Stranger in a Strange Land

Greetings and salutations, one and all!

A couple of months back Karin asked me to write a guest post here and share a little piece of me. So the natural question is, who am I? That’s a great question. Simply put: I am a man in a woman’s world. I’ll explain that in more detail in a few moments.

Karin and I met years ago through Ravelry, a website for knitters and crocheters. Not only that, but we met in a fanfic group in Ravelry. Needless to say, this is not the common place to find men hanging out. I can honestly say that it all started with my wife. You see, about 9 or 10 Christmases back my poor little wife was knitting her fingers off trying to finish some presents. So, like an idiot, I offered to learn how to knit just in order to help finish up some last minute gifts, and I ended up knitting two Gryffindor scarves, one for each of our sons. Then, being a massive Whovian, I took the time to knit THE scarf. That’s right… the 19′ long replica of Tom Baker’s Doctor Who scarf. I then got paid to knit a scarf of
someone’s Scarfcollege colors. And I just king of kept going. So here I have been knitting off and on for about 9 years now. (It sure doesn’t seem that long.)

It was from this interest that my wife introduced me to Ravelry. It was there that she introduced to the fanfic community that she had entrenched herself in. I very quickly came to realize just how awesome most of these ladies were. (I don’t think I was the only guy in that group, but I was the most vocal for quite a while there.)

Then, over time, I wrote a small fanfic based on Twilight. Then I joined a Twilight fanfic competition. I didn’t win, but I did enjoy writing. As it happens, I am a history professor, and I decided to combine my interests of fiction writing with my fascination with the American Civil War. I sat down and created a detailed outline for my would-be fanfic, a 7-chapter story to be titled “The Home Guard.” However as I researched and plotted and wrote, what came out was a 47-chapter tome far more in-depth than I ever imagined.

So let’s get back to earlier comment about being a man in woman’s world. It is a very interesting thing having these hobbies as both a man and a professor. For example, whenever I walk into a yarn store, there is almost immediate condescension from staff. (I often joke that this must be how women are treated in hardware stores.) When I meet women who knit, they usually drop some kind of comment such as, “oh, you knit? How cute.”

I also commonly get laughed at by students questioning my masculinity when I proudly admit my hobby. Then I get to drop the knowledge bomb on them that the concept of knitting as “women’s work” is a very recent concept. Knitting, historically speaking, was largely “man’s work.” In fact, I even use knitting to teach the Industrial Revolution (handmade crafts vs. machine made crafts and the knowledge and skill set required for each) and I bring in a scarf I made to compare with a store bought one. I also take that into a brief economics lesson about how much a handknit craft would cost if you paid someone minimum wage for their efforts. To say students are shocked would be an understatement.

Then there’s the concept of a guy writing Twilight-based fanfiction. Needless to say, this isn’t exactly something that most people would associate with menfolk and certainly not from a college professor. Sadly, this is the one thing that I still do not proudly advertise. However there are two reasons for this. Firstly, there is quite a professional stigma with writing fanfiction. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I don’t usually share my work with people I know in real life because I am so self conscious about my writing and quite unsure of my abilities there (and this is the sole reason I haven’t introduced myself by name here).

In spite of this “stranger in a strange land” approach that I have taken here and often experience whether I’m talking in knitting or fanfic communities, I can honestly say that there is one valuable lesson that I have learned from this: it truly doesn’t matter what others may think about your hobbies. If it brings you joy, it doesn’t matter what others think. And remember you’re only a stranger until you introduce yourself to those around you. So, with this in mind, let me stand up, do just that.

Hi. My name is Derek. I’m a knitter and a very self conscious author.

I’d like to thank Karin for this opportunity to say hi, and to each of you for reading my meager ramblings.


3 thoughts on “Stranger in a Strange Land

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