach was once utilized. She, being a female, of course, understood that at the heart of mankind lies a weakness to which the need for nutrition fails in comparison. That is, in a word...three words make that, the Sensitivity To Fashion.

Now everyone knows how susceptible girls and women of every age are to this weakness. Men, on the other hand, range from somewhat susceptible to total ignorance of the phenomenon. In fact, some men, thinking that they are well outside the bounds of such an unmacho characteristic, actually cling remarkably tightly to what they consider their very own non-conformity to any fashion statement whatsoever. And in so doing, they are marking themselves as belonging to some highly distinctive subculture. Consider, as one example, what we might refer to as the redneck: feed store cap, Wrangler jeans, Carhartt jacket the color of a paper sack, flannel plaid shirt over thermal undershirt, Redwing boots with some combination of mud and manure attached. There are, of course, many varieties to this particular costume, as there are to almost any fashion style, except for the Tammy Fay Baker line of female tele-evangelist costumes, which render all users totally unrecognizable.

But I have digressed into the realm of women again. We are now talking about male subjects, including fashion-disdaining lads like myself. And it was myself whom the following example is about (I say was, because it happened long ago). (Notice the use of parenthesis to prevent the conclusion of a sentence with a preposition.)

It was one of those brief, simple happenings which would not warrant the attention of historians as a rule. A mild breeze fluttered about in the outside world, oblivious to the earth shaking happenings of the inside world. Mine was primarily an inside world, although I too soiled my fair share of clothing of every sort. Socks, in particular, shouldered the heaviest burden in the realm of transporting earth to the laundry basket. It was this truth which forced an off-hand comment from the lips of my mother one day. The average historian, were he hanging around with pencil in hand, would consider it an off-hand comment, anyway. In reality, however, it was a near-fatal blow, aimed at the previously mentioned weakness associated with clothing style. I will now relate the full statement without censorship (for mature audiences only):

"I'll be glad when white socks go out of style."

I staggered against the nearby clothes hamper, gasping for breath. Bonnie and Clyde, upon realizing that the rustling in the bushes was not, in fact, a wart hog, but the long arm of the law outfitted with a bundle of Thompson submachine guns, could not have been any more terror-stricken than I. The idea that I would be fated to wear black socks (black, naturally being the implied alternative to white) created a condition of cognitive dissonance so acute, so piercing to my young mind, that I was at a loss to go on. My few years rapidly passed before me like a Honda 70 mini bike, piloted by the neighborhood expert mini bikest Neal Motley, driving like the wind from the confines of our lawn, in order to make it home in time for supper. I saw my bleak future as no more than the impending end of the world.

Some would consider this a slight over reaction to a mere sock color. But they would not have grown up in the seventies. In the sixties it might have been acceptable to wear black socks. Many things were mysteriously acceptable in that long forgotten era. But this was the seventies - the modern age. Black socks were forbidden under the most slothful codes. No self-respecting boy scout about town would dare be discovered in black socks - dead or alive. Not even to help a little old lady across the street. Black socks were for old men or nearly old men who had no concept of proper fashion. No, my friend. Black socks were, as they say concerning the counting to five in the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, right out.

I distinctly remember having serious feelings of dread based on this statement made by my mother concerning the disappearance from the face of the earth of all white socks. I took her at her word. I assumed that she, being older and wiser, having witnessed the rise and fall of many a generation, would certainly know the life cycle of the average sock color. I could see it happening within the year. I faltered.

A similar feeling passed over me (and I change the subject now from socks to cowboys to give the reader a chance to let out the breath) at Six Flags Over Texas one time. Our family was doing a little vacation time there, and my father had the audacity to loiter about a particular park bench, his very own wife and small children at the brink of peril, while a dad burned cowboy stood not ten feet away, being totally armed to the teeth with six-shooters sticking out of all manner of holsters. I, needless to say, being a young man wise to the ways of cowboys appearing on various TV shows, was horrified to the quick. My plan of action, were I the head of the family unit, would have been to scoop up my beloved children in one arm, my beloved wife in the other, and head for the nearest hideout like a flash of gunpowder. But no, my dad just sits there grinning, as if he had all the leisure in the world.

Well, I have deviated from the subject of fashion and the young person's need to be in tune with his or her (obviously her - that goes without saying) peers around the world. Adults, please realize that the future of our world is in a very delicate state. What may seem to you a mere laundering practicality could well spell the undoing of our race.

© 2015 Dane Tate