Three years ago, I stumbled across the fact that the crocheting I had been taught by my Grandmother was an intact part of my muscle and cognitive memory. I hadn't kept it up since learning it as a pre-teen, but suddenly in my fifties, it became obsessively engaging and soothing! I hadn't taken to it at the time I was being taught, probably because I automatically rejected things that were stereotypical, gender-specific at the time of my upbringing. As such, needlework, fiber-arts, or cooking were a definite NO-NO for my self image.
It really stung, though, when I was forced to choose between Home Economics and Accountancy at our small Catholic school (150 students total, and 15 in my Senior Year), and I HATED Accountancy EVEN MORE PASSIONATELY than Home Ec. I was embarrassed to be taking it. It seemed like such a bad fit for me.
There was no option, as far as my parents were concerned, to switch schools where more choices were available (putting their daughter in a government school was NOT an option, and the next closest Catholic school for girls was too far away to be viable), so I cringingly chose Home Ec. It forced me to study Mothercraft (bizarrely, taught by a nun!!!! Go figure), Needlework, Sewing, Nutrition, Cooking, and Home Decorating - everything I rebelled against as definitions of who I was, or wanted to be. In our senior year, we created the outfit we would wear at our Senior Prom - it was required to have an inlay as the technique to learn - it turned out horribly! All I liked was the color.
So, back to the present. Despite my inner rebellion, and my determination not to focus on skills exclusively for women when I was growing up, I'm in a place now where I've discovered that some of these skills give me pleasure (and I can savor a glass of brandy at the fireside while I do it, or binge-watch an adventure TV series).
The pleasure for me is in the creative challenge, to form something new and unique, as well as in the soothing process (when it goes smoothly) that accompanies it. After reviving my crocheting skills, a friend's recent project to spread 'love and encouragement to women who are emerging from difficult circumstances' (https://shelleyburbank.com/blog/) has inspired me to try my hand at knitting.
And, joy! I can do this, too! I was taught about 50 years ago, with little to no practice in the interim. I don't seem to have the mental obstacles and fears I had as a child when I was tackling these activities. I feel freer and way more confident. There's no fear of failure, or wasting my parent's resources that were invested in buying the patterns, fabrics, matching thread, buttons and zippers, or yarns and different sized needles. Plus, YouTube has been an invaluable resource to learn and follow new patterns and stitches, for free.
How exciting it has been to find uses for knowledge and skills long buried.