we’re all friends here; maybe that’s the problem

by Charlotte

I used to sit on the editorial board of a student-run literary journal. There were six of us: the two breathlessly sensitive artistes (poetry and fiction) and one hardass (managing editor), plus our three guppies (editors-in-training). Guess which one I was. My comments were often met with whoops and giggles, as if I were trying to be mean. The writers and artists were never in the room, and I didn’t think we were doing anyone any favors by mincing words or instilling false hope. Rip. Off. The Bandage. There’s a frankness that I think that we owe people we respect and whose work we value. My co-editors. . .disagreed.

There’s a point here. Reader, I don’t know if we’re doing this right. Do I think that the sewing community should adopt the Charlotte Witherspoon approach to human interaction? HALL no. We all know that I’m going to end up alone, smoking mentholated cigarettes in a housecoat and rollers at the supermarket, while muttering to myself about personal space. It’s just that sometimes I wonder if we’re navigating this new social frontier as well as possible, you know?

I’m not saying that I think we’re dishonest (I say “we” because I am so totally in this bag, too), but rather that blogs tend to be obtuse when things aren’t so great. I spend my days parsing texts for greater meaning; I totally don’t want to come home and do that with blogs. What’s the difference between “The instructions were richly detailed and excellent for a beginner, but the pattern was poorly drafted,” and “The instructions were excellent, and I had to make the following adjustments: Add three inches to the sleeves, two to the hem, redraft the darts, adjust the zipper placement, lift the neckline, resize the waistband, and take in the hips. Personal preference, though”?

I bring this up because I came across a few less-than-laudatory offhand comments in some blog posts (eta: not reader comments, but the blogger’s comments about indie patterns or books)—some posts were more recent, others I found while dicking around in your archives. It was bracing, you guys. I’m no shrinking violet (uni is basically one step away from being a knife fight), but I was shocked. Now I have to wonder why. These weren’t personal comments, they weren’t offensive, they were rather direct and gently critical, but I just did not see them coming. Honestly? It was nice. Often, when I work with a pattern or book that everyone has l.o.v.e.d. but that I don’t quite get, I wonder if y’all are all better at this than I am (you are, hands down), or if there’s something that’s missing.

Maybe it’s because the sewing community is such a consciously friendly space? I have friends in the theater, and I’d never say, “The lighting was great, but I don’t think the piece gave you too much to work with. Frankly, it was not your best, but at least it’s over!” But! If I go see someone else’s performance, I feel completely comfortable being honest. This might explain why we all seem to put the kid gloves on for indie patterns but rip into the contemporary Big Four.

Here’s the thing, though: there are people on both sides of this fence. There are people in my friend’s five-minute play in some basement on the one still-dangerous block in the East Village, just as there are people in the big-budget Tennessee Williams revival. There are people who draft Big Four patterns, who answer phones, who style the shoots, and sew the clothes. Some of them read our blogs and read about how much they suck, in plain language. Granted, we don’t know the names of their cats, or that they like Motown music, or prefer green tea to black, but they’re still there, just a step out of our reach. Is distance or money why we don’t extend the same delicacy to them?

I have a HUGE test on Tuesday, yet I can’t quite shake this thought. Think of this (not proofread) post as more of a brain dump than anything.

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