When I was about six, I asked my mother why tube socks were called tube socks. She said, “Because it doesn’t matter which way you put them on.”
Ignoring the fact that this wasn’t properly an answer to my question, I inferred correctly that, if it didn’t matter which way you put tube socks on, then it did matter which way you put other socks on. I further inferred that, with non-tube socks, there was a right sock and a left sock.
And I couldn’t tell the difference.
I figured that, according to the laws of statistics, I was wearing the correct sock on the correct foot about half the timeclearly an unacceptable state of affairs, but I was far too ashamed of my ignorance to ask for help.
I finally overcame the stigma, however, and asked a particularly well-dressed teacher how to tell the right sock from the left sock. She patiently explained to me the way socks actually work (she wore stockings all the time, so don’t ask me why I thought she’d know about socks, but in the event she did) and put my fears to rest. I was free from that day on.
I would find the whole thing less embarrassing if this epiphanic conversation hadn’t happened ten years later, when I was sixteen.