Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reverse Sexism at its Finest

Good afternoon, everyone! I actually have no knitting articles to share today...just a story.

I have a friend who happens to be dad to a six-year-old boy. While this little boy and I were on a field trip to Walmart, he passed the yarn section, grabbed a ball of orange yarn, brought it to me, and said, "You can make something with this!"

"Yes I could!" I said.

"Could I make something with it?" he asked me, curious.

"Sure," I said. "Would you like me to teach you how to knit?"

He got all excited, nodding his head, and he put the yarn back because he wanted to try out something more "disco" (I guess...the yarn he chose is silver with this awesome rainbow metallic thread running through it). I told him he could pick out one ball of yarn, and we would get the right size needles to go with it.

Now, understand that six years old is right around the age people in general can start to learn how to knit. I explained to did his dad...that it may take several tries before he gets it right, and that there was no pressure to learn. He asked me to teach him. We sat down for our first lesson, when I cast on for him, and I taught him the four steps to the knit stitch in the best way possible for a boy that likes superheroes and wrestling:

"Stab it! Choke it! Pull its guts out! Throw it off a cliff!" (This mnemonic is courtesy of a lesson I took at Vogue Knitting LIVE, by the way).

The next day, he sent me a message, asking if he could come to my work and learn how to knit again when I was finished with my job for the day. I told them both (he and his dad) that it would be fine. I am told the boy's grandmother told the father, "You know...all you are doing is setting him up to be made fun of at school."

This brought to mind two things about gender that I never was required to adhere to while growing up. The first one is this meme, which is probably the greatest contribution the internet has made, ever:

I got the impression from that statement that the grandmother thinks that knitting is for girls, and that kids will either make fun of him for it because he would be a boy doing a girl thing, or because it meant he was sissy, gay, or whatever other in-the-moment word is currently used for that sort of thing. It doesn't seem to ever go the other way, though, does it? The people who worry about things like that will complain about boys doing the things that girls like, but very rarely does one bat an eyelash when a little girl is wearing Superman Underoos, or she has a toy bulldozer, or other stereotypically boy interests.

When I was nine, I had this awesome clock radio cube that had a just-long-enough cord to pull into my bed, so I could listen to the Chicago Cubs when they were on the west coast and I did not want to go to sleep (sorry, Mom). I had a Barbie dream house, sure, but I also had a navy, orange, and yellow Big Wheel and I played little league baseball. I don't recall anyone thinking that was particularly weird, and I don't think anyone was ever worried about me turning into a lesbian because of it. I just had two older brothers, so I wanted to be them. End of story. I was never discouraged from doing something because it was a "boy" thing instead of a "girl" thing.

Little girls who like hockey are much more accepted, I feel, than little boys who like figure skating, if all you do is listen to the chatter around you. Chatter may not be an accurate representation of life, but it stems from something. It is okay for girls to be boys, but much less okay for boys to be girls. Thankfully, nobody in my circle of life seemed to care while I was growing long as I didn't come home both pregnant and strung out on heroin at the same time while in high school, I was free to make my own choices in terms of which "me" I wanted to be. 

The other itch this statement causes to crawl onto my surface is that even if my first ponderance is misguided, kids will be made fun of for everything in the world. Let me take this kid, for example:  his name is not spelled in the traditional, character-in-the-bible way. He is small for his age. He likes the White Sox while the whole city is currently Cubs crazy. He likes tea.

None of these traits are particularly weird, but kids make fun of other kids. It is what it is. And in a world where we are trying to take a stand against bullying, something got lost in translation over the past two generations. Kids will be kids. Instead of trying to turn kids into non-kids...people who know better before they learn to know about we teach our kids to be proud of who they are, and let them explore their interests, and tell the bullies, "I knit! Would you like me to teach you? No? Then stand back, because my sticks double as weapons if I need them..." (you know what I mean)

We can't just blame the parents of the bullies for having bullying kids. Parents who teach their kids that victimization is the only option if they are different are just as much to blame as the others. There is a vast middle ground here, with a very broad spectrum of "acceptable" behavior. This means that no parent is 100% right or 100%'s how we learn from each other.

Incidentally, I would think any caretaker of a six-year-old boy would be thrilled that he is learning something that will keep his hands and brain busy, and is much quieter than playing explosive video games. But that's just me. Lesson number three...if he is still interested...will be next week sometime.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Common-Sense Resolutions

Happy new year, everyone! If you follow my column at all, you know that every year, I post an article regarding what people are resolving for their knitting habits and projects in the coming year. I assure you, 2016 is no different (mostly because I am predictable):

My knitting resolutions are pretty simple:  do as much of it as I can, be as creative as I can, and don't give a crap about spending money on yarn.

Other New Years Resolutions (capital letters added for emphasis), however, are more complicated. I tend to just reflect on the last twelve months, and decide what would need to change in order for the next twelve months to be better. This does not necessarily mean I resolve to change anything; I just like to digest what my life has been like, and be a realist about what it can be like in the future. If you are looking for inspiration, here are some common-sense resolutions to get you started off right in the new year.

