We were gathered there that day for the mindless viewing of a preponderantly female-oriented cinematograph event — in other words, it was chick flick night, and, as I do anytime my tush hits the cushion for more than 30 seconds, I pulled out my knitting.
“Oh, you knit?” the squawk, definitely not chirp, originated from a dark corner. “I would never have the patience to do something like that.”
That particular sentence — delivered in that particular way — always manages to engender a feeling of wrongdoing, as if there were something deeply sinister about my snicketing two sticks together, and worse yet, as if the patience that it takes to do so is a bad thing. After the initial, fleeting feelings of guilt comes a sense of exasperation.
“Yes, I do,” I replied, calling upon those vast reserves of patience. Because I was raised by a mother who taught me not to assault people with personal observations about them in public, I refrained from commenting to the raven in the corner on her apparent inability to apply herself to a project that requires more than an afternoon to complete.
Before hypersensitivity is added to my list of faults (consult the progeny for the latest updated edition), allow me to point out that my fowl companion was not scratching up a compliment, but rather, pointing out to the room in general that one particular person was engaging in a pathologically obsessive activity that surely merited some form of professional psychiatric observation, whereas she, the balanced bird, was content with sitting in a chair, watching a movie, and keeping her hands, but not her mouth, still.
Oh dear. Am I pecking on this poor woman?
Okay, so add hypersensitivity to the list, but tiresome statements like this one are truly not affirmations of admiration and support, but rather, a subconscious means for the speaker to make herself feel better by making someone else feel, and look dumb. It’s along the lines of,
“My. You have such big, well-defined biceps for a woman. You must work out a lot.” (To get the full effect, this must be said by a pert blonde chickadee to the more muscularly built hen in the presence of a rooster.)
Now, before I scare off those people who truly recoil in horror at the thought of making thousands and thousands of little stitches over the course of many hours to create a finished sweater (my funny, intelligent, warm-hearted sister comes immediately to mind), let me add that I do understand that people are convinced that they lack the patience to do certain things. I myself look at Japanese-inspired quilt masterpieces made up of confetti-sized fabric squares. These inspire in me a sense of awe as well as deep gratitude that I am not assigned that particular project.
But people who honestly believe that they cannot do something because they do not possess sufficient patience are undermining a vast stash of abilities.
I am an aggressive, assertive opinionated dynamo who frequently plows ahead without thought or foresight, and who, if I do not curb my natural inclinations, will push and pull circumstances to mold to my dictation.
Does this sound like the definition of a patient person?
That I can stand, serenely, in the grocery line while the person ahead of me waits until all of the groceries are bagged before pulling out the purse/wallet and beginning the search for the debit card, is testament to 27 years of marriage to the extremely well-balanced Norwegian Artist, as well as to 22 years of ongoing child rearing, and to 47 years of life itself.
Knitting has played its part in slowing me down. So has watching a loved one succumb, day by cruel day, to severe dementia. Nursing-home time runs slower than outside time. Toddler-world time slips by at a slower pace as well, and the exchange of the sheer joy of a Nature Walk with the Toddler is that we won’t actually get anyplace anytime soon.
As I progress through my one-time shot through this earthly life, I learn, and I change, and I gradually improve, as can we all, especially if we remember two pieces of motherly advice:
First: Don’t put people down to make yourself feel better.
Second: Don’t underestimate yourself. You can do so much more than you think you can.
Even to the point of knitting a sweater.
The observation about negative comments concealed in a compliment form is so right on. It’s strange how a comment as seemingly benign as “Oh my gosh…you are SO creative. I could never find the patience/creativity/time/energy to do that!” can feel unpleasant. All I ever want to say in response is, “Thanks…I think.” Because like you said, the intonation in which the comment is said suggests that there’s something odd or even weird about being creative and MAKING time to do things that are, well, interesting!
We humans have a need within us to create — something, anything — and I feel sorry for people who haven’t discovered that yet.
Nice post! I love the way you’ve used your outrage and impatience for an ignorant person to make such a insightful observation on life in general!
It’s hard not to be snippy and snipey, so I hope that I stopped short of that!
As a fellow knitter, thank you and very well said.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, I would be a much richer woman.
Even a penny, I imagine. In our own quiet, clicking way, we can make an impact on society, showing them that we can get things done and be unstressed about it. Vive la knitting!