If you’ve read my articles online, you may have noticed in my bio that I knit. I’m really, really good at knitting, but it’s not something I talk about in mixed company. It’s not something I open with when meeting new people; instead, it’s something I share when the time is right, and I feel comfortable. I’m secure with myself and I’m proud of my ability to be able to draft a pattern for a sweater in five minutes or less, but I also know that when a gay man mentions a “feminine” hobby like knitting, even the most progressive of eyebrows tend to rise: a stereotype has been spotted and confirmed.
I’ve been thinking about all this and why I don’t talk about what I consider to be one of the better parts of myself because of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. I recently saw Shepherd University’s production twice and, like every time I see the play, I left the theater feeling empowered, like I had been given permission to love each and every aspect of myself, just like the women performing the monologues. To paraphrase the opening of the play, we need to talk about the things we don’t talk about. For me, that’s knitting.
We all have parts of ourselves that we love that we may be hesitant to talk about. Many of us grew up with the message that we should hide parts of ourselves, like our mannerisms, preferences, and ways we express ourselves. We were taught to be ashamed, and shame is a difficult beast to tame. Maybe now we’re secure with ourselves and don’t need someone’s acceptance (but it sure would be nice to have it), so we hold back. Maybe we know that sharing parts of ourselves makes us vulnerable and feeling vulnerable can be scary. So, we hedge our bets. We play it safe, we wait for the right moment (if any). And, while we bide our time and continue not talking, we make it impossible for us to be fully loved, appreciated, and understood. Is that a fair trade? I don’t think it is.
That’s why I mentioned knitting and my sinfully large stash of yarn in my bio. The truth is, my hesitance to talk about knitting is rooted in my neurotic fear that others will think I’m frumpy or otherwise not cool or desirable. But, since I started telling people about my knitting, I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the people that matter to me. People want me to knit them hats and scarves. Some even want me to teach them. And, along the way, I stopped being so nervous about telling people that I figured out how to make the perfect beanie. Slowly and gradually, I started to love the thing that had once made me so uncomfortable. Then, suddenly and without warning, I discovered I loved myself and was proud of my many wooly accomplishments. What other people think stopped mattering so much.
It turns out that sometimes the things we’re most insecure about are the very things that make us special, and that’s why we need to talk about them. There will only ever be one “you” in all of time and space, and that means everything about you is special and unique. Sure, there will always be haters, but there will also always be people who love you and all your quirks. The only way to separate the lovers from the haters is to start talking about what we don’t talk about and give others a chance to love us and connect with us.
We all have things we don’t talk about. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution if you want to change that about yourself: start talking.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.