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Posted on February 6th, 2024

The Soft Core of the Earth – Socks, Heat, and Other Idiosyncrasies

I doubt anyone who knows me would challenge my assertion that I’m an odd duck with peculiar and particulars habits, preferences, and routines. The older I get, the more those “unique” aspects become cemented in my being, something I’m okay with, but practices that probably, in some small way, put distance between me and reality, and sometimes, between me and other people. Most are benign, though, but I’ll walk you through some of the things that have evolved to be very important to me, and “dealbreakers” in some instances. The first is socks.

Paradoxically, my feet are the one body part that gets cold in the winter, and the first to overheat in the summer. Because of this, I’ve become very particular about socks, and often have trouble finding versions that are comfortable, durable, and not hot. I wear no-shows most often, unless I’m wearing hiking or dress boots, and many styles, specifically synthetics, are often too tight and seem to trap heat. I’ve had a few lucky runs with socks over the last decade or so, all from Under Armour, but as soon as I find a nice version and accumulate several pair, they get discontinued, and eventually, I wear out the ones I have. For some reason, I’ve held onto many of these socks, both the good ones and bad ones, even after I’ve stopped wearing them. I think somewhere deep down I wanted to do a presentation to the folks at UA about all off the issues they’ve had with their socks, and document what makes a good one and what makes a bad one. As luck would have it, one of my neighbors works for the company that handles UA socks, among others, and so I’ve been able to take my complaints directly to her. She’s also been nice enough to give me several other pair from other brands to try out and report back. Each one so far has either been totally lacking, or at least had some disqualifying feature. I’m hoping she can craft the perfect one soon and then I’ll buy a lifetime’s worth. A sock needs to be cool, stay up, and not fall apart after a few wears. It shouldn’t be that hard, but somehow it is.

Somewhat related is my issue with heat. Right now, I’ve got my temperature set to 60 in my house, and I love it. Now, I’m not wearing multiple layers or covered up with blankets all the time. In fact, at that temperature, I’m fairly comfortable walking around in just my boxers. I wouldn’t want to do that for an extended period of time, but it’s somewhat invigorating. Just the same, in the summer, I keep my AC at 72 in the main part of the house, but in my room, I have an AC unit for it specifically, and that gets cranked down to 63 – I’d probably put it on lower, but that’s as low as it goes. So, when I go into someone’s house, winter or summer, and the temperature is too far off from my comfort zone, well, I get uncomfortable quite quickly. Many female friends talk about having their heat at 72-74, and their AC at 78 – drives me crazy. This is at least a partial explanation of why I live alone and probably couldn’t cohabitate again, because I’m not compromising on comfort.

These socks are too tall, and they look like they’d be too warm for me. But I appreciate the stripes. (Image comes courtesy of Lum3n and was retrieved from here)

Again, semi-related, as I’ve grown older, I’ve had less desire to “settle down” and “partner up,” when for many, it’s the opposite. I’ve become very comfortable in my ways, probably too comfortable. As I cruise the dating apps (which I despise), go on first and second dates, I think to myself, “Could I ever live with this person?” The answer is probably no in most cases. One reason is because of sleep. I’m a terrible sleeper, have been for years. I think I can trace it back to college and sleeping on crappy mattresses and couches with no support, and I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons, too. Sometime over the last few decades, I developed fairly serious and chronic hip pain at night, largely attributable to me being a side-sleeper. I finally went to a sports medicine clinic, and they took x-rays to see if there were any fractures or deformities – nothing found. They determined that my pain probably comes from the fact that I have no fat or muscle over my hip pointers, and my sleeping style directs all my weight there. They suggested I could do some exercises to help stretch the muscles and tendons nearby, thereby reducing the tension. It’s been a year and I’ve noticed no improvement. They also suggested I get a new mattress. As of early August, I’m now on my fourth new mattress, each one less comfortable than the previous trial runs. I’ve about given up on having a good night’s sleep. So, why would I want to share a bed with someone every night who likely has their own sleep issues, and certainly will bring more heat to the bed/room, move around a bunch, might make a bunch of noise, and likely require more blankets or more degrees of heat than I need. It’s not a recipe for success.

Not that anyone is looking for someone like me, an ever-hardening, cynical, contrarian who has come to view other people largely as a curiosity but not an interest. Sure, I have plenty of good friends, but most of them are scattered about, and even those close by are doing their own thing, so there’s a sense of having one’s distance. Now, I’m not an isolationist by any stretch; I’d say I have a fairly decent social schedule, but it could be more robust, and likely, more rewarding. Certainly, the love lane could have greater outcomes as of this writing, but then I’d have to compromise, which, as implied, is not much of a strength of mine. Dating online has proven to be an undesirable task, and as I age, the less interest I have in partaking. I’m trying to decide if I’ve reached the age where I could accept never having carnal relations again – I’m not yet – but at some point, you have to decide if the trade-offs are worth it. I have this older friend, he’s 75, who is thrice divorced and very unhappy living the single life in his “golden years,” and he’s had many failures and false-starts on dating apps as well, and he has trouble accepting that he may ride out this life alone. Me, not so much. Dog in tow, I think I can be okay, but there are some clear advantages of coupling. One irony I’ve come to find true is that as you age, you become more accepting of others’ faults and shortcomings, so in theory, you should be more accepting in a new relationship. Paradoxically, though, you also become more set in your ways, and thus less open to compromise, or maybe that’s just me. I’m sure there’s a sweet spot where it balances out, but I’m also sure I’ve missed it…

My peculiarities and particularities carry over to work as well, and I’m unlikely to be found in my office. Ever since I started this job 7.5 years ago, I never bought into the need to be onsite to do my work and be productive, and I had a forgiving boss who understood, as I was more productive than all my colleagues who clocked 40+ in their offices. He’s since retired, and my new boss hasn’t pressed the matter – not that he could because he has a series of shortcomings of his own, he’d get called on them if he tried to say anything about my extended absences – so I make rare appearances only when necessary. This means I work from home almost exclusively which does result in more forced isolation (see my piece on solitude vs. loneliness a few months ago for more on that), so it doesn’t help with making friends, finding romance, or adapting to the needs and wants of others. I’m probably turning myself into a hermit, recluse, or castaway, and I imagine there’ll be a point of no turning back. Right now, I’m okay with that. Ask me again in 10 years…

I just finished cleaning my house on December 31st before sitting down to write this last column of 2023 (though, you won’t read it until February), and I have no plans to go out tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever really liked NYE, though when I was younger, I played the part of a reveler blindly. Unless I go to a concert, I don’t have any desire to go out. A buddy of mine texted me earlier today and invited me to a party. Since I’d just been to two shows on 12/28 and 12/29, and partied heavily on the latter, I told him I probably didn’t have another drink in me this year, which is true. It was the easy way out. But I also didn’t want to go to a party with a couple friends and several acquaintances, all merrily hammered, and excited about midnight. It sounds dreadful, though, I appreciated the invite, and I told him so. Instead, I’ll be in bed by around 11pm like usual, I imagine, up at 730am, and hopeful to catch a few people doing the walk of shame tomorrow morning.

I don’t expect 2024 to be any better than 2023, and this year had one of the biggest losses of my life, but the upcoming election cycle, AI, climate change, and a quickly destabilizing world all promise a lot of potential for bad news. Thus, I imagine my idiosyncrasies will continue to become more defined, and I’ll become more of a curmudgeon along with it. If I could get any weirder, I probably would, but I may have reached my potential in that category. Let’s just hope I don’t get any ornerier.

Marco Esquandoles
Odd Duck

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