Life The Heart of the Wolf
posted by December 5 at 13:19 PMon
He walked onto the bus (number 4, heading up to the CD from Downtown), sat on the seats across from mine, and began knitting. He was about 25, white, tall, dressed in black, with short black hair, and boots on his feet. His knitting needles were long, fat, and slowly materializing a thick something that shall (or shall fail to—more likely the latter) keep some member of the body warm. Because he recently learned how to knit, every part of his being—his mind, his eyes, his hands, his fingers—was lost in the process itself. He was nowhere else but in the knitting.
Now, what is the meaning of this? Why is the young man engaged in a painfully boring practice that is distinctly coded as a practice for painfully bored housewives and old women? What is he really after? Surely, he is not enjoying the knitting itself; the pleasure or the satisfaction must be derived from other areas in the realm of our culture.
I have two conjectures: One, this is a form of cultural colonialism. The young man, who is in a specific position in this society, is appropriating a practice or custom that is naturally a part of a lower position in the social order. We can all agree that no poor man (or woman, for that matter) would ever take knitting up as a hobby; he/she would only do it for money, for survival, for clothes they actually need. For the poor, knitting has a use value; for a man in his position, it has a value that is even more rarefied than that of a collector. The collector, in the primary sense, collects objects, whereas the man who knits for the sake of knitting is collecting work—the labor that makes objects. But even more than class appropriation, there is a gender one as well. As if all the things men can do in this society were not enough, there is now the domain of women to conquer and absorb.
The other conjecture: This is a clever bird trap. The bird the young man has in mind would, upon seeing him knitting (the trap), think that he is already domesticated, nothing left of him to tame, to break, to beat, to nag into submission. He is a young man I can bring home and bake cakes with, grow flowers with, make the bed with, wash dishes with, shop with, cry with, and watch my pregnancy with. But this man is not your future man; he is a man with a needling trap for catching what Lauren Hill calls “that thing.” His heart is my heart—and my heart is the heart of the other knowing men on that bus. We know what he is up to. The young man is nothing more than a wolf dressed up in granny practices.