Monday, April 30, 2007


Don't you wish?

No, your dear ol' AntiM is neither custom-crafting boys** nor practising her craft on boys,** but speaking of boys and crafts.

After Boy-Best-Friend Steve got me all mellow and serotonin-happy on Brasilian meatstuffs, we went to his place to watch Casino Royale (funny comment and review tomorrow. We're talking BoyCraft today). Prior to, I dropped by home to change into something more comfortable (read: less waistband to fight the immense quantity of Brasilian meatstuffs) and pee, so I grabbed my knitting as long as I was there. (*ahem*)

[SUMMARY: I'm fooling nobody. If I'd been wearing pajamas, I'd still have stopped home to pick up my knitting.]

Steve is a fine man, fully tolerant of my knitting foible and even evinces an interest -- at least enough to politely enquire as to what I'm knitting now. Once the movie was over, we turned to knitting, then to Steve's foray into the world of JoAnn, Michael's, etc.

See, Steve jumps. Out of airplanes. And he does all kinds of sewing stuff to that end.** When Steve goes to JoAnn for, say, nylon thread, the doily-crocheting denizens of that establishment can get a little... out of kilter.

Now, Knittas, I've noticed we are (or try to be) very open minded about the gender of our partners in purling, but it sometimes borders on that "some of my best friends are Mexican" territory. It's often still novel and maybe a little discomfiting when we're actually faced with boys with sticks and strings.

In honour of Steve and by his request, I'm addressing the Boys-at-Craft-Stores question today.

Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Michael's or JoAnn, the check-out clerk always asks what you're going to be making with your purchase? I'm pretty sure it's part of their training, the "would you like fries with that?" of the craft store world.

Steve says he doesn't get that so much.

The picture he painted shows a cultural gap not unlike the racial gap: people with their minds blown attempting to be open-minded and managing only to highlight their prejudices in blinking neon.

Steve says they generally don't ask the rote, "Oh, what are you making with this?" they ask of all the women before and after him in line. To draw the analogy again, I figure they feel the same way about asking him what he's making as they would asking a black person if he likes chicken. Like somehow they're breaching some politically correct boundary.

So they hint around. They say, "Now, I see you got nylon thread. You know, you don't want to be sewing cotton with that..." (pointed, questioning stare)

Steve's a bright guy (the brightest) and has a wicked sense of humour.** So he very genially toys with these mini-Martha Stewarts.

"Oh, yes. I'm not." (big, goofy smile)

The longer they dance around the question they want to ask, the more oblique Steve becomes, leading them by his answers to finally ask the leading question:

"Oh, what are you making with this?"

Now, I've seen men at JoAnn. I've seen men who are clearly deeply into their own craft (I've run into -- for me -- a surprising number of male quilters at my local fabric store). Men who know what they're doing, know what they want, understand the nuances of their tools and materials. And I've seen men who are clearly out of their element. These men generally fall into two camps: the Chest Pounding Fronter and the I-Have-a-Right-to-Be-Here Defenseman (guess which goes with which).

The first talks loudly and in an improbably deep voice about how he's sewing something for his boat or just needs velcro to fix his laptop case. He hopes nobody will mistake him for (*whisper*) the gays. Or maybe a woman. He hopes everybody in earshot understands he's really very, very manly.

The second will open conversation with anyone around him about the extent of his dedication to this craft. He'll tell the young mother behind him how he's been knitting for five years, how his grandmother taught him, how he mostly knits stuff with skulls on it and really, the reason he's buying a yard of silk is to line a messenger bag he's making for a friend. A girlfriend. Sometimes he'll even come right out and yack about the difficulties of being a male crafter. All this? Totally unsolicited. It's pre-emptive stereotype bashing. And it's almost as silly as the chest pounding.

Men, boys, male crafters world-wide: EMBRACE the comedy. Fuck with the counter-girl.** Tell the checkout clerk you're knitting tea cosies or sewing slip covers for your toilet tank. Refuse to answer the leading questions in any constructive form. Make the craft world your kitty toy.

Someone who is generally prejudiced against whatever you are will probably not change barring an act of the gods, and you may as well screw with them for your own amusement. They probably deserve that much.

Someone who is simply awkward and doesn't know how they should handle you is looking for an excuse to be on your side, and you may as well help them out and make the world a better place. They probably deserve that much.

Hey, it's how I handle the hardware store.

[SUMMARY: Stereotypes are bad and injurious to everybody. And damned funny sometimes too.]

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): Girls! Get your orders in now!

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): Boys! Get your orders in now!

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): Funny story: a big, burly, biker-type guy that jumps with Steve asked Steve to patch his jumpsuit. Steve doesn't really like that kind of work and balked. But the guy insisted, with an ill-natured "Just patch the damned jumpsuit." So Steve said, "OK, I'll patch your jumpsuit, but I get to pick the patch."

Does that not sound like fair warning to you?

Steve went to JoAnn and got Tinkerbell fabric, then appliqued (seriously, people, where is the accent mark?) Tinkerbell on some rip-stop fabric and patched the jumpsuit. So the big, burly, biker-type guy has Tinkerbell at knees and ass and Steve is hoping that will discourage any future requests for such sewing.

. . . FOOTNOTE WITHIN A FOOTNOTE (unasterisked): Truth be told, it kinda backfired because the big, burly, biker-type dude got a LOT of female attention for his whimsical patches.

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): Of *course* Steve has a wicked sense of humour. Do you think he'd qualify as Boy-Best-Friend if he didn't?

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): Not literally. Unless she's hot. And that's the way you swing... hey, in the interest of all fairness to boys in crafts, just because all guys in a craft store aren't gay doesn't mean they're all straight.

This public service announcement has been brought to you by my sense of guilt and fairness.

And the number four.

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