When I was little, I wanted to marry a horse. Specifically, a little white pony named Snowball that I rode every Friday during an hour-long lesson at the Windy Hill Riding Academy in Library, PA. It didn’t matter that Snowball was a gelding. He might even have been a mare. I didn’t care. I was too young to know what marriage entailed, lesbians hadn’t been invented yet, and the moral implications of cross-species fertilization were beyond my comprehension. Plus, if Rachel Dolezal, an obviously Caucasian woman with a frizzy perm and an all-you-can-eat subscription to a tanning salon could get a job as head of the NCAAP because she identified as black, there was no reason I couldn’t identify as horse.
The only thing that mattered about Snowball was this: he understood me. He was the only person in the entire world, besides my teddy bear, who understood me. If I was mad about something, or was just having a general pity-party kind of day, Snowball completely understood, and agreed with everything I said. If I hated one of my classmates, Snowball hated one of my classmates too. We were both misunderstood products of our own environment. It was us against the world, at least in my mind.
My relationship with Snowball – like many of my future relationships – was completely imaginary. To Snowball, I was just another lump of humanity that got foisted upon his back every week. I might have deluded myself into thinking that we shared a great bond, but not once did Snowball greet me with a familiar, welcoming whinny. I was a mere cog in the wheel of Snowball’s life. Thus went my childhood.
Then, about three weeks ago, I was sitting here minding my own business when all of a sudden, a little zebra-striped bubble-envelope arrived in the mail, addressed to me, which was weird. I hadn’t ordered anything online and it wasn’t my birthday, so nobody should have been sending me anything.
But somebody was, and it was Jodi. (I don’t know if I’m allowed to use their real names or if they hate it when I do that or if one day they’ll sue me for libel, but no one reads my blog except them so it doesn’t really matter anyway.)
It was a pair of socks. While some people might call them ugly socks, I would call them the most perfect socks in the whole wide world. The note that came with them said, “I know they’re not your style, but how could I resist?”
On each sock was a little girl snuggled up to an understanding horse, with the words, “I hate everyone too,” which is exactly what I’d have said to Snowball, my erstwhile husband.
I immediately send her a glowing thank-you note.
And that was the end of that, until yesterday morning. I was late for work and rushing to get out of the house, but I first had to run downstairs to stick a letter in the mailbox. When I got there, I saw that we’d forgotten to get the mail the night before, and strangely enough, there was another little package, similar to the one from 3 weeks ago, also addressed to me.
Glancing at the return address, I see that it’s from one of my little sisters, but I don’t have time to think about it. It was Jodi who’d sent me the last package, so I automatically assume it’s from Jodi again. I knew the address belonged to Corey, but I guessed Jodi was at Corey’s house when she sent it. When I open the package on my lunch break and see that it’s the exact same pair of socks I’d received 3 weeks earlier, my suspicions are confirmed: it’s from Jodi.
“But why would she send me a second pair ?” I wonder. Was she so touched by my thank-you note that she thought one pair wasn’t enough? If I loved them as much as I said I loved them, maybe she figured I’d already worn holes into the first pair and needed a second pair? Would she be sending me the same pair of socks every few weeks, just to be funny?
As I read through the letter she’d written, I continued to color the words with my Jodi-brush. Since we all have similar, sometimes interchangeable handwriting, the handwriting was irrelevant, and even when she started the letter by talking about Corey’s boys (our nephews) I thought, “Why is she talking about Corey’s boys? Did she have them for the weekend or something?” None of it made sense, but I made it make sense.
“Has she lost her mind?” I wondered. “Did she forget that she already sent them to me a few weeks ago?”
When I get to the end of the letter, and read, “Love, Corey,” I still don’t put two and two together. The socks were from Jodi – why was she signing her name Corey? It took me at least 30 seconds before I started thinking, “Wait, they’re from Corey? How could they be from Corey?” I had to go back and start all over again, more slowly this time, with different eyes. Only then did it hit me that the 2nd pair actually were from Corey.
I’m still a little blown away by this.
Not just that – independent of one another, within weeks of each other – two of my sisters send me the exact same pair of the most fitting socks in the world, although that was pretty cool.
But it was also this, and I had to google it to find out what it was called.
Confirmation bias: a type of selective thinking in which one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.
Despite all the facts that were in front of my face, facts didn’t matter. I had already made up my mind who had sent me the second pair of socks, and regardless of everything that unfolded before me, I refused to let the facts speak for themselves. I refused to believe what I saw. For someone who likes to think she’s a pretty objective, critical thinker who finds out all the facts before coming to a conclusion, this was a very strange moment.
In this case, seeing was not believing. I had interpreted what I read through the lens of what I already believed, so it was actually the other way around: believing was seeing. I didn’t see what was actually there until I believed it. How much of what I’ve seen or what I know is actually incorrect? I’m now so confused by this paragraph that I don’t even know what it means, so just forget it. This whole paragraph is stupid and nothing makes sense. I feel like the Farside Cartoon where the little guy on the beach spells out the word HELF on the beach, and the rescue plane cancels the rescue because it was only HELF and not HELP. HELF!
In the meantime, as I contemplate the possible wrongness of my entire Weltanschauung, I sit and wait for the arrival of a third pair socks from my final sister. Given recent events, I’m sure they’re probably on the way already, even as we speak. Then and only then will my sisterly collection of perfect Husband Socks be complete. Given my final sister’s infatuation with All Things Goodwill, giving new meaning to the term Goodwill Hunting, I expect that this last pair will show up without a hang-tag, slightly used, but still in decent, wearable condition.
Which will be nice, because I really don’t want to wreck the pristine perfection of the two I already have.