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.