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You should train your man like you train your Labrador

It’s not good screeching at the builder boyfriend like a fishwife. He needs positive reinforcement

30 March 2019

9:00 AM

30 March 2019

9:00 AM

‘This clean sock regime is really annoying,’ said the builder boyfriend, as he rummaged through his newly inaugurated top drawer.

I had toyed with the idea of giving him two small drawers as I did last time he graced my domestic arrangements with his presence. But this time I gave him the entire chest: that’s four drawers in total.

That’s a lot of commitment on my part and a fair amount on his, too. It scared him, understandably. ‘You’ll be wanting rent next,’ he said, grinning sardonically.

‘Aren’t you pleased, having all your clothes so nicely arranged?’ I had put everything away for him while he was at work and when he came back it was a fait accompli, this entire chest of drawers thing, taking our on/off relationship to a whole new level of severity.

At first he didn’t say much, and just got on with getting his socks out of the top drawer, his polo shirts out of the middle drawer, his jeans out of the bottom, or his paint-covered work trousers off the floor of the undecorated corridor leading to the loft, and so on.

But a few days later, he erupted in a display of petulance. ‘This clean sock regime…’ he fulminated, making a palaver out of laboriously pulling on a freshly washed pair of socks as though the process were torture. ‘They don’t fit right when you keep washing them. I have to wear them in all over again.’


This is a very interesting aspect of the psyche of a ‘bloke’, anthropologically speaking. I mean bloke as in the opposite of bearded hipster or metrosexual. I mean bloke as in person who gets in a battered truck and goes off to clamber about on building sites all day and eat in places he pronounces ‘caff’. I mean bloke as in someone who goes into Greggs to get his steak bake lunch and has a row with a bearded hipster who is there to buy a vegan sausage roll. (Vegan tells builder to move away as his steak bake is offending him. Builder points to vegan’s leather wallet and tells him he’s a hypocrite.)

Usually, the builder likes to stuff his socks into little hidey places about the house when he takes them off at night, and no one but him is ever meant to find them. He maintains they are not dirty, and so they may not be. But they are worn. I have tried to explain this to him to no avail.

There is a crucial difference between the male and the female definition of ‘dirty’ when it comes to clothes. I think I am a fairly typical woman in believing dirty sock means sock that has been worn once, irrespective of whether there is actual dirt on it.

However, the BB informs me that a sock may be worn more than one time and indeed more than several times, up until and no later than the sock degrades into a state by which it may be said to be, to all intents and purposes, needing to have dirt washed off it.

And since the builder b is a very clean chap, I’m not disputing that his socks are not actually covered in dirt after one wear, or indeed after two. Nor are they, indeed, soiled in any other manner. So it is a very difficult and complex dispute.

I continue to argue that since the sock has been worn, it is reasonable for me to expect it, upon being removed from the foot, to be placed into the laundry basket forthwith and notwithstanding the continued actual cleanness of it, which I deem to be irrelevant in the matter of my wanting to wash it.

I don’t want to find it balled into a trainer by the door, or stuffed into the log basket, or pushed down the side of the sofa. I object to this practice in the most vehement possible terms.

I think this is why I went for the entire chest of drawers this time. It was a heartfelt bid to fully bring him on board the washing of socks in a timely fashion.

Relationships are hard. We all know that. Girlfriends complain to me about their husbands and partners doing all sorts of unreasonable things about the house. But one thing I do know, and I say it to them all the time, despite the fact that I am the least expert of any of us in matters of the heart, quite clearly: men are like labradors. You must train them with positive reinforcement.

It’s no good me screeching at him like a fishwife about his balled-up socks. I’ve got to make his socks all fluffy with fabric softener, even if it means washing them by hand.


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