Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That Little Yarn Thing

Something happened over the weekend that I've been chewing on for the past few days. As much as we laughed about it at the time, it probably shouldn't be bugging me as much as it does. But since it keeps popping into my head I'm going to share it with you and see what you think.

We were at a party on Saturday and Michael ran into an old friend from the advertising world and they talked shop for awhile. Keep in mind that both of these people run one person agencies. What people in their industry call freelancers. The question "how's business?" came up. They discussed ups and downs and talked about who'd they'd seen recently and what agency had won or lost this client or that. After a few minutes, his friend asked, "Is your wife still doing that little yarn thing?".















(Gratuitous picture of husband hard at "work".)

"...still doing that little yarn thing?" Huh? This is someone that's known my husband for fifteen years. He and I aren't great friends but we've seen each other around over the years. Now I recognize that the world of yarn is very small and that not everyone is as tuned in as I'd like them to be, but "that yarn thing" struck me as odd. And the addition of "little" got under my skin.

Maybe I should be flattered that he remembered that I work in yarn in the first place. After all, it's not a very common profession. I've become accustomed to the confused looks I get when I tell someone I own a yarn company. And I've learned enough over time to omit the "hand-dyed" part, that just complicates things.

Certainly I was amused, but somehow the question felt condescending, even sexist. It made me feel that working in yarn isn't a legitimate way to make a living. That it's really just a hobby. Sure, Lorna's Laces is a small, artisan business, but it's no less a business than advertising or manufacturing nuts and bolts.

Am I being too thin skinned? Or reading more into it than I should? What do you think?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have to agree with you that it was a bit sexist. I can't imagine anyone saying something like that about a traditionally male business. "So, is your husband still doing that little auto body shop?"

MB@YarnUiPhoneApp said...

That yarn thing? Does the friend realize that you employ a staff? That you help improve the quality of lives for these people? That Chicago's a better place for Lorna's Laces? That it brights up Ravenswood? That you can see "the yarn thing" in flash while you're on Metra train headed south to the Loop?

momsue84 said...

I would have been insulted, too. Little yarn thing??? He doesn't seem to understand that you run one of the most respected yarn companies in the industry. That people drool over your colors and yarns like a kid in a candy store. Oh, send him my way. I'll wise him up in a hurry!!

Tina said...

I don't think it's sexist, rather that the person doesn't understand the industry. It's like when people look at handcrafted items and say "you're so crafty". Some people might intend it to be condescending, but most just don't have the knowledge for the "right" vocabulary, which would be the same as any business.

Your (or DH's) best reply would be to casually cite how many stores nationwide you've grown, or another business ROI. You have to present it as a business first to your friends for them to start taking it seriously as a business. They may never understand that you have a business that you have a passion...not many people have found that secret.

Good luck!

Annie said...

Maybe he was under the impression that you're having a bit of a fling with Marly ("yarn thing") Bird and he wanted to know if you were still "doing" her?

My head's in the gutter. Delete this if you feel it's in bad taste. Oh, the humanity...

Mom of many said...

It is like asking if my husband is still doing that little healthcare thing, or yours if he is still doing that little advertising thing? How annoying... Keep doing your BIG yarn thing and pox on his house.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit the word "little" is what set me off. I agree with the person that said that the friend obviously doesn't understand the business at all. If this is not the first time this sort of comment has been made I think your husband needs to find a comeback line. Something like - "Well, that little yarn thing grossed $XX last year." Or "That little yarn thing increase sales X% last year and it looks like we're going to increase again this year." Or better yet - "Does your wife knit? Ask her if she's heard of Lorna's Laces."

Lorna's Laces said...

Great ideas! I like the idea of having a simple, factual reply. Like sales have been great and we're shipping to X number of countries now. Better to educate than alienate.

NanciKnits said...

Your reaction is an umderstandable knee-jerk response, but unless you've heard other like coomments, then I agree, he may not be aware of the industry and your business. Why not invite him to tour your site? Then he'll know what you do and understand better. Oh, and don't whine about what he said- just be friendly. I'll bet after that he will have a new found respect for you and the profession and the two of you will become friends.

Jen said...

I am offended on your behalf. I probably would have crossed my arms and looked him in they eye and said, "Are you still......little?" But, then again, I tend to not think before I speak. Regardless, even if he doesn't understand the yarn industry, he should understand manners and asking that question in that way was insulting.

poetryinyarn said...

I know how you feel. I think the term "little" is the problem. It seems...dismissive.

I just get frustrated when I get ready to go to a trade show and people tell me to enjoy my vacation. "It's a business trip, not a vacation," I tell them. "You're going without kids," they say. "It's a vacation". Sigh.

Anonymous said...

My CPA doesn't think of it as that little yarn thing

Anonymous said...

I bet the IRS doesn't either.

LAUREN said...

You should add him to mailing lists so that he can see your little yarn thing isn't such a little thing!

Quiltgirl said...

Condescending? Absolutely. Sexist - probably. Not very smart - absolutely. After all, he's a freelancer in advertising - isn't that one of the all time dog eat dog, who you know businesses? His stupid condescending remark means he'll probably never get your recommendation as an ad guy when someone in your network is looking. And given the reach of your business across the country and around the world that is no small loss to him.

Lorena said...

I see it as condescending, but not necessarily sexist. Craftist, maybe. But I was raised by novelists, people who didn't have "real" jobs. I can't count the number of times my father was asked, or people would ask me about him, "is he still just writing?". People who have traditional jobs, in a traditional workspace, and have traditional ways of thinking, don't *get it.* They don't see being a creative force as WORK (or they're frightened that unlike them, you're smart and strong enough to make it happen), because it's outside the norm. They either have to belittle it because someone who can make a living outside the norm frightens them, makes them jealous, or makes them think, secretly, "I wish I could do that."