1.  Give your haters the benefit of the doubt.  So, you are not perfect. You are probably not nearly as bad as your haters think you are, either, but heed their criticism before dismissing it. The outcome of a quick analysis of your haters is either, "That poor thing...they are just angry because their husband has been cheating for thirty years and they have never been strong enough to leave!" or, "Wow...I never really thought about it, but maybe I AM a gold-digger!" Either way, that dismissal can sometimes prevent you from closure. If you are someone who needs closure to move on, then get it, even if it is only in your own head.

2.  Own who you are.  I had a conversation with someone recently who was busted for probably the tenth time since I have known him, for cheating on a girlfriend. While he was beating himself up over it, I gave him some advice, figuring the last thing he needed was for someone else to beat him up over it. I told him, "You need to either figure out what makes you cheat, or just own it and be a cheater." If you own who you are, you can release a lot of the insecurities that plague your forward movement. Be a cheater! think being a cheater means you are an asshole? Okay, then. Ask yourself the next time you are putting your face between a girl's legs other than your girlfriend's, "Do I really want to do this? Because then I am an asshole." Force yourself to listen to the little voice. If it doesn't stop you, then just own it. Be the asshole. You will still have friends, I promise.

3.  Shift out of first gear.  Ask anyone on the planet if they like sitting in traffic. The answer, obviously, is "No." Why not? Because nobody likes sitting around, waiting for the others in front of them to get out of their way so they can move forward. And yet, many of us will go ahead and say, "YOU ARE IN FRONT OF ME AND YOU MAKE ME ANGRY AND I CAN'T MOVE FORWARD WITH YOU THERE!" to something in their life that has nothing to do with their actual happiness. So, your son is dating someone you don't like. Do you really have to let it sidetrack your day, let alone your whole year? Of course you don't; this is a choice. And by the way, if your response to this little section is, "Fuck them...I would rather be angry," then you may as well just admit that you love attention, no matter how you can get it.

4.  Quit the cries for attention. Which brings me to my next common-sense resolution. Are you always late? Do you hold up a line, telling your sob-story to a cashier or bartender instead of being considerate to the people behind you? Do you like to repeat your same list of complaints to every new person you meet? Do you have a "blame others" mentality, where you start sentences with something like, "I don't know what her problem is, but..."? Because if any of these sounds like you, then you need to do a little bit of a self-esteem check. When we are not happy with ourselves, we do teeny weeny things to get attention, be it positive or negative. Don't believe me? Let's start with being late...what does everyone do when someone walks into a room ten minutes after they are expected? Yep...they stop what they are doing, and all eyes turn to that person. When you are comfortable with yourself, you get enough attention. Not only is typically positive attention.

5.  Be kind.  This is the ultimate common-sense resolution, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people make this look difficult. If someone is crappy to you, and you are crappy to them back, does it really make you feel better? In general, no. The reason doesn't have anything to do with getting even, either. Most of us just really like being kind, and we can't get pleasure out of watching others suffer. If your enemy is drowning, pulling him or her out of the water feels way better than pushing them under, every single time. And again, it's not because you are sitting there and saying to yourself, "I just saved a life!" It's because you are saying to yourself, "I did the right thing."

6.  Do what makes you happy.  I don't just mean career-wise, I mean every damn day of the year. Does eating a doughnut in the morning set the mood for the rest of the day? Do you like organizing junk drawers? Do you knit? (Oh, you didn't see that coming). Then do it. If all of your friends think that live-action role-play is nuts, and there you are, sewing your costume by hand at Starbucks, then maybe you need different friends. If you love your raw-vegan diet, if you love knife-throwing class, if you love reading about the American Gold Rush in the 1800's, then do it. Anyone who gives you a hard time about something you love is either the most boring person in the world, or the best at keeping secrets. What so-called "weird" thing do they do that they don't want you judging?

7.  Prioritize.  We are a compilation of a million little factors. Priorities can either be a most-important to least-important list of tasks, or it can also be a list of qualities we see in people, and in what order of importance they are. Put the good stuff ahead of the bad stuff, not just in you but in everyone else as well. Maybe you think I am weird because I have a whole list of qualities incompatible with your "mainstream" ideals:  I don't own a television, I knit in public every chance I get, my close circle of friends ranges in age from mid-20's to mid-60's, I don't have an I-Pass, I am "just" a barista at Starbucks...the list goes on. But if you see that stuff first...the stuff you don't agree with...before you see that I am kind, loyal, intelligent, financially independent, etc...well, then you are telling me more about you than you are pointing out about myself. How about making 2016 the year we all try to see the good in people before noticing the bad?

8.  Live.  If you have put something off all of last year, then do it this year. If you get bogged down in your office every day, then start to take your lunch break outside. If you spend too much time on your smartphone, then put it in airplane mode for an hour per day. Take a day-trip in your car. Find the nearest forest preserve and plop your blanket down in it...along with yourself and a sandwich and a book...for a little while one day. Sign up for the damn guitar lessons. Write that novel. Start that company. Write a hand-written letter and mail it. Send thank-you notes. Buy the stranger's coffee behind you in line. Kiss the girl who makes your heart go pitter-pat (bonus points if you kiss her in public). Tell the world how awesome you are without following up by telling them how crappy they are...they are just as awesome as you. In short, live. And live your best, brightest, most imperfect work-in-progress life you can live.

Resolve to make this year better than last year. And then just go ahead and do it. No matter the teeny details, let's make the balance sheet on 2016 end in the black, shall we?