blame Freud. I do. He is responsible for the
sexualization of everything. Neither smoking,
nor eating, nor admiring a parent is an innocent
act untouched by the puerile.
But surely some human
activities remain innocent of carnal subtext.
I cast about in my mind for something. Ditch
digging? Nope. Tree pruning? Ha! Horseback
riding? Asking my sweetie for examples only
changed the expression on his face from one
of polite interest to one of . . . let's just
say it took on a decidedly different cast,
and I ended up having to postpone thinking
Perhaps --just possibly,
knitting? Oh, but once I let this thought
enter my mind, in come rushing [unbidden,
mind you] bits and pieces of information which
lay themselves out thusly:
Consider sex. We in
the perimillenium did not invent sex. We did
not even invent kinky sex. I would posit,
however, that for centuries only the privileged
classes had the luxury of languorous explorative
lovemaking: those who had not lived so tightly
together in so few rooms that, well, a stolen
moment must have been a feat in itself.
We in the perimillenium did not invent knitting.
We did not even invent funky knitting. I would
posit, however, that for centuries only the
privileged classes had the luxury of sumptuous
and richly dyed fibers, knitted into ornamental
trinkets. Those who had not could afford only
course rough stuff knitted into functional,
My point is that given
a climate of relative economic comfort, there
is room to get creative with the basic human
needs: food, clothing, shelter and sex. And
while economic comfort is shamefully inequitable
in its distribution worldwide, more people
now than ever in history have the means to
get creative with one or more of the above.
for knitting, why, we who knit love the sensuality
--in a non-sexual sense --of what we do. The
soft fibers twining through our hands make
up fabric that is meant to comfort, to warm,
to heal, to clothe. Taken at its surface,
its most elemental, no human activity is perhaps
less likely to be connected to sex. Quick:
think of a knitter. What do you see? A non-knitter
will probably answer with a description of
what Western society stereotypes as a non-sexual
being, an elderly woman. Go ahead and bristle,
both at the stereotype of what a knitter is
and what an elderly woman should be [I have
always believed that the proverbial twinkle
in an old lady's eyes didn't get there from
a lifetime of baking cookies].
But the times, they
change. As knitters and old ladies become
more of an economic force, reputations are
changing. More knitters of late are men, and
though it has been slow going, yarn and pattern
companies are responding to that trend. New
knitting publications aimed at the hipper-than-thou
set are competing for shelf space and knitters'
dollars with the frilly, Cute Cat Cozy books.
New ads by drug and herb companies offering
to cure the female sexual dysfunction that
often occurs with and around menopause [and
which I suspect is aggravated by spouses and
families who won't give you time to knit in
peace] arrive on the scene at the same time
studies suggest that women's sexual desire
and response remain high well into old age.
And while sexual tastes
--and certainly comfort levels --vary widely,
it is undeniable that, for good or ill, fewer
people will frown upon any given predilection
now than at any time in recent memory [I think
some ancient societies gave us a run for our
money in licentiousness]. And while fashion
tastes --and again, comfort levels --vary
widely, fewer eyebrows will rise if you saunter
down the street wearing, say, a sweater with
deliberate holes and dangling yarn-ends made
of some fiber that makes Nature shudder than
at any time in recent memory [given that I
think most of us have, or should have, blocked
all recollection of the '70s].
I will not go into
how the internet has affected the ease of
gratification of one sort of pleasure of the
flesh. But as our spiritual leaders caution
against those excesses, so I caution against
the knitting excesses made possible by the
unholy trinity of credit card, point and click.
Few among us are without the sin of overindulgence
in yarn. While a certain, prudent amount of
luxury fiber wouldn't hurt anyone, a yarn
stash that is too massive, too overflowing,
too voluptuous, too unrestrained --well, such
a stash might be construed as being suggestive
but listen to me. Anyone would think I was
equating stash size with the size of its owner's
appetite for the carnal. And I wouldn't want
to do that. Not me, with my baskets of smooth
cotton, shelves of warm wool, spools of soft,
fuzzy eyelash yarn, which spill out of their
confines and tumble to the floor in flowing,
writhing masses, tangling together willy-nilly,
coupling, at times, so aggressively that separation
involves breakage, all waiting for me and
my needles to swoop them up, knitting them
faster, yes, knit, purl, yes, knit, yes, knit,
purl, faster, yes, faster. . .
Ok, ok, I'm being
absurd [and I owe James Joyce an abject apology].
Knitting? Sex? No way, not connected. No how.
. . how many knitters do you know who knit
for babies? Innocent, soft little babies?
All I'm saying is, let's not forget how
they got here.