A new friend confided in me recently that she started a new hobby and she was so embarrassed that she whispered it to me.
As we were in a crowded restaurant, I couldn't hear what she said. So, she leaned in as if she was about to tell me some godawful secret and repeated it to me, a little louder, but still soft enough so that the people next to us wouldn’t hear. She had taken up crocheting.
She blushed, put her glass of wine to her mouth and looked at me expectantly, almost fearfully, in anticipation of my response.
After all, we were just getting to know each other, and she was clearly in doubt whether her hobby choice would cast a shadow on our premature friendship.
Ridiculous, I know. But that's how many, many people think. And act. Just imagine yourself at first dates. You only share the best and most fun side of yourself.
Not the side that is lacking. Not the aspects of your personality that might cause people to feel awkward and twitch around in their chairs. Building friendships is no different. We choose what we want to share.
When it comes to hobbies, there seems to be an unspoken 'coolness score' for them. A rating, if you will. Some hobbies are simply cooler or more exciting than others.
If your favorite way to spend your free time is jumping out of airplanes, people around you will be more impressed than when you tell them that you love to crochet doilies. It’s that simple, even for something as trivial as hobbies.
I am no different.
Until a couple of years ago, I trained three days a week at the Krav Maga center in Bereldange. I was taking bag classes, which basically means kick boxing against a bag, instead of against a person.
I absolutely loved it. It was high energy; I would be completely dead after one hour but feel absolutely reinvigorated afterwards. Dead and very alive. Occasionally I sparred with one of the trainers and I had started Krav Maga. All very exciting. And very cool.
But… I also enjoy sewing. I am not great at it, but I love the creative process and I enjoy making something with my own two hands.
I have made most curtains in our house and altered clothes and I am quite happy with what I have produced on my sewing machine.
You take a guess which hobby I preferred to talk about, and which hobby people responded to with more interest. Kickboxing, of course.
The combination worked quite well for my own entertainment. People couldn’t quite imagine one person enjoying two hobbies that are so different.
However, as I wrecked my ankle and shoulder with kickboxing, I am now left with just sewing. And sewing is infinitely less cool when kickboxing is not part of the pastime mix.
I think most people have the same take on the 'coolness factor' rating in hobbies. It may be ridiculous and it’s obviously nothing official. There is no list of hobbies and their 'coolness score'.
It doesn't say anywhere that base jumping scores a 95 out of 100 and, that, I don’t know, let’s say, adult coloring books (although I have one with swear words so that one is actually pretty cool), scores 2 out of 100.
There is only that little thing called perception that comes into play.
Perception is the way most people regard a certain activity. Is it fun, dangerous, thrilling, or quiet, calm and seemingly repetitive. Do many people assess something as cool or uncool?
The question is why. I mean, isn't it ridiculous that something as personal as a favorite past-time has a judgement passed on it?
Shouldn't we just think (and say): f*** it. This is my free time. This is what I love to do, what relaxes me, what makes me happy and makes me forget everything around me?
As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, why have an opinion at all? Only when a personal hobby becomes a problem for others, we might be allowed an opinion.
I used to have a colleague who went catamaran sailing at sea every weekend. Great for him. He loved to be outside, on the water, the wind in his hair and the sea stretched out in front of him. The feeling of utter freedom.
But on a few occasions, he toppled over with the boat. If you know anything about catamaran sailing, you know that this can happen, especially on sea: when the front of the hulls (floaters for laymen) dive too deep into the water after a wave, the boat does a forward flip of 180 degrees, launching those who are on it.
So, more than once, this colleague couldn't come to work for a few weeks on end, because he had had an accident and was stuck in bed with broken bones, a concussion or whatever he had.
But this guy was 1) good-looking, 2) super nice and 3) one of two men working with 40 women. So instead of his hobby being a problem, everyone at work was quite happy to help him out and fill in for him.
I am convinced that the coolness of his hobby and the impressive images we made in our minds of his accidents only added to this.
Had he been less attractive or not so nice and had he broken his toe whilst curling (not so high on the cool-hobby index), we would have been utterly annoyed with his activity of choice and he would have had to bear the consequences at work without any help and a warning from our boss.
Life is unfair. We know that. But it has only occurred to me now that something so frivolous and seemingly unimportant as a hobby, contributes fundamentally to the unfairness of it all. It's infuriating.
Thank God for my color book of swear words.