NOTE 01.08.19 7:30 pm CT:
I’ve offended many people with this post, and for that I am deeply sorry. Please read my comment here.
And 01.12 Please read my follow-up about what’s wrong with this post here.
After a lifetime of mostly thinking January 1st is irrelevant and spurning the making of resolutions, this year I find myself so awash in thoughts and wishes and goals and reflections that I’m having trouble even beginning to put them into sentences, much less paragraph order. Not to mention I’ve had my hands (and brain) so full these past few weeks with holiday business and the new Fringe Supply Co. website and the launch of the Steekalong (etc, etc) that I haven’t been able to look any of this squarely in the face, or sit still with it, or let it talk back to me. So bear with me as I try to say at least some fraction of what I want to say.
The bottom line will be: I’m different.
I’m older than I was a couple of weeks ago. As in, the dawn of a new decade. And I have an older husband. A couple of years ago, having made it through assorted health scares and setbacks, and having my fun-loving husband back on his feet, I became wide-awake aware of the fact that I’m not going to live forever and I have not seen the world, and neither had he, and we want to see the world. A big part of moving from San Francisco to Nashville is we wanted to see the world. Living there, far from our families, and spending all of our money on the cost of living there, pretty much any travel we were able to do was to see family — and even that was getting harder and more expensive. How were we ever going to see Paris or Istanbul or the Congo? So we moved to where it’s easy enough to see family — just hop in the car — that we could do much more of that, but also save money and spend it on travel. (This was one of many factors, but a big one.)
People who know us would likely describe us as gutsy and adventuresome. We’d been all up and down the west coast hiking backcountry trails and climbing rock walls and whatnot. We’ve both seen most of the U.S. But when it came to international travel, we … well, I guess we just didn’t know how to say yes to that. It seems so daunting. So foreign! And it might have been, twenty years ago, but now with debit cards and iPhones, there’s not a lot of difference between traveling to Paris Texas and Paris France, functionally speaking. Except we didn’t know that because we were too nervous to try it. (Or “too busy” or recovering from surgery or, you know.) It was so much easier to just keep not going. Until one day we decided we didn’t want to find ourselves old or infirm and wishing we’d gone while we could.
So we decided we would go to Paris. Keep it simple, just one city, and I kinda know the language. And if we only ever made it to one place, hey, at least we’d seen Paris! We still thought we didn’t know how, but we decided if we just picked some dates and bought some plane tickets, we’d be forced to figure it out, so that’s what we did. And in April of 2017, we went to Paris. Other than the cost and length of the flights — and ok, the fact that some people couldn’t understand us and vice versa — it was just like traveling to any other big city we’d ever been in. And that was pretty thrilling and emboldening, but like we walked everywhere (took a cab twice) and never left the city. And I kinda know the language. Everywhere else still seemed sort of daunting! But we loved it and we made a pact that we would leave the country at least once a year for as long as we’re able. Which we half-did in 2018.
When I got the chance to tag along to Portugal last June, it wound up being at the expense of Bob leaving the country. (We almost went back to Paris for my big birthday last month, but decided on the desert with loved ones instead.) If you ever have the chance to travel with friends who are really good at it — or this is why people do group tours, I now understand — you should do that. Again, what I learned is it’s not that hard or different, in this day and age. And although the flights can be more expensive than domestic travel, it can be cheaper overall. My elaborate trip to Portugal was a bargain compared to our few days in SF in September. But this time I was with people who simply rented cars and plugged an address into Google Maps, just like at home, and off we went all over the country. What I got to experience there, as I mentioned at the time, left me SO hungry for more.
I want to see the world. And more important, I want to be a person who says yes more.
So far this is a long way of telling you I plan to wear more color. This year’s resolution: Wear color. Be color. Live in color.
