Being a woman in the South isn’t easy. Social pressures build the image of the perfect woman as demure, witty but not too smart and permanently happy. As the daughter of teachers, I was brought up to believe that living fully required the pursuit of knowledge. Though I was taught respect, I wasn’t taught to suppress my opinions to garner public favor or to act any less intelligent than I am. I was brought up to be a nerd, and it’s now a comfortable part of my identity.
When I started my first office job, being a woman wasn’t easy. Within a month, I had found out that raises and promotions were scarce, and for women they were almost nonexistent. Most of my female coworkers had gotten married straight out of college and their lives revolved around their work and husbands. Yes, there was a significant age difference between us, but our interests rarely overlapped. My main point of connection with the others was through the knitting group that met twice a week. Even though I kept quiet for most of the time to avoid offending anyone, knitting became my camouflage.
Outside of work, knitting has always been a way to befriend other women. I’ve spent hours detangling yarn over wine while talking about breakups and childhood and friendship and knitting and sometimes nothing. These sessions have taught me patience, grace and meditation. My gentle friends have helped me to relax through and in knitting, teasing me about my tight stitches (seriously, it was ridiculous) and giving me room to adjust into a more comfortable technique.
Most importantly, knitting has taught me friendship. After a rough breakup, one of my friends sat with me while I untangled a lot of yarn. I wasn’t talking, but she was showing me a very deep love by being there. As another friend says, “That’s what friends do. They sit.” For me, knitting with others is sitting. It’s a way to be there without the pressure of conversation or convention. It’s a space to relax into the motions and to sort out the tangled threads of thought.
Recently, I haven’t been knitting. I haven’t been spending time with my support network or the beautiful women who taught me so much. It’s past time to pick it back up, but time and financial constraints have restricted my ability to do so. With the weather getting colder, there will probably nights in the near future where I curl up with a mug of tea, blanket and my knitting for some well-deserved rest, but for right now, I’ll just nap.