By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I have been knitting since I was 14 years old.  It is a passion that has held me in good stead through my youthful dating years (more sweaters knit for undeserving boyfriends than I can count), marriage, divorce, singledom again, and re-marriage.  I have turned to knitting in good times and bad and the craft has not only provided me warmth and some Zen-like moments, but a whole host of friends with like-minded interests.  Only someone who also has a passion can understand the joy of immersing yourself in a hobby and learning everything you can about it.  I came to that realization a few years ago when I hosted a dinner party with people who also had a passion for something.  One guest was having a long conversation with a man about her horse show experiences when she suddenly said, “Oh, I’m so sorry.  I’m sure I’m boring you to death with this stuff.”  To which he replied, “No, I get it.  I love racing cars.  So while I don’t understand the horse show particulars, I can relate to anyone who has a passion.”  I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It was when I realized that it was less important what my hobby was than the fact that I had one, even if some people think of it as a “grandma” sport.

As I gave more thought to hobbies I decided it might be interesting to see how other people choose to spend their time – what tickles the imagination or gets people wound up.  I found the latest Harris Poll on the subject and the answer is so discouraging that I wish I could “un-know” it.  First of all, there is a wide definition of what constitutes a hobby.  For example, the number one hobby in the United States is reading.  Okay, I get that reading could be a hobby, especially if you are researching or have a particular interest in a subject matter.  But “reading” also included romance novels and magazines which, frankly, sound more like something one would do in the bathtub or while waiting for the clothes to come out of the dryer.  But at least “reading” has some virtue to it which was comforting because the second most popular hobby is “watching television”.  Wow.  Under that definition everyone who sits on a Barco lounger eating Doritos and drinking Miller Lite is taking part in their hobby.  I know people who have gotten divorced over one spouse spending too much time with their “hobby” during football season.

Gardening and fishing are also very popular, depending on the region of the country you live in, but “Computer” beat them both out.  I’d like to think that some people listed that as a pastime because they are learning about programming or graphic design.  I think the reality is that people are watching cat videos on You Tube or playing endless games of Candy Crush.  “Shopping” cracked the Top 15 in terms of hobbies but that also seems like cheating to me.  I think shopping falls into two categories:  1) things that are necessary like work clothes and groceries or 2) stuff we don’t need but buy because we’re bored/lured by a sale/haven’t hit the limit on the credit card yet.  Housework and sleeping were also on the list, which again, seem to be skirting the real definition of a hobby.  For many years my former company asked people to list their hobbies on the employment application and I can tell you that not once did anyone list “sleeping”, although we later found out the hard way that it was, in fact, their strong suit.

I’m glad that I have my knitting to sustain me.  I have a walk-in closet full of yarn and feel quite confident that in the event of a nuclear holocaust I will be able to remain in my home and entertain myself for weeks on end.  I have recently purchased a knitting machine which, despite how it sounds, is an entirely different craft and is keeping my feeble brain exercised in trying to master it.  Another reason I’m glad I knit is that I also golf.  As any golfer knows, the very act of swinging the club wreaks havoc on just about every body part.  So, as my knitter-golfer friends like to say, golfers who have no other passion are just one bad back – or rainy day – away from having nothing to do.  Maybe those guys on the PGA should learn how to knit.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Aunt BeeI was watching television the other day and up popped an advertisement for a DVD collection of the old “Andy Griffith Show“.  And, yes, you would be correct in assuming that I was not watching MTV.  Clearly the distributors are trying to tap into the sentiment some of us Baby Boomers hold for a show that reflects a much more innocent time and place.  But it was not the bucolic setting or regional twang that made me sit up and take notice.  It was the picture of Frances Bavier, who played the wonderful character of “Aunt Bee”.  She always seemed so comforting and endearing.  She was the “go to” person for problem solving and home-baked apple pie.  I wanted to know a little more about her; more  specifically, I was curious as to how old she was when she played that part.  The wonderful thing about both Google and an iPad is that all those questions we used to ask ourselves somewhat rhetorically can now be answered immediately.  So I looked up Ms. Bavier on Wikipedia and was shocked to learn that she was only 58 when she started on the show.  Jeez – I thought she was about 100.

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  It seems that whenever I’m watching a classic movie or TV show I think about how much older people used to look.  It happens with kim-cattrall-2013both sexes but is perhaps more prominent with women.  Actresses that played middle-aged moms looked plump and matronly.  They wore housedresses, sensible shoes and hats.  They ate saturated fats, tons of sugar and drank bourbon.  And in real life they were only 50 years old.   Gloria Swanson, for example, was 50 when she played the washed up movie star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”.  Contrast that with today’smovie icons.  Kim Cattrall, pictured right, was 58 when this photo was taken.  A far cry from Aunt Bee at the same age.  Of course, today’s stars have the benefit of hair color, skilled plastic surgeons and fitness trainers.  They wear designer clothes and shoes that could double as railroad spikes.  Instead of girdles they have whole-body Spanx.  This trend toward looking younger has spawned the phrase “60 is the new 40”.  I’m actually beginning to hear that “70 is the new 50”, which I think is a direct reflection of our refusal to grow old.  I’m sure by next year 80 will be the new 60.

hearing lossBut despite our outward appearances for the better, there are some things that can’t be buffed or blown or suctioned away as we age.  Teeth, for one thing.  I don’t know anyone over 60 who hasn’t had crowns, bridges, implants or root canals.  Oh sure, their teeth have been “brightened” by the latest technology but just like horses, teeth always give our age away.  Another seemingly inescapable fact of aging is bad backs.  Despite hours of sit-ups and “focusing on our core”, the back just eventually wears out.  We spent an hour at a cocktail party the other night listening to everyone’s tales about lower back pain and how it has ruined – RUINED! – their golf game.  As if they were par shooters to begin with.  Finally, the aging factor that starts more arguments than any other: hearing loss.  The most frequently uttered sentence in our house is: “What?  I can’t hear you!”  That is only rivaled by “Could you please turn that TV down/up!” (depending on who is speaking).  Sure, they make rather small and unobtrusive hearing aids these days but, like alcoholics, the first step is the hardest – admitting that you have a problem.  Which explains why so many of our friends are now watching TV in separate rooms.  It’s easier than arguing about volume and having to face the fact that we are turning into our grandparents.

But no matter how much we’re decaying on the inside, it’s good to know that if we so choose, we women can sustain a more youthful outward appearance with a little effort and a lot of money.  Or we can put on a jaunty little flowered hat and try to exude the same kindly, well-worn and lovable countenance as Aunt Bee.   The point is – we have options.  Welcome to the new middle ages.