I didn’t wear makeup for about twelve years. I simply didn’t want to. I had loved makeup in earlier years, but had started to feel like the only time I looked in the mirror and thought “ahhhh, that’s better” was when I looked up from washing my face. So I just stopped one day (the day I returned from my first backpacking trip, actually), and over time I decided I wouldn’t start again for any reason other than that it felt appealing and fun to me. I wouldn’t succumb to any external pressure to do it — because we are expected to, and you have to explain yourself if you choose not to, which seems really backwards to me. (I have a whole book of thoughts on this subject.) But eventually I did find myself actually wanting to wear a little bit of makeup, and so now I do.
Likewise, I used to wear more color than I do now. I’ve never been an Anna Maltz or a Libby Callaway or even a Meghan Fernandes — to name just a few friends whose facility with color I admire — but there was color. In particular, pink.
Here are three of my favorite outfits of my life:
1. Going off to sleepaway camp for the first time at age 12 or so, and feeling even more pressure about what I wore than any first day of school, I wore a tube top in a hot pink and white awning stripe under pale pink overall shorts with white Keds.
2. Working at JC Penney in high school while there was a trendy co-branded collection with a hot British brand (these were early Madonna days), I bought the hot pink sleeveless cotton mock-neck sweater and — how did I never make this connection before — a long tube skirt in hot pink and white awning stripe. And I had a perfectly matched pair of hot pink flats.
3. Heading to family-friends’ house for Christmas one year when we were all alone in CA, and feeling kind of glum, I wore my security-blanket grey sweatshirt with my raspberry pink chinos and black boots. I called those my happy pants.
I had fun getting dressed when I was in my teens, twenties, even thirties. I was more playful with color and shape — easier because, as we’ve well established, I was constantly refilling and reinventing my closet. Ever since committing to making more of my own clothes (and thus wanting the effort to pay off) and trying to be more mindful of what I’m putting into my closet, I’ve been playing it safe. Partly it’s because I moved across the country with so little and had to reestablish those basic building blocks of a functioning closet — all the more important in a small closet with slow turnover.
Are you still with me? Here’s what all that travel stuff had to do with this: I’m going to India this year.
I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. I’ve a lifelong obsession with the literature and history of the continent. Photos of India fill me with longing like no other place. One of my closest friends from that pink-striped tube skirt era (we originally met at JC Penney) is Indian, and her family had offered back then that if I ever wanted to go with them on one of their trips, I could. To a suburban midwestern teenager with a severe anxiety disorder, that was like being offered a seat on a flight to Mars. It was fun to think about, but are you kidding me? I was so young and dumb then that I didn’t even partake of her mother’s Indian cooking. (Talk about regrets!)
In recent years, my wish to go there had intensified. And then there came a point where I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. Bob has no interest, and it’s not like I’m going to go by myself. So when? How? I’d have to content myself with books and movies, and it was sad to think that way. Then about six weeks ago, the opportunity presented itself — a chance to go with a friend who’s been. I talked it over with Bob and we agreed I should do it. And I took a hard gulp and pushed a button. I said yes. And I felt like the top of my head was going to fly off, I was so indescribably excited. Within 48 hours, three of those friends of mine who are so much better travelers than me — but who are all equally humbled at the idea of actually going to India — also said yes. There has hardly been a single day since that I haven’t said in disbelief, either in my head or out loud, I’m going to India.
I’m not sure which is the chicken and which the egg, but I feel color coming on, and it feels very much related. I find myself desperately craving not grey but pink. I want those raspberry chinos back, and to figure out how to make more vibrant color work for me again. If I can go to India, I can do anything — I’m pretty sure. (Honest to god, I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day about the inevitability and nearness of colonizing Mars, and I was like “I’d book a seat for that.” Ha!)
If there’s one thing I truly believe it’s that we never really know what we’re capable of. Deciding to wear pink pants is nothing compared to deciding to go to India. But I think it’s important to listen to ourselves and hear those rumblings. To never box ourselves into our own or anyone else’s narrow definition of who we are. We contain multitudes.
