I don’t do it as much as I used to. But I still do. And I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help it. I like to knit.
I learned to knit last summer when I was in New York City. And knitting in a big city was interesting. People act weird around you if you’re a knitter, especially if you don’t look like you are the type of person who should be knitting. Grandmas: fine. Quirky girls: sure. A guy who has willingly participated in at least one sporting activity: no way.
People tend to be suspicious: “What is that guy doing? I know it looks like he’s knitting. But he simply cannot be knitting…I mean, look at him. He’s up to something. I bet he’s going to stab someone with those giant needles! What a horrible disguise! You don’t fool me, knitting man!”
Some people are just shocked by the idea of seeing a man with yarn. I remember sitting on a park bench on the Upper East Side knitting happily along and listening to my tunes. It was easy to lose track of time that way. Just a man, his music, and his stitches.
But I sensed something. I stopped knitting and looked up. There was a little old Asian lady standing directly in front of me, giving me the weirdest smile. Whatever you’re picturing in your head, I’m sure that’s exactly how she looked. Weird.
And she wouldn’t stop staring at me with that stupid look. I wanted to be nice, so I smiled back. No change. Same lady. Same face. Within arm’s reach of my face (which is a weird way to describe a distance from my face, because my arm isn’t attached to my face, but let’s not get hung up on the details).
Because I didn’t want to keep staring at each other, I slowly took out my earbuds and said, “Hi.” She gave a slight nod. And then, suddenly, she continued to not move at all and stand there, still staring at me. She was not going to leave. After a moment of thought, I figured the only thing she could possibly want is to see me continue knitting. So I put my earbuds back in and did just that, trying to forget that a human being was quite indiscreetly watching my every move.
But a moment later, I looked up again and she was gone! Disappeared! That definitely isn’t how it happened. But that’s how I remember it in my head, so that’s the way it will be anecdotally presented. I mean realistically, how fast could she be? She hadn’t moved for a whole minute, how could she disappear in a second? It was my first experience in the parallel universe of knitting.
I think I blew a little old Asian lady’s mind that day. I think what happened was that she just could not believe that I, a male, could be knitting. And her weirdness was her way of coping with the idea of what I was doing. Her awkwardness with the situation could not be contained and it took control of her old body and froze her in time.
But, I could be totally wrong. Maybe that creepy smile is just, like, her thing. You know? Maybe I actually made her happy and she was just…smiling.
Maybe she didn’t know English and my knitting gave her a flashback to 1950’s China when she met a quirky boy and she fell in love. And he knat. And they were perfect together. But then the war came and the boy had to go off to the war and he died cuz he was quirky and quirky boys don’t survive wars (this is a stereotype I invented). And she was sad and she had no money, so she had to leave and come to NEW YORK CITY! Maybe that’s what happened and she wanted to tell me all about it but she had never learned English and so she couldn’t. Which is a sad. but a beautiful moment. And it would explain why she was frozen like that. With that weird smile. It could have been love and nostalgia, not judge-y creepiness.
But in the moment that possibility never crossed my mind. I did not give her the benefit of the doubt. I was just like, “Oh, she’s clearly another run-of the-mill sociopath.” Psychopath? I really don’t know the difference. The difference between an Asian lady with an adorable story and a psychopath, I mean.
The sad part is that she’s gone now and I won’t know. I just wish she would have said something to me. Anything. We might have been friends.
I guess that makes me quick to assume that people judge me for knitting, since maybe the old Asian lady wasn’t judging me at all.
But I’m quick to assume because it’s also just true. Weird things happen when I knit. Another time in New York, I was sitting on the sidewalk knitting and a man rode by on his bike, did a double take, looked back at me like, “What the…?” and then he crashed into three dogs.
There’s no reason why he should have crashed into those dogs unless, like, my knitting opened up another dimension where dogs just appear in bike lanes or something.
But, no. That biker was clearly distracted by the fact that a man was holding thread, when, as a biker, he had much more important things to worry about. Such as, for instance, not crashing into three dogs.
Sorry to challenge the Knitting Dimension Theory, but those dogs didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They were there the whole time. I saw them. And they weren’t just, like, loose. Right? It wasn’t like there were just three dogs hanging out in the bike lane. They were all being walked together on leashes by the same human. It was not a wild pack. Which for some reason, in my mind, goes toward discrediting the idea of some sort of wormhole-caused materialization of the dogs. And that’s probably a fault of my own reasoning because you’d think that a rip in the time-space continuum would result in something really strange appearing, when, in actuality it would be just as probable for a woman to be walking dogs to appear because we see people walking dogs every day.
So I don’t think the Knitting Dimension exists. It would be cool if it did and I could harness all that power. Maybe with enough practice…
By the way, the dogs were totally 100% fine – they didn’t get hurt, so you don’t have to worry (“NO DOGS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS AFGHAN”). The human was not fine, she died.
No, I’m not a believer. However, every time my knitting becomes the topic of conversation, it makes me believe in the Knitting Dimension a little more. Why? The conversation is always exactly the same:
Friend: “What are you doing?”
Me: *thinks* “Because I want to make a hat and I think it’s cool.” Also, “You’re an idiot for not being able to tell I was knitting. Maybe you forgot the word for knitting. Otherwise, (besides the knitting dimension thing) there’s no excuse to ask what I’m doing – you’re just wasting time.”
*says* “To challenge gender stereotypes in America.”
I love knitting for the dull pleasure of the activity: something to do by myself, on my own for the pleasure of it. Ironically, all my knitting seems to want to do is make people interact with me. The power of the stitch compels people, draws them in. This one time in college I got to class early and so I plopped down outside, whipped out my yarn, and started at it. Before I knew it, a girl appeared and started asking me all about my knitting. Apparently, me knitting is an excuse for quirky girls to come up and start talking to me. It has happened several times. And I wouldn’t mind it so much if “quirky” wasn’t the most positive word I could think of to describe these individuals.
Let’s look at the facts. When it comes down to it, either 1) people are weirded out by the idea of a dude knitting or 2) my yarn has magical powers. Although we haven’t totally ruled out #2, I think it’s safe to say that people do associate knitting with femininity. Why? Why can’t cool guys just knit a badass pattern? “Duuuude this double moss stitch I made in a sweater is freeeakin’ knaaarly duuuude!” “Bro! Let’s ditch the keg and pick up some yarn for pledge night!”
I don’t understand what’s so inherently feminine about knitting. If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense for people to associate the two other than history and gender norms. And deferring to gender norms just because they’re there is never a super awesome plan. “It’s something for women to do when men are out doing important things!” “It keeps your fingers busy so you don’t have to worry your silly little head about anything of real consequence!” “You’ll get to feel accomplished for making something we can buy at the general store for fifteen cents!”
I think it would be funny if people acted the same way about stuff that, way back when, only guys used to do. For example, if people just stopped on the street outside of office buildings staring, confused, shocked at the image of a woman through a window at a job, working.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about being seen as feminine: I knit in public – I can take it. There’s nothing wrong with being as seen as feminine. I just think it’s funny how nonsensical it is. I guess it will always be a gender norms thing; some norms are harder to get over than others. For whatever reason, people find a man knitting hard to get over.
I hope you enjoyed all of my yarns about knitting! (Oh come on, I know ya’ll were dying for that sweet, sweet pun)