I just returned from travel for work, which involved 4 flights in a 36-hr. period. I love to travel, but I hate the process of getting where I’m going. I used to be a “love the journey” sort of person, but honestly, flights are terrible. They’re either too stuffy or too cold, and there is inevitably an uncomfortable baby crying in the seat behind me or someone sneezing on the back of my head. And I can never seem to assert my right to half the armrest. So I have to distract myself as many ways as possible to tolerate flying. Lately I prefer the knitting/podcast combo.
At the moment, I’m working on a cabled sweater for Joshua. He picked out the pattern…
…and the yarn, a delicious natural-dyed (indigo and fustic) worsted weight wool.
It’s a complicated pattern that involves working numerous cable charts at once, and I can imagine how it might look as complicated or confusing as XML to someone who is unfamiliar with it. On all four of my flights, I sat next to men traveling solo, and every one of them was genuinely interested in what I was working on, how the charts were read, how long it takes to complete a project like this. (Every one of them also hogged the armrest.) One reminisced that when he was growing up (in India), all the women knew how to knit. No one bought sweaters, they were made for the people you love. Another man (in his 60s) admitted that he still had some of the socks, mittens, and sweaters his own grandmother had knit for him decades ago.
I was surprised by the interest, and also surprised that only men asked me about it. Why didn’t any women ask? I know I’m dealing with a small sample size, but it seemed like women deliberately avoided showing interest. Were they threatened by someone who was skilled in traditional crafts? Case in point, my friend J has a panic attack when I drag her into kitchen gadget stores. She sees all of the graters and slicers and santoku knives and feels like she’s a failure of a homemaker for not knowing how to use those things.
Women are under so much pressure to be everything to everyone: we are expected to work in escalating and challenging careers, but we should also be mothers; and not only mothers, but we should also breastfeed our children and homeschool them. Already, you can see the problem here. But that’s not all. We should also be creative cooks; we should participate in the renaissance of domestic arts, like canning, gardening, and sewing; and we should write a blog about all of it, with perfect photographs and custom graphics. It would be nice if we also run a small Etsy business on the side, leaving plenty of time to go to the gym or do yoga.
Honestly, who is that woman?
I’m a crafty person, and I love to cook. I own those roles. But despite the pressure I feel to have children as a thirty-something married woman with a stable home and career, I say “no” to that role, and I constantly have to tell myself not to feel bad about it. My mother, who was a fantastic teacher for over 20 years, never loved being in the kitchen; and although her own mother taught her to sew, the sewing she did as a young adult was drudgery, and she eventually just put away the sewing machine until I was old enough to pull it out again. (She was relieved when I became responsible for the family’s hems, and she still brings me pants to take up when she comes to visit.) My mom knew what she loved and what she didn’t, and she’s never apologized for it. And why should she?
If you paint, paint. If you bake cupcakes, send me one. If you’re a mom, I’m in awe of you. If you have a kickass career, and you spend 14 hours a day doing it and feel alive because of it…tell me what you do, because that’s awesome. As for me, I knit. And if you don’t, I don’t think any less of you.