I do not trust people who knit. Chatting away while barely looking at their hands maneuver pointed metal spears and balls of colorful seemingly innocuous yarn and then suddenly they have hats, scarves, blankets, sweaters, booties and mittens. It’s not so sudden actually. I’ve watched women knit the same project for months, bypassing the baby’s due date or Christmas when they meant to be finished and continuing to knit pearl knit pearl into the night forever. I see the fruits of their labor and cannot help but be in awe of their willingness to spend time creating something that someone is going to spit up on, suck on, loose one of, or worse yet, not give a flying fuck that they spent a portion of their lives making it.
Years ago a friend gave me a scarf that she had knitted for me. We were not incredibly close and despite the fact that it was teal and white and green and gross and none of the colors that I wear together, I liked it because my friend had made it for me. I felt special that she had taken the time and created something specifically with me in mind. It even warmed my tiny cold self possessed heart that what it cost her in time she saved in money because I always appreciate a bargain. I accepted the knitted gift with real honest to goodness gratefulness and the Christmas time oft uttered phrase “I will wear it always!”
Despite the truth of my enthusiasm, I never once wore the scarf. Oh, I put it on every other day, wrapping it around and around my neck, but it never made it out of the house. It was long and thin and curled inwards which made its width thinner so it was more like a thick ribbon that made me look as though I had a colorful cast around a terrible neck injury. When loosened it was a rope of teal and white and green and gross and still managed to choke me while simultaneously clashing with all of my outer wear. ”I will wear it always!” turned into a lie considerably faster I am sure than it took her to cast on her stitches!
My friend moved away and the friendship waned further than it already had considering that I started avoiding her so that she wouldn’t see that A) I wasn’t wearing her hard worked on scarf and B) written all over my face was that I hated that ugly fucking neck choking scarf that she had made for me with all of her heart. The New York winter turned into the New York summer and even when I woke up already sweating at 8am, I would look in my closet, see the scarf, and feel guilty for not wearing it, ever. Not one day passed that I did not look at the scarf and feel bad about hating it. Naturally, the guilt turned into avoidance, turned into resentment, turned into not trusting knitters.
It is not my fault that the scarf was not a scarf that I could wear and yet in receiving it, I was tasked with the obligation of wearing it because of the time and supposed love that goes into creating a piece of knitted wear. Did my friend know I would not wear the scarf whilst she knitted me the scarf? Did she realize that I would be racked with guilt and subsequently avoid her, thus ending our already meager friendship? Did my friend knit me a scarf to set me up?
I have worked the last six seasons at the Metropolitan Opera as a Supernumerary (a non-singing actor) where in the Ladies Dressing Room, unless you are me, you knit. The women talk and knit and knit and talk. It is actually quite a funny scene to see 6-10 women sitting in front of the dressing table mirrors in full 18th century period costume clicking away with their knitting needles waiting for the call to stage. There are moments of love and kindness when the women trade yarn or explain patterns and stitches, but the actual process of knitting something requires only concentrated focus and an unwillingness to give up. That is not love. That is dedication. And when they are making a blanket, or multi-yarned anything, that is psychotic. Sometimes the result is beautiful, but the act is always psychotic.
Sure, I didn’t wear the scarf, I avoided the friend, and all these years later I only every once in a blue moon like a baby picture on her Facebook as she occasionally likes a post for a show I am doing, but she’s the one that started it all by being a dedicated knitter and knitting me a scarf! And she should have known better to give me a gift at all. I never gave her anything in return!
Friendships can be complicated. Friendships between women are more so. And friendships with women who are knitters are the most complicated patterns of all. Although it may not seem like I am the sentimental type, I am and have been known to hold onto things for years just because they remind me of a friendship, family member or simply a time when I was younger (I have no cassette deck and still have all of my cassettes). The scarf that my friend knitted for me remained in my possession for many years, getting tucked further and further into various apartments’ closets and all the while tugging at my conscience and reminding me of my long out of touch friend. But in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy victims needed warm clothes, I put that horrible knitted strangling scarf in a box and took it to a shelter and out of my life.
I never wore the scarf and hated it for existing, but I hope my giving it a home in my closet for all those years kept someone warm when I was finally able to let it go.