The Face of a Knitter

I was doing some errands earlier this morning. I had to step into Target and get a few things. I’m on foot, of course, but it’s only an 8 minute walk. I have on my backpack, my ball cap.

As I get closer to the front door, I see another man very similar to myself also approaching. I allow him to walk in first. He’s obviously one of the homeless guys that live on the corner of Primrose in the weekly hotel just a block away.

He has on a ball cap, a backpack, jeans and whatever shoes he has at his disposal. His skin is weathered, and looks like red leather; his eyes are dim, his face mostly hidden behind a week of not shaving. He looks much older than his middle-aged status, but his experiences in this life have aged him so much more.

We travel down the same aisles, both in search of something. And the whole while he’s just a few feet ahead of me. And I keep studying him, looking at him….remembering what my life was like then, back when I was homeless.

A store clerk asks him is she can help him find anything. He says, “Oh, yes. Please, where can I find some sunscreen?”

She politely tells him which aisle he can find it on. I keep walking of course, but I hear over my shoulder, “Is there something I can help you find?”

I turn around, but she’s not even talking to me. She’s talking to another ball cap, back pack, weathered, red leather skinned man in the “middle-age” of his life. He tells the clerk he’s looking for white socks. She sees me stop and asks if there is something she can help me with.

I couldn’t speak. I had NO words to say back….I stood there with my mouth open, watching the whole beautifully weird scenario being played out.

She thought I was one of those homeless guys.

I just muttered, “No, I’m good. Thank you! Thank you, though.”

I finished my shopping, got home, and went to go look at myself in the mirror. Saw the homeless man I used to be still staring back at me! Yeah….

This look….it hasn’t changed. Sometimes I begin to think my mindset hasn’t either. But, I’m too far gone from homeless now. No, no. I am not going back there again. Hell or high water.

But, I still look like him, though. I still look like I did when I was homeless.

I don’t know why! Maybe because I’m too busy knitting that I don’t CARE what I look like?

(And you know what’s funny? I rarely look at my reflection. I know, you may think “BS!” but it’s so true. I walk right by mirrors. Some days I catch a glimpse and I’m freaking AMAZING!….other days I walk by and wonder if the ghost of Don Knotts is borrowing my mirror. Either way, I’d rather my self empowerment come from the things I do and not by what I look like. So….)

But, today I stood right in front of that mirror and took a long look at everything that was wrong with me when it comes to the marketing of social media stars. Yes, I’m weathered, red leather skinned, back pack, ball cap, “middle aged” and white….

Dammit, I guess that’s just the way it is.

(Did that “white” comment sting? I hope not. Because if you are going to use your race to identify with you, then perhaps I should identify myself, too. I’m a white, middle aged, conservative gay man who identifies as “Gregory” ((or as the kids are calling me now, “GP,”)) and “Mad Man Knitting,” who knits.

Now, see? If you had just LOOKED at that picture of me without text, you might have said an awful lot about the idea you have of me. “He is probably this, probably that, probably does this, probably does that.”

But, that’s the face of a knitter! Maybe not the one you want, but it IS the face of a knitter!

That face may not be the most preferred at the moment, but it is the face of a knitter! I went viral because knitters saw a fellow knitter in trouble and they helped. In ANY way they could. Because knitters come in all sorts of glorious shapes, sizes, genders and colors…and those glorious shapes, sizes, genders and colors are irrelevant because we are knitters 🙂

(Terms like “shapes, sizes, genders and colors” should only be referenced in knitting patterns.)

So I ask of you, you that are on a quest for diversity in knitting: should this diversity really be about shapes, sizes, genders and colors?

Of course, not.

I would LOVE for you to invite me to the diversity table….

But, I get it if you don’t. We don’t see eye to eye on what real diversity is. You think it’s skin color, gender….

The real diversity of knitting rests on all the beautiful, strange, wild, and interesting people that are called to this craft, who are wanting to learn from this craft, and want to contribute to this craft based only on their love for variegated skeins, and not on their victim status. They want to enjoy this moment, when knitting is soulful, not superficial. This is where knitting matters: when the least person you suspect, because of their appearance, is a knitter!

Knitting is a soulful craft, it isn’t a superficial one.

The next time you see a homeless guy with a back pack, ball cap, weathered, red leather skin…..think about it.

That guy could be a knitter….