I really recommend you hunt for a copy of an essay by Anne Tyler, called "Still Just Writing" (erm, I may be able to find you an offsite backup storage copy of that, if you can't find it around) because she talks about juggling a creative career with actually living a life, and the reactions she has when people asking if she's still just doing that writing thing.

Just.

Hah.

Whatever!

Anonymous said...

You should yarnbomb his house! ;o)

Marcy said...

Someone who makes a comment like that is just plain IGNORANT!!! He's not even worth the time it would take to explain the scope of your business. Chalk it up to his insecurity about his own success, and know that the people that count (your clients, colleagues, and family) value what you do. If it helps, snickering is allowed!

Tama said...

where can I find the new yarn with Outlast? I have tried everywhere and no one has it. Some places haven't even heard of it.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't have a grasp on the industry. A good opportunity to educate him. Then he will say more than once, " I have this friend whose wife started a yarn business and it is amazing what she's accomplished" and you will have publicity from a little advertising business...FREE

bettlejuice said...

It is just like a man to say , little. Yes ,it is condescending only if you let it be. He is envious that his friend has a wife doing so well. Or he was intending on gloating that you didn't do well.

WE all know how well you are doing . I like the handdyed part.

Lisa - Atlanta said...

My Dad always had a great come back "I am sorry you feel that way"
We who love the fiber industry understand. I would also suggest a conversation with him next time you see him. Tell him you are sorry he does nit understand the international business you have :-). It is more important how you feel about what you do not how he feels. Smile on the way to the bank next trip!

krayolakris said...

Yes, both condescending and sexist and obviously clueless. So many possible comebacks...none of them fit for the blog haha! (little being a key word)

Sherryl Netzler said...

Just clueless. It is so outside his realm of reality that he cannot relate to it as a legitimate business. If his wife was a knitter he would be all over it.

Syd said...

Oh baby! That was plain and simple condescending! A one person advertising business making a comment like that regarding a going concern like Lorna's Laces? I understand it is out of his view of the world, but it was OUT OF LINE. You have every right to feel offended. I am offended!

p said...

He's an ass. Acknowledge and move on.
p

Jo Anne W-M said...

Initially, his comment really raised my hackles. After a bit more thought, I also agree that the friend obviously doesn't understand the business at all. Some people don't realize how their choice of words is interpreted. At least he's not your husband. I'd be more interested in how your husband responded to the comment.

yarnaholic said...

I think that the adjective "little" was condescending! However your company provides jobs for several people. Keep doing your thing!!!

martha said...

I agree with P. Also add word s pompous and ignorant. And yes sexist too.

Linda said...

Well, I'm offended. I wish I knew his clients, so I could boycott them.

Joy said...

Mainly clueless and NOT very bright. Don't let the turkeys get you down ;o)

Becky said...

Lorna's Laces worsted is my favorite yarn. I don't think you do a little yarn thing. Keep on doing what you do. It's a wonderful thing.

(He sounds like a bit of a jerk!)

Elizabeth said...

His comment was definitely patronizing, and for anyone who doubts whether it's sexist, ask yourself whether you can imagine him saying to a man, "You still doing that little insurance thing?" Or, better yet, if that man was in the yarn business, could you even imagine him being asked "You still doing that little yarn thing?"

marion said...

I agree with the comments about him being ignorant.The woman in me, agrees he is an a.. but the best is an opportunity to educate him in the reality of yarn and all that you do to make my knitting life so very much sweeter. Marion

Anonymous said...

Definitely sexist. It reminds of going to my husband's family reunion a few years ago. Making initial small talk with people my husband hadn't seen in years, they would ask my husband what he did for a living. They would then turn to me and ask if I worked. "Yes, I'm an attorney." (at the time making twice as much as my husband)

kewpiedoll99 said...

I thought it was condescending too. But people also just don't get it when you work in a creative world.

Here's a link to the Anne Tyler essay:

http://books.google.com/books?id=CpnlIEbkpNcC&lpg=PA3&ots=lcJ4Wt75ri&dq=still%20just%20writing%20anne%20tyler&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q=still%20just%20writing%20anne%20tyler&f=false

Peggysuez said...

The word choice was definitely patronizing. I wasn't there to hear the tone, but I would imagine, if your radar went off, that the tone also was condescending. You make a living at it . . .helloooo!!! And I get offended when people make smart remarks about my hobbies, much less my freelance writing income . . .

Anonymous said...

"That little yarn thing"? I live in the UK and have heard of and love your yarn? So not only does your product travel the globe, but you manage to promote it extremely well! You might like to ask him how many transatlantic customers he has!

Anonymous said...

Lorena, I heartily applaud your comment, but please don't label all the people that do traditional jobs as people who 'don't get it'. I work in a typical 9-5 and really appreciate how much work people who work as novelists, yarn dyers etc. do! (It's what makes the 9-5 bit palatable!)

Erin Curry said...

Anon on Lorena's comment, she really meant that "traditional ways of thinking" part too not just nine to five. I know her and promise she wasn't belittling nine to fivers, just pointing out some people are unfamiliar with the work involved in small or craft/creative (goodness why do I hate that word so much?) businesses and can be really caustic when it comes to referring to it as perfectly exhibited by husband friend.

The original post is really amusing to me because even from my first introduction to Lorna's Laces in my local yarn store,the scale was epic in my head. It is still epic, just not precisely in the way I first imagined it.