It could happen to you

By | November 20, 2008


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I like to knit.

I learned when I was a kid, and I got into it again because of work (which is a long story for another post). I like it because I like the idea of being able to take measurements, do some math, and make a hat or shirt or socks that fits me perfectly, out of what is essentially some string and some sticks. (I’m still kind of hit-or-miss on the “fits me perfectly” part, but I’m getting there.)

Needlecraft is right up there with sewing on my list of Things Every Fatshionista Should Try*—not because I necessarily think everyone ought to make and wear knitwear, but because I think learning about these skills help us to better understand what makes our favourite clothes fit us the way they do, and how to make our not-so-favourite clothes fit better.

Just over a year ago, I started going to a knit night at a local consignment store and yarn shop. I confess that at the time I wasn’t particularly interested in meeting other knitters. The main reason I started going was that I had just broken up with my partner of some years, and was still living in the apartment we had shared. All of the empty nights were stretched out before me in this endless parade of loneliness, and I dealt with it by scheduling my days in half-hour ‘units’, the way Hugh Grant’s character does in About a Boy; I made sure I had something to do with every possible moment between waking and sleeping. And the stitch n’ bitch evening fit in nicely between my after-work gym visit and my before-bed skin-care regimen.

I ended up meeting a lot of really cool, exciting people at knit night, many of whom I consider friends. We talk about everything that’s going on in our lives: work, school, dating and sex, children, parents and siblings, investments, health… I have even had occasion to mention my fat blogging activities. I feel as though we share a really special little space where people can relax and enjoy themselves.

The one thing that never fails to make me cringe, however, is the consistent use of phrases like “yarn diet.”

Every week, we ooh and ahh over the stock that has come into the shop, and the various delicious yarns that are on sale, and every week the discussion that happens over whether or not to buy these things has the overtones of a Weight Watchers commercial. People have yarn ‘binges’ and then they go on yarn ‘diets.’ Those who encourage other people to buy are ‘enablers’; those who don’t buy are ‘being good,’ those who do buy are ‘being bad’ or ‘cheating’. It’s all said in a light-hearted, bantering manner, much like the discussion I mentioned in my previous post about calories that ‘don’t count.’ But it strikes a nerve with me.

I think this subset of diet language has its roots in our modern sensibility that we have consumed the Earth—mined it out, burned it up, and swathed it in deadly greenhouse gases—and that now we have to cut back, or risk paying an awful price. This type of thinking is understandable, and sound as far as it goes. But I think that it is becoming conflated with the idea that consumption–any kind of consumption, be it commercial, nutritional, sexual, or what have you—is sinful (both allegorically and literally), and that abstaining from opportunities to consume makes a person virtuous. And so, we ‘diet.’ We don’t eat, we don’t shop, we don’t do the things that would bring us pleasure. We deny ourselves in the present because we are convinced that this will make us better people in the future.

I’m not saying any of us needs to bankrupt ourselves in an orgy of shopping ‘therapy’, and I recognize that there are people out there for whom shopping is an addiction. But honestly… why shouldn’t we buy high-quality yarn, if we are going to use it and if we can afford it? We’re supporting a hard-working local retailer, and we’re financing an activity that brings us all joy, and friendship, and no small measure of satisfaction.

And why shouldn’t we, if it comes to that, eat what we like if it’s what we crave? It reminds me of something that has come up in conversations I’ve had with fellow Fats.com bloggers stitchtowhere and Lesley: the idea that diet food has to taste like crap, because then you know for sure that you are being virtuous. Except, of course, when it tastes SO good that you feel sinful (which is where the marketing fits in).

We fear this stigma, this reprisal, this disapproval that we have internalized to the point where we enact it upon ourselves. And the fear, at its core, is one of the sources of fatphobia: the idea one can only become fat through overeating, and that, therefore, all fat people are decadent, overindulgent.

Sinful.

Bad.

And if you aren’t vigilant… it could happen to you.

*Please note that I said “try” and not “do.” If you tried it and it’s not for you, no disrespect here. It’s not for everyone.


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