Introduction to Knitting

On the day of my first knitting class, I had abandoned my positive attitude. I was tired, having a bad week, and was perfectly ready to give up on knitting before I ever began. But my fiancee, who was taking a different course at St. Luke’s, said I should go — which really meant, “You’re going.” And so I went.

As she drove us to the church, I thought about the many ways this experiment would surely end in disaster. The scenarios covered everything from accidentally stabbing myself with the knitting needles, to complex situations involving a crocodile attack, to the most likely scenario of the entire class immediately denouncing me as the worst knitter of all time. I also wondered what was more likely: that there would be another man in the class, or that there would be another person under 40. My guess was neither.

I was pretty OK with the idea of being the only guy, though. Society has come a long way in the past 50 years, but still puts a ridiculous emphasis on gender roles. I do a little more of the cooking than my fiancee, but she doubtlessly knows more about cars. Neither masculinity nor femininity need be affected because someone partakes in an activity that people more typically associate with the opposite gender. And if I needed any more confirmation about the compatibility of knitting and manliness, I found this:

That’s Cary Grant learning to knit in the 1943 film “Mr. Lucky.” Yes, Cary Grant. The same man who taught me I could dodge airplanes, raise a leopard in my apartment, and have exciting chase scenes on the faces of Mount Rushmore.

Yet when I walked in the room reserved for the knitting class at St. Luke’s, I found a group of women looking at me, clearly confused. “Can we help you?” one lady asked. The thought that I might be there to learn knitting had clearly not even crossed her mind. But once I explained that I was indeed in the right place, they were extremely welcoming. There were no other men, but I wasn’t quite the only person under 40 — there was also a 12-year-old girl who was already a better knitter than I’ll ever be.

In fact, the entire group of 10-15 women were all experts. And I didn’t even have any thread. Luckily, I was graciously given a ball of yarn and seated by the group’s elder, a woman named Victoria who was well into her 90s. Victoria “cast on” for me, explaining that this process of getting the first row of stitches on the needle would be too much for me to absorb in my first class. I wasn’t going to argue.

For the first half hour, as Victoria was trying to explain to me how to knit the additional stitches, I was fairly certain that everything was going to be too much for me to absorb. It was like learning a foreign language. I couldn’t tell what she was doing or what she was trying to have me do. But gradually, this sweet old woman got through to me the basic method, and I was slowly and nervously knitting on my own.

The class was meeting in the parlor, gathered around in a circle on couches and chairs. Different groups were making small talk about all sorts of things, and since I was the only person who knew no one, I couldn’t easily force my way into those talks. So I tried to talk to Victoria, but had no major hopes. What on earth was I going to talk to this old woman about? What would I possibly have in common with someone literally four times my age?

As it turned out…a lot.

Funny story: Victoria is a sports nut. Here I was, so proud of myself for defying gender role expectations by learning to knit. Yet for all my pretensions of enlightenment, I had painted these women into the same burdensome expectations. And now Victoria was shattering them. She told me about watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in person at the 1926 World Series. She talked about her favorite player ever, Stan Musial. She told me about how much she loves the Thunder, and how she’s nervous about seeing the Oklahoma universities go to the Pac-12 in conference realignment.

I mean … what??? I did not see that one coming. The title character from “Driving Miss Daisy” had just taken off her mask to reveal she was actually Bob Costas all along.

The class lasted an hour and a half, during which time I chatted sports with Victoria and gained confidence in my basic knitting skills. By the end, I was rolling right along without any help and moving much more quickly than I had been early on. When it was time to go, I got up to survey my progress, half-expecting a full five-foot scarf to be done.

Turns out, I had knitted something the size of a quarter.

Yeah. I still have a ways to go.

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