So here’s the other thing I want to say, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner than the end of a remarkably long piece of writing. Last month I was reading this post about self-care on Mason-Dixon — about negative self-talk and specifically about negative body talk. I don’t really do the latter — or haven’t in the past decade or so — but I do have an inner nag. She’s mean and demeaning and she almost never shuts up. I am really not living up to her standards on a daily basis. But what I realized while reading that particular article is that my inner bitch is not just mean; she is specifically a fearmonger. I’ve been through a lot in the last thirty years — divorce, failed business, toxic work situations, foreclosure — all of which I treasure as growth experiences (I wouldn’t be where I am now), but I have a certain amount of PTSD. Since our ability to feed and clothe ourselves right now depends entirely on the continued success of Fringe Supply Co., she’s always taunting me about what will happen when I figure out how to screw it up, which of course she feels certain I’ll do.
I know from living this long that things are good and then they’re not so good and then they’re good again and then they’re bad again … — it’s cyclical, not a straight line through some difficulty to happily every after, as Hollywood would have us believe. So she spends every day lying in wait for the moment when it goes bad next, and reminding me it’s coming. Which makes it hard to just enjoy the good while it’s good, you know?
So once I realized all of that, I punched her in the face. I’ve booked a trip to India. I put our house in order, figuratively speaking. (Still working on the actual piles!) And in 2019, you’ll see me wearing pink pants.
RIP, fearmonger — I’ve got a life to live.
. . .
Here’s the too long / didn’t read version of my 2019 Resolutions:
-Experiment with wearing more color
-Travel to India
-Say yes to more things that make my head explode with joy
PREVIOUSLY in Resolutions: Stash-busting and skill-building (2018)
Hawa Mahal (Pink palace) photo by Mrudula Thakur via WordPress
Right on! This is the direction that those orange sandals have been pointing you in, I’m sure. Exploding with joy is a good thing. Wear the colours you love. I have a pair of sunshine yellow trousers that I wear when I’m volunteering, and they always make somebody smile.
My favorite thing about going to Palm Springs was getting to dust off those shoes!
YAY! You captured it all! I’ve been thinking about color and all the gray and black I wear; how old I’m getting; what I can’t do vs. what I can; etc. Screw that! Wear pink and orange and blue and green! Punch the fearmonger in the nose! Happy New Year!
The best is yet to come!! And that is very awesome about India!! I am finishing off my handouts for knitting workshops that I will be teaching in India NEXT WEEK! eeeeeEEEEE!! I am so excited! I look forward to seeing your pink pants and Happy New Year!
Oh YAY! Where are you teaching? (I’m obviously out of touch with the larger world lately.)
I am indeed teaching, but I am most excited about going because I have never been! It is a good start to the year :)
I’m excited for you!
Before I got ahead of myself, I meant to say I am teaching in Mysore, in the south near Bangalore. The excitement is going to my head….
Haha, I get it.
Well you knew I’d love this, Karen. So much of this resonates with me—the time flying, the constant dynamic between playing it safe and going for it, the need for really great pants. I can’t wait to see how your year goes! This is going to be so fantastic.
I’m clinging to something you said the other night about not editing myself in anticipation. Resolution addendum: more time talking with Ann!
Happy birthday! What an awesome headspace in which to start a new decade. Thank you for your wonderful blog xx
It’s not the headspace I thought I was headed into, so that makes it feel doubly good.
Here’s some interesting reading about pink – https://goop.com/wellness/mindfulness/the-pink-revolution/?utm_source=Oliver+%2B+S+Subscribers&utm_campaign=11563a763e-OS_Blog_Subscription&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_79c8670a1b-11563a763e-259784245&mc_cid=11563a763e&mc_eid=075d284b62
I’m sitting in bed, waiting for my three year old to awake, and cheering out loud! Wahoo!! Thank you for sharing your light-filled, wonderous resolution and in turn giving us all permission to punch our inner critic in the face. This has brought me so much joy and warm fuzzies today! Yes!!
I’m happy to hear that, Tina, thank you!
