Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Restoring my faith in humanity, one rainbow crochet project at a time.

I grew up in conservative Virginia, then I moved from conservative Virginia to conservative Wisconsin. I didn't think much of it growing up, on account of that was what I had known my whole life. It wouldn't have been an issue if I, too, were as close-minded as the people I went to school with and lived near, but I was different as soon as I had a concept of normalcy. I was a little different, and people responded cruelly. People were just rude, and that was something I dealt with. At certain times I dealt with it better than others, but it's just what I did.

When I moved to Madison (my first liberal city) last summer, people were still mean, but in a different way, and I had a more difficult time dealing with it. I tried different things, I tried ignoring it, I tried laughing it off, I even tried my tried-and-true methods of getting defensive and angry, but I found out that people were still just people. No matter where you go. It turns out that whether someone is liberal or conservative, they still occasionally feel the need to take their angst out on innocent bystanders. Say, the girl behind the counter selling movie tickets.

It wasn't until I decided to take on the task of making a rainbow scarf measuring 1.5 feet wide, and roughly 9 feet long that I realized how great living in Madison really is. I crochet at work quite a bit, and I get plenty of compliments, most of which I can smile coyly, mumble a 'thank you' and sell the nice person their movie tickets. In the past it's been everything from getting embarrassed about making a Gryffindor scarf, to faking conversations with people because I didn't have the guts to tell them I was crocheting, not knitting.

Then I brought the rainbow scarf to work. It wasn't a big deal to me. I was just going to crochet at work, I was expecting some slack for making it so big, but I didn't think that would be the worst of it. I can still hear people from the previous places I'd lived in taunting me, "What're you gay or something?"

No, I just like rainbows?

From being called a faggot, to being harassed to make out with other girls, I've heard it all. I was kind of nervous to bring a rainbow into public, maybe suffering from some PTSD, but my skin is thick, I even had comebacks ready.

So I'm at work, and an older woman comes up to the counter and says "Oh, I just love the colors!" Well that's new. Is someone actually just seeing this scarf for what it is: gloriously bright, bold, a little tacky and really loud? Well, yes, but maybe it's a fluke.

Then it happened again, and again. I heard it so many times, and every time I did I just warmed my heart. Then the 1st really wonderful thing happened. An older woman came up and complimented it (blush, nod, say thank you, just like always), then asked me how long have I been crocheting.

"Oh, just since June."

"Just since June?" I thought she was going to tell me I should be further along, that I should be working on other things besides scarves, or to tell me that I had all winter to make scarves, and now it's March, learn to make something else, junior. But what she said threw me for a loop, and inspired the rest of my week.

"I've been thinking about signing up for a knitting class, but I didn't think I'd be able to do it, and seeing this, it's such an inspiration!" It was better than anything anyone had said to me in a long while. I barely knew what to do, the blushnodthankyou routine didn't work here, and my sincerest thanks rushed out of me, and I grinned. I grinned at work.

The scarf took me two weeks to complete. I worked on it everyday, and 10 out of those 14 days, I was at work for the majority of my work on it for the day. Not only had people been complimenting it, but I found that the general kindness I'd experienced was changing me. Suddenly no one was yelling at me. No one was telling me their life story and how hard it is to be them, and certainly no one has been calling me names. It wasn't that the 200,000 people of Madison suddenly liked me, but rather I was actually cheerful, and I was smiling at people, and being social and expressing myself to strangers in a positive way.

Many other things happened. I talked to many women about places to go for good yarn in Madison, I learned tips, I was generally inspired to keep moving forward with crocheting as a hobby. I regained faith in people, maybe not completely, but enough to grin at work, enough to smile at strangers, and enough to know that I can work on a rainbow for 10 days and not have a single person harass me for "being gay".

What a lovely city I live in.