And hundreds of others like these. And I would look at them and then look at the price and tell myself “someday maybe I’ll be able to afford to buy all of these and I’ll have a room that looks just like Dolores Umbridge’s office but with feminist cross-stitch pieces instead of cats.”
And then one day I said to myself (I talk to myself often as you can see), “No, Mike, you will not someday buy all of these, you will someday make all of these.”
And that’s when I committed to learning to cross-stitch. Because really, what excuse does a 38-year-old man with some pocket change have for NOT learning how to cross stitch? The answer, I, you guessed it, said to myself, is, “there are no excuses. You want to learn, so learn.”
And then my partner, who is very supportive, bought me this…
And now I am a 38-year-old man who cross-stitches.
I cross-stitch in restaurants as I wait for my daughters to finish Brownies and Sparks. I cross-stitch while Gotham plays in the background on Netflix. I cross-stitch as the Instant Pot cooks our pasta meal for the night. Some people think my cross-stitch looks like the design I’m working on (Michelle Obama by the way) and sometimes they think it doesn’t (I’ve had Weird Al and Adam Duritz). But hey, I’m learning, and I’m having fun. And someday soon, I’ll have a Michelle Obama cross-stitch piece to hang in our house.
To be fair to people, when I shared the picture, it did look like this…
I have been amazed at the number of people who have come up to me to ask me what I’m working on when I cross-stitch in pubic. The response, in my case, has been overwhelmingly positive.
This is how these conversations have looked.
“Excuse me, is that yours?” someone I don’t know asks me, nodding at the cross-stitch in my hands, which are directly in front of me.
“Oh, yeah, it is,” I answer, once I confirm in my head that it is not something I’m simply holding for someone else.
“That is really neat.”
“Yeah, I decided I want to learn how to do this since I have seen so many pieces I love and don’t have $10,000 to buy them all.”
“I wish I could start something new.”
“Oh, you can, I’m not very good at it. See.” Then I show them my Michelle Obama piece to help them understand that I’m not good but doing it anyway. They usually respond with a smile. And not even an awkward one.
“Who is that?”
“It’s Michelle Obama.”
“Oh wow, that is just so neat that you’re doing that. Good luck with it! I wish I could do that.”
“Remember, you can,” I try to tell them but they are already walking away.
The masculinity problem
The question with a lot of things men choose to pick up as a hobby is rarely about whether one wants to do it or not. It’s more about what people will think if we take up that hobby. What if someone I know sees me cross-stitching? What if they see me knitting? This is a very real example of the kind of physical and emotional reaction we can have to something that goes against what the world around us has said is masculine.
Doing something you want shouldn’t be this complicated. Men who take issue with other men doing things they enjoy are, simply put, horrible people. Those who deem hobbies that have been traditionally looked at as feminine as un-manly are, simply put, horrible people. Guys, we need to support other guys. We need to stop treating feminine as lesser. Because all know damn well it’s not and we all know we’d love to be able to take part in more of these hobbies free of the weight of judgement we think will come with it.
I’m 38 years into my life I’m still unpacking a lot of the boxes that carry what I have been conditioned to think defines masculinity. Some of the boxes I’ve burned, some of them I’ve moved to the basement. Others, like the one where I have packed up the things I have wanted to do but didn’t feel I’d be supported in doing, I’m taking out and putting on the kitchen table. I’m opening them up and trying on the ideas I have left in there for too long.
My cross-stitch work may not be perfect, but the enjoyment I get out of doing it, and the conversation that has generated with men and women alike, certainly is.
One response to “38, Married, Male. Loves to Cross-Stitch”