Yay you! The first place I ever traveled to (other than Canada which doesn’t count if you grew up in northern NE back when the border was porous) was a semester abroad program in Nepal, followed by a couple weeks in India. I’ve been back a few times. Very curious about where you’re going, since the country is so varied. You’ll find color like you won’t believe. Enjoy and let the country take you along and show you its wonders.
Yeah, similarly, we’ve been to Mexico several times and the Bahamas a couple, too. But those just don’t count the same somehow! Although I do want to go to Canada.
I’m going to the Pink City, Jaipur! And I believe we are going to make the trek to the Taj Mahal one day.
I loved everything about this, Karen. I, too, have been trying to do the things that scare me, to say yes to things because they scare me. Thank you for being an inspiration, and I look forward to seeing your India and pink.
It’s funny how there are realms in which we can be so bold and others where we go, yeah no, that’s not me. Right?
What JOY! And how thoughtful of you to publish this post on a Monday, to inspire the rest of us to a joy-seeking, risk-taking week!
I was feeling weird about the belated resolutions so thank you for saying that!
I love this post so much! I can’t wait to see you embrace color and kick the inner nag when she bites! I want to come to India too!
The thought of it is so present with me every day — which I assume will be true for nine months — that I’m like “what then?!”
That’s the exciting question, isn’t it? The more I see of the world, the more I want to see.
I have dusty pink chinos, and I love them. More versatile than you’d expect. :)
I wore mine a lot. So the question now is will I try to make chinos or some other shape of pant? First: fabric.
Can’t wait to see how this all plays out. Keep saying “yes”.
Four years ago I hosted a Chinese high school student for the first time. Her parents were so grateful for the care I provided they gave my daughter and I an expense paid trip to Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing. At first I didn’t want to accept such an extravagant gift; partly because it was so extravagant and partly because I was nervous about traveling to China. They insisted and my friends and family said I should do it, so my daughter and I accepted. It was the best travel experience I have had in my life and I’m so happy I did it! The people, food and sites were fabulous and beyond anything I could have hoped! We have one life to live so reaching beyond our comfort zone should be a goal we all have. India will be awesome and really, who doesn’t love pink! 😊
That’s amazing! What an opportunity, and I’m so glad you said yes.
Thanks so much for posting all of your dreams, your insecurities, your pink pants! This was so important for me to read as I have been through some of the same things that you have endured. My dream right now is to go to Ireland as I truly feel that I lived there in a previous life but haven’t been there in this one- Have a great time in India! I, for one, am looking forward to those posts!
We want to go to Ireland and Scotland, too. So beautiful! And not exactly no language barrier, but certainly less so, lol.
You go girl! Hot pink is one of my favorites colors too. And you’ll find a lot of colors in India, for sure. Save some money to splurge on pashmina and silk. You’re so right, travel now before you get too old or too tired. My husband and I toured the world before having kids, and we’re so happy we did it. We both have chronic back pain now, and it would be much harder to hop from one plane to another the way we did it 18 years ago. Your year has just started, and it is already exciting.
Yep, I’m planning to go to India, too. I don’t know when, but I’ve been saying it aloud, making my wish known to see how it comes back to me. Have a beautiful time with your friends. And, I’m sure the pink pants will take care of themselves. What a wonderful gift to yourself!
I love that! Yes.
Congrats on your trip to India! Color, color, color and a great group! I am going later on and can’t wait either! Another colorful place for a quick trip full of textiles and color is Oaxaca, Mexico — spinners, dyers, weavers, amazing food, I just got home from a great time there. It’s a different portal to color…
Yes, Oaxaca has been on my list for awhile, and I will get there. Most of my trips to Mexico have just been to the Baja peninsula and I really want to see more of the country, but particularly Oaxaca.
I’m excited that you’re going to India. The US is now my home in every sense (20 years!) and my heart is here, but my soul will always be in India.
