Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Twists on "The Sweater Curse"

It's time to start blogging again! SO much has happened I can barely wrap my head around it. I'll try to catch y'all up by an anecdotal study of The Sweater Curse phenomenon, which applies to any knitted gift intended for a significant other. All you have to do is read my last post - actually the first paragraph is enough to cue you in. 

When I started knitting and then subsequently became a citizen of the subculture of online knit blogger/podcaster/nerds, I discovered the lore of The Boyfriend Sweater Curse. I never had the hubris to  deny it or doubt it's existence, it was quite the opposite. Having been, or at least felt like, the overly thoughtful girlfriend/wife type, and experienced the backlash of it, it made perfect sense. 

Of course, when I started knitting, I was married, right? So I should be safe to knit for my husband, right? Well... sure, let's go with that theme. After reading the Wiki page on the sweater curse, it reminds me that while some things can cause a breakup, other things can shed light on problems that are already there in a relationship. 

Knitters seem to be similar to each other in many ways. We don't usually knit for just anyone, so, when we do it really means something. Lots of people have asked me to knit things for them, without comprehension of the knitting process, fiber choices and price and/or what my knitting time/expertise is worth. Normally, I nod and smile, knowing  they will likely forget they said it in ten minutes and I'll never hear about it again. There are times, though, that I've had that very adamant, obnoxious demand, "I am GOING to hire you to knit ME a sweater." That particular person, on a good day, is one I can barely tolerate. My response was, "You can't afford me." No force in heaven or earth could persuade me to knit anything for that guy and there's not enough money in the world to buy it. The few people who have gotten knitted gifts from me are in an exclusive group.....well.... at least they used to be. 

When knitters set out to knit a gift, it's a careful and deliberate process. (not that I am educating my fellow knitters here, obviously, but in case any non-knitterly people wander in here one day, they really need to understand) Here's my list, which may be incomplete, we'll see if I edit it later to add stuff that forgot because of this medicated migraine with mild vertigo:
  1. What color do they like/want? (there can be literally 100's of options)
  2. Do they look good in that color? (they must look good in said item)
  3. What is the best fiber I can afford? (good yarn can be very expensive, just the yarn for a nice sweater can run into hundreds of dollars - no, I'm not exaggerating)
  4. How does it feel against the skin? (if it scratches me, I won't put it on you)
  5. How soon do they need the item? (gotta be done before they need it)
  6. What pattern reflects my regard? (must be special, different, textured and interesting)
  7. Can I design the pattern myself so it's 100% special? (I want your item to be unlike anything anyone ever got before)
Anyway, I think ya get the picture. I only knit for people I love. What you don't know about me, is that when I give a gift, my best reward is how much you love it. Whether I made the gift or not, I want you to love it. That's fairly normal, most people want their gifts to be received with joy. (Rachael Ray is on in the background and she just said, "Husbands, here's a hint, be grateful for anything we give you!"synchronicity... ya gotta love it) Without going in to details and histories and traumas, let's just say, no gift I ever gave mine was received with a measurable reaction. While I can't speak to anyone else's relationships, for mine, that was only one of the manifestations of serious underlying issues. That's 1, the first man I knit anything for, is no longer in my life. (that was my decision, by the way)

Some time after it was so very over, someone else came into my life. Lots in common and so many similar tastes it seemed almost impossible. There were a couple of rocky patches here and there, but all in all, it was fire and wonder. I found myself wanting to knit. So, with permission from the intended recipient, I began to knit a scarf. Yes, that one. The scarf never made it to him and I ended up (much later) giving it to a dear (much more platonic) friend of mine who thought it the coolest thing ever. 2nd man I knit for - not in my life. This is getting interesting.