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  1. First and foremost, just because someone is homeless, does not mean the have no value as a person-you know that but many don’t. Lumping the homeless into a big category and assigning meaning to their personhood is bs. Secondly, I have only seen your photos on screen, but when I see your them, I see humor and humanity, I see someone I’d like to hang with, knitting optional. In your post, the clerk sounded like a polite, helpful person-good for them. My husband looks a tad disreputable with his gray beard, rumpled sometimes tattered,stained carhartts and neck reddened by the sun, I have seen snotty people dismiss him as a yokel, but in fact he is kind, brilliant and wise. So the folks who judge others by appearance are doomed to live a shallow life, bling simply reflects light but does not absorb its warmth. Keep on posting, your words are highly valued by your readers.

      1. Look, I’m 62, I have lived an interesting life so far. I tried to be an opera signer but failed, I worked with snotty academics and I was a 911 operator for many years. I have lived a hard but blessed life. I have learned to value beauty over what merely seems beautiful, Your words reveal a beautiful heart. Your journey has led you to a very special place wherein your words bring hope and beauty and snort your cocktail out of your nose humor to your readers, Bravo.

  2. Hey Gregory, move to Idaho! All the men wear ball caps, T-shirts and cargo pants…even to Mass. I think you are a very handsome man but may need to buy more camo! So sad in our modern culture we place so much emphasis on our shell when true beauty can only be realized by the actions of the heart.

  3. Gregory – you seem to be apologetic. Live your life and enjoy it!!

    My son lives in Idaho. He served EOD in the military for close to 30 years. Most deployments were in Iraq/Afghanistan/Kuwait – all those places with hellish climates. He is fair skinned. Whenever he goes into Boise with his dog, people walk up to him and try to give him money, the coffee shops offer him his coffee for free. If it has happened once it’s happened a hundred times. He Laughs about it. He likes to wear the cami material jackets too. He likes the weight of them, and when he goes backpacking they are more durable than most. So, insofar as the homeless look goes – people just don’t know.

  4. Since this Ravelry nightmare starting, your writing is AMAZING, when I see your posts, I save it so I can enjoy during my quiet time. I look forward to your posts.

  5. I agree with Nina. It’s so nice to read your posts, particularly after the “Ravelry Nightmare”. Casey Forbes took those actions to destabilize and divide our community. He purposefully tried to hurt us to forward his left wing agenda. It’s so wonderful to be free of Ravelry and find out that there are real knitters out there to connect with. (I think Ravelry has officially become a place for non-knitters.)

  6. Wow, i am truly non plussed. I have never met a male knitter before. I know a few homeless veterans and several gay people, but never a male knitter. Be proud of your skills! And every time i see a homeless person, i always think “There but for the grace of God, go i”
    I will be following your blog from now on…….

  7. This guy is such a low life. He harasses people(mostly women) that dont agree with him. Has them doxxed. The next thing he’ll do is have someone swatted. Yes, I’ve got “receipts”.

      1. I’m guessing that Jen is talking about Casey Forbes. Women who questioned the new policy on Ravelry were doxed.

  8. This is a real conversation that we all need to be having. I know that I look nothing like the social media stars or celebrities that flood my view. I am a knitter, who just so happens to be a black woman, a mother, grandmother and I live just above poverty. But the thread that should bind us, the focus of our collective commonality should be the things that we have in common, such as our love of knitting. I agree that the only time color, shape and size should come up is when discussing a pattern. But even in knitting, that really doesn’t matter. We all need to learn that lesson. Great writing

  9. oh I so agree, I never see myself in the mirror, in fact I joke when folk take a picture some fat little old lady gets in the way. We are often to quick to judge and make statements on folk, I am so glad she saw your guys and if she saw you too then that is fine, you are worth seeing in everyway ❤ I am autistic and see the world at 90 degrees to most folk anyway 😀

  10. I grew up with male knitters (my Grandfather was one of them), so it never occurred to me that it was unusual. Grandfather had been a fisherman, so textile arts were part of his trade. He used to knit me scarfs for Christmas.

  11. Gregory, I look at your picture and I see someone who looks like every guy in my area. I live high up in North Georgia and these are what men look like around here. Its what I like men to look like. You look like you’re about to go hunt you some dinner or get under the hood of an old truck. The kind with no computers. The Pastor of the church has long hair…the Deacon has long long hair.
    I wish you lived next door to me. A friend to knit with! You’re smart, you’re kind and I bet we’d have a lot of laughs, together and my husband would not be jealous 😉
    I saw 3 middle aged men with backpacks, walking up 515 today. That was pretty unusual. I wonder if any of them had yarn in those backpacks.

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