I tell people it is like no other place on earth, truly. It is everything you have heard about it and yet it will surprise you in every way. And the color! You are definitely going to be inspired to wear more color. Indians wear hot pink with green, and totally rock it. The textiles will boggle your mind…carry an empty suitcase.
Happy birthday! I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences.
There will definitely be a spare suitcase. Thank you, Deepa!
This is so great! I can relate to the experience of traveling with people who know how to do it right. When I was in college, on a foreign student exchange to Mexico, I followed my American roommate around the city as she consulted her paper map and bus schedule. I would not have explored beyond my block without her to guide me and set an example.
Best. Post. EVER! Congrats! 2019 is going to be an exciting year! I M ON BOARD👍🏼 (altho i need no coercing for COLOR in my life)❣️
I have read that hot pink is the navy blue of India…so perhaps you aren’t straying that far from your “neutrals” if you are headed to India in pink chinos. I admire you enormously and look forward to reading about your adventure.
Good for you, on so many levels! I think you’ll find India inspires your love of color, too. I’ve never been, but like you I have a close friend who is Indian, and I am counting on visiting with her when she travels to visit family. I’ll make it one of these years. :-) Enjoy, and here’s to a great 2019!
“my inner bitch is a fearmonger”….oh this and my neutral closet (which I do love!) speaks to me. Thanks for sharing this all today. You’ve given me lots to think about in the nicest, sharing and inspiring way.
Thank you for sharing such intimate and genuine feelings. I’m sure you know that most of us out here share your fears, even as we approach the later chapters of our lives. Judyschickens.org shared a wonderful recap of her trip to India a few months ago. Have you read her blog? I think she lives in Nashville.
I’ve met Judy! Through Ann Shayne, but didn’t know she’d just been to India. I’ll look that up, thanks!
Fearmonger thoughts: My now 90 year old mom always taught me that worrying was praying in reverse. That mantra, to direct and invest your thought-energy to the positive, whatever that best outcome may be, has stayed with me and guides me to this day. Looking forward to your fearless personal and place based adventures!
Oh Betsy, I love this. Thank you.
Thank you for this amazing window into you. What an inspiring post! I have my own inner fear monger and as my husband and I head into our 70’s its getting louder about the millions of disasters waiting for us just around the corner now that we’re getting OLD. Certainly the slippery slope to having no fun at all and locking ourselves in the house. No way! Instead we are planning more adventures, saying YES more, not less. More wild art making not less.
So so glad you’ve said YES to India! Because I know we get to come along. :)
That’s the attitude!
Karen, you are in for such a wonderful adventure. Three decades ago, my husband and I were gifted the opportunity to visit India. I was so skeptical….had never wanted to go there…was afraid of what I would see and experience, or some such nonsense. Long story short, we went and we fell hard. I have traveled all over the world, but there is simply nothing like India. We have been several times now, and each time we fall more in love. Cannot wait to hear of your experience through your beautiful writing.
P.S. Hot pink is simply in the air these days. I have a solo exhibition opening Jan 17th at the Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco and it is FULL of bright, crazy pink. And, it is all about women. Would love if you would check it out when you have a moment. XOClare
I’m looking forward to seeing your show!
Thank you so much, Laura. If it’s opening night, I’d love to meet you! I will be on the second floor. ~ Clare
Congratulations on the show, Clare! I’ll look it up.
I have been an avid reader of your blog for a very long time, I am a compulsive knitter also, for a very long time…and I live in the Indian Himalayas now, knitting with a bunch of hill women, reading knitting blogs and wishing I could get some of the goodies in your store..my daughter presented me with a Field Bag, which is always sitting beside me!
So excited to know that you are coming to this country of ours….and is there any way I could meet you? I can drive down to Delhi, if you are coming to the North.
You will have a wonderful time, and you will be amazed at the number of iphones around you!! :-)
That’s amazing to think of you in the Himalayas with your Field Bag! I’m going on an organized group trip to Jaipur and am not sure how much flexibility we’ll have outside of the group agenda or anything. Right now my understanding of what I’ve signed up for is sort of hilariously broad!