Well, another span of time after the end of that, I found myself being pursued by another. Usually when that happens it's not a pleasant thing, it's usually that guy that gives you an involuntary shudder. This one was much more persuasive. After resisting temptation for a fairly ladylike amount of time, I finally caved. It wasn't fire and wonder like before, exactly, although the attraction was intense. There were things in common and things very NOT in common. Stuff I could admire and stuff I couldn't abide. Much less the "too good to be true" of the previous and much more like "too real to be fun". I never quite felt I was actually in a relationship. Curious state of confusion is probably my best description. I didn't offer to knit anything this time, but when he saw my jar of knitting needles he exclaimed, "DO YOU KNIT?!?!" This impressed me because it's a dude that knows what a knitting needle is in an area where almost everyone else crochets. Of course, I proudly (and only slightly defensively) said, "Yes I do, why?" -- "I really need a scarf! Will you make me a scarf?" I think, perhaps, I may have hit back with one of his favorite lines, "what's in it for me?" and there may have been begging, I can't be sure. Somehow or other I found myself shopping for yarn and starting a scarf. This relationship was mostly over before it began, and it was definitely over before I could finish the scarf. This time, however, I did give the finished scarf to it's intended. It was a little like an exercise in healing/martyrdom, like I felt I had to prove to myself and him that, yes, I can be a grownup and keep my promises and be your friend even when the other thing wasn't to be. Sometimes the only true answer is, "It's just TOO complicated." and "Love doesn't always conquer all." I should mention that it was very well received. There were, thank yous and my goodnesses and wows, I will wear this all the winter longs - that, at least, was an improvement on the past. So... that's 3 for 3. 3 strikes! That really should have been an indication I needed to stop. It was an indication, actually, I just didn't stop.

That's not entirely true. I actually did stop. I stopped and healed or tried to heal, got on with life, and back to normal stuff. Meanwhile, a friend I've had for quite a long time, who'd always been a shameless flirt, started to seem to be a constant of sorts. Years of consistency can give that impression, right? I thought so. We'd had lots of conversations and discussions over the years, and the occasional slightly indecent proposal which was not taken seriously by me, at all. There I was, single, still a little bruised from life, and talking to friend who'd always thought me cute, or whatever. So I started to slowly consider the idea. Now in this case, I don't remember whose idea the scarf was. I made up the pattern myself to some degree. Which means there are similar ideas out there, but not exactly the same. I charted it and did the math, etc etc. It turned out really nice and it was very well received with all the proper adulations and praise. So again, there's progress. This time, the scarf got finished before the end. Of course a long distance relationship can only go so far. Talking was all it ever was, but that didn't mean it was trivial. In this case, the friendship didn't survive, which is too bad. One can't decide they don't like you enough to be with you and then be upset with you when you move on. Either/or, not both. And that's the 4th.

While I know that knitting for them didn't end the relationships, it does make you think. In case #1 it drew my attention to issues I should have looked at before. In #2, fear of commitment was the trouble, and perhaps me making a ridiculously marvelous scarf was the thing that made his stomach go queasy and put a stop to it. #3 was the victim of timing, the relationship couldn't have outlasted a potholder, much less a scarf and #4 was much the same as #2, and though the scarf was appreciated, someone wasn't quite ready for a real relationship. 

Perhaps it's a good exercise, a way to flush out the ones that won't stick, for whatever reason. At any rate.... did you notice the moving on part on the last bit? Once upon a time, MANY years ago I stumbled upon a website that is like a very basic version of Pre-Facebook meets It's mostly for finding friends amongst people of the same religious persuasion (so to speak) and as a married woman at the time, I just wanted to make some friends. And I did. I got to be friends with many women and men all over the place and it was rather nice. Well, the site will also "match" you up with any criteria of person you set it up for. No personality questions or anything like that just very, very, basic, unsophisticated stuff. So when I was single, I did the logical thing. Looked out to see what the dating pool was looking like. Mostly it was (deep loud sigh) enough to make you shoot your computer and run for the hills. It's one thing to make someone's acquaintance and chat platonically, quite another to look for something more meaningful in a sea of photo thumbnails. I was never convinced that it was a good idea, not from what I'd seen in there, anyway. There were many times I had the mouse hovering over "Cancel my Account" only to have something hold me back. That little slight voice that said, "Not yet, just wait a while longer." Being the gut listener that I am, I waited.

During this time, by the way, at least from 3 - 4, I was working literally every day. 7 days a week, 2 jobs, burning the candle at both ends just trying to keep the bills paid. (and even that wasn't enough, because without my sister being my room-mate at the time, I would have crashed and burned) So naturally the inevitable happened. I got sick with the flu and was laid up in bed with all manner of ailments. Not being able to work, I naturally turned on the computer and tried to pass the time. I had paid one month's subscription just a few days before on a whim. I hadn't been in there for quite a long time. I can't say long story short, because that ship has sailed, but in a nutshell, I was contacted, we talked, we met, we dated, we married. 

I hadn't knit anything in quite a while, and I didn't knit anything for him for some length of time. When I finally did, though, you would have thought he was the only person on the planet who'd ever been given a gift. Repeatedly he'd say, "No one has ever done anything like this for me!" He's the picture of gratitude. What's the difference? I made him a hat!

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