“I’m older than I was a couple of weeks ago”. Aren’t we all? You’re still very young and adventurous. Keep it that way and you’ll never be old!!!
Big hug from Belgium (with some beautiful cities), Europe. :-)
Haha, so true! But some moments in life make you more aware of it than others.
Ooh, exciting! India will always be special to me because I grew up there. But now, whenever I hear of a friend going there, I think of the India of the 80’s, which was so much different than it is today. Then again, sometimes I hear stories and I think to myself, wow, it is still the same. I was a ‘feral’ child in India, and that meant I adapted really fast, and almost didn’t even know I was in a foreign place (and yet, of course I knew). I can’t imagine how I would handle it as a grown up, so set in my ways, and also who has reflected hard on what it was like being alone there as a child.
Still, I’m so excited to follow you through your travels, to be able to see India through Karen’s eyes. And It’s already inspiring me to be less hesitant to book my travel to the places I’ve always wanted to go: Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
N, how long has it been since you were there?
I came home in 1991. Wow, more than half a lifetime ago!
Sometimes I think I could go back, but maybe only to go to places that I was too young to appreciate. Like Chandigarh. I went there briefly and I remember it being so nice. What I didn’t know as a kid was, after Partition the whole city was redesigned by Le Corbusier. It’s a modernist architectural marvel. And I never got to go to the Taj Mahal in all my years there, so I’d do that. I did get to visit Jaipur, Jummu & Kashmir, and what time we were allowed in Punjab we spent mostly there, and where our school was which was in Uttarakhand in the Garhwali Himalaya region. India is huge. I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I were to go back today.
My husband and I had the opportunity to go to India 6 years ago for a clients wedding. It was fabulous in every way. Try and get to Veranassi if you can. Truly spectacular
Yes, travel! Eight years ago, my husband died of glioblastoma. Three days before his death, he told me he wished he had traveled; he didn’t wish we had a nicer house or car. I try to remember this. Six months after his death, my adult children and I went to England for for a two week trip. We had a wonderful time and I learned so much. Three years later I did a trip to Scotland, and 1.5 years ago I made it to Iceland! I’m hoping to make it to Ireland next. It’s tough. I don’t make a big income and the Canadian currency is low which makes it expensive, but I remember my husband’s regret and try to make it happen. I’m looking forward to seeing your photos from your India trip.
That’s such a powerful lesson. I’m so sorry about your husband, but it’s amazing that you’re heeding that wish.
this other lady I like to read travels yearly to India from the UK,
outstanding travelogues and colorful clothes
this lady has lovely travelogues from her yearly trips to India
Oh my gosh, I am so excited for you! There is nowhere in the world to experience color like India. If you want any recommendations or tips, shoot me an email. We’ve been traveling there for over a decade, and we know all the good spots, mostly in Rajasthan and Delhi! There is a wonderful guide we love in Jaipur that gives the best craft tours, and my all time favorite block printers reside in this unassuming shop in Jaipur. Also if you can make it out to Bagru you will absolutely love it- it is a blockprinting village that is keeping alive the ancient traditions of dabu printing, block carving and printing, and natural dyeing (it is worth it just to watch the guys tending the indigo vats)!
Funny enough, I’m putting the finishing touches on my manuscript this very moment for a book exploring the color and patterns of Rajasthan, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2020. It is indeed the year (or two!) of color!
Christine, I’m so excited about your book — can’t wait to see it. I do think we get to go to Bagru and would love any and all Jaipur recommendations you might have. You’re one of the first people I thought of wanting to tell after booking the trip.
I’ll shoot you an email! I am so so very excited for you, Karen. I have been endlessly inspired by India, and I can’t wait to see it through your eyes and follow along. xoxo
It’s about time! Put my yourself in a different world, if only for awhile, changes you more than you can imagine. Embrace it fully, and bring the lessons home; sometimes we carefully develop precepts for our life and convince ourselves that these are our core beliefs when the reality is that they are just a box that keeps us from experiencing the world fully. You are not too old, you are just right. I am much older, but I am just right, too. The trip you take now will not be that of a backpacking 20 year old, but it will still open you to experiences that will change your life, in a good way, forever.
Group tours are not for everyone, but as a trip planning tool, reading their itineraries is a great jumping off point in planning for your own travel. Someone has already done the work and identified places that are unique; you can grated incorporate some of that into your own planning. Also: there is a helpful Ravelry group called Travelry: if you tell them where you think you want to go, or what your special interests are, you often get lots of really good, on the ground advice.
And I look back at this post and just just laugh at the little extras that the word prediction feature decided to throw in, just so I could look foolish.
This post made me cry, with maybe a little recognition. And laugh, right at the end. Thank you. thank you. I’m so glad you’re going to India and I look forward to all the inspiration that comes from it.
I totally cried a tiny bit too. Karen, thank you so much for sharing this. For me it happened to come at a particularly great time. This was one of my favorite parts: “I punched her in the face.” !!! Can’t wait to see the color you wear and hear about your travels.
You guys are so sweet.
I’m going to love seeing how you express yourself with color! If you’re looking for inspiration, and haven’t seen it, I’d love to recommend the http://www.yardsofhappiness.blog. DWJ has some of the most fun color sense and I personally find it emboldening, even if my colors aren’t her colors.
Yep, she’s amazing!
I can’t wait for the pink pants!!
Congratufuckinglations! I am so happy for you! Here’s to more travel and color and things to love going forward!
I read this post right after sitting at my desk this morning for my first day of work of 2019. I haven’t been able to take it off my mind since. I’ve been thinking the same thing about color. It’s so easy to get stuck in the aesthetic of what we see so often on Instagram these days – this applies to color, political thoughts, values, whatever. Communities bring enormous richness into are lives, but can also lead us to forget that other spaces exist. I dream of sunflower yellow, raspberry red and lush forest green. I hope you bring pink in India and it rewards you with a thousand more colors. Thank you so much for sharing.
I went on a three week trip to India by myself in December. Amazing and live changing experience. My husband wasn’t interested so I planned my own trip to Chennai, southern Kerala, and Mumbai. I stayed in Air B n B’s and at an aryvedic resort.
Good for you!!
Go you! I can’t love this post enough. Letting the color in is (literally and metaphorically) is such a beautiful and inspiring way to live I think about color a lot. Maybe more than is necessary. I look forward to your adventures in an expanded palette as well as in India (also on my bucket list).
If you are going to Winter TNNA can we meet and toast with a pink beverage of some sort?
I wish! But I won’t be there. :(
I could feel your excitement in the words you wrote, Karen! I’ve been caught up by the color pink, too – I’m loving fuschia and hot pink especially and love pairing them with orange and certain shades of green. Thanks for a great post this morning!
Funny. Mine are:
– knit all the colours
– travel no where
– say no more often.
And I’m pretty excited about those.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us. This truly hit home for me.
Congratulations on your resolutions and saying YES to your trip to India! And more color!
This reminded me of a related experience. I was offered a place at a week long yoga retreat in France (w/ my much loved teacher), if I could get myself there! I actually dithered over this, being a (sometimes) not terribly adventurous sort, and prone to depressive sluggishness, etc, etc… until a good friend suggested to me, off the top of her head,
“Why don’t you decide from your healthy self?”
My god, it was the perfect advice and jolted me out of the dumps of old mental habits. I immediately said “Well yes, of course I’ll go!” And it was grand, even the sometimes challenging extra days on my own in Paris. We are all so much more than we (sometimes) imagine.
Thank you for this post. I look forward to reading about and seeing your pictures from your trip!
Karen, I’m a woman who happily wears pink pants and encourage you to wear them too! I’ve always kind of done my own thing but I have an inner bitch too and sometimes you just have to tell her to shut the hell up. Enjoy India! I have not been but my husband goes often for work (and lots of other wild places). Enjoy the travel and this new phase of life.
Oh and I’m more than happy to let you borrow any of my bright knits if you just want to get yourself started with color ;)
I might take you up on that!
Certainly hope you take an empty suitcase or two. Just think of all that colorful fabric
you can fit into a suitcase and what you might make out of it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you Karen for this thoughtful, generous and warm-hearted way to start the year. So much of what you have written has resonated with me – thank you for opening up the doors and letting the colour in!
I spent a week in Jaipur a couple of years ago visiting lots of textile related places as well as the temples, fort, palace … You will *love* it. I’m very excited for you :)
You are even more inspiring than I thought 💓
I have read through the entire post again, and I am ashamed to say that I failed to consider the impact of this post on all of us non-white people. I skipped over the offensive parts because this space is so important to my well being. But my heart hurts and I won’t be able to live with myself unless I acknowledge the pain to me and others like me of the words used. I am no longer going to say nothing.
Read your post this morning and wanted to come back tonight to read it again. So excited for you!!!! I can’t really say that I have had those feelings or have hesitated to wear the pink pants (hot pink is my favorite color and one I wear a lot)… but I am learning to say yes more to certain things – my son, who is now 25, has taken me to some very interesting restaurants and I have eaten things I NEVER would have before because he suggests them. I also just took a 24 day trip with my newly retired husband and we traveled 5000 miles trying lots of new things. I still work so that took a lot of guts to just go. Guess what? The world went on without me!!! My parents are the ones who put me in a certain box (and still do) and it amazes me when I break out and explore all there is out there. I look forward to hearing all about your travel and believe this is just the start of many adventures ahead.
Collect some textiles while you are there and congratulations on joining us color groupies!
I applaud your self awareness and courage, and standing up to your inner mean girl … feel the fear and do it anyway!!! Bring on the pink! :)
I came across an interesting review of the article on instagram and despite being priviledged and person myself, I agree with the critics – we have to be careful about how we communicate colour. Language is so powerful and some of the statements are questionable and very inconsiderate.
I have seen whatever criticism you’re referring to or agreeing with — what is it that you find inconsiderate in what I’ve said here?
What a beautiful thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I think it is fabulous that you are going to India and saying yes to more things. I tend to be more cautious while my husband throws caution to the wind. My husband was very sick this past year (he is only 56) and it taught me that I need to enjoy us while we are both still here. And do the things he wants to do. And see and do the things that I want to experience. Although he would like to spend a year travelling around the world and live in a different place every month. I am not sure I am ready for that yet.
So go explore!!!! And gather textiles on your travels!!!
My husband is the same way — he would really like for us to move abroad, but I have no idea how to do that! Especially with a business to run.
Good, good, good for you! Pink pants and India are really exciting, but the best part of your “ new year” is putting the inner nag out of her misery and getting on with the business of enjoying your life. May it be the Best Year for you. 💕
BEST POST EVER!!! Love this glimpse into the “little girl Karen”! Have a lovely, joyful trip!
excellent! you go girl!!!!
I’m with Deepa – bring an extra suitcase for the amazing textiles you’ll find! I bought two special textiles in 1999 when I traveled there – spent 200 of my 500 dollars earned for an internship and I have never ever regretted it! Also, buy a sari and have the accompanying shirt and skirt made, for the marvel of the experience of having something tailor made so expertly and quickly. Thrilled for you, to be saying a big fat yes to this adventure!! Also, my joke is that “hot pink is the navy blue of India” – may you find that to be true, too!!
Karen, I’d ask you to re-read what you wrote and think about how your words feed into a colonial/imperialist mindset toward India and other non-Western countries. Multiple times you compare the idea of going to India to the idea of going to another planet – how do you think a person from India would feel to hear that?
Hi, Alex. What I said is that, as a teenager, India felt as far away and unattainable to me as Mars — that it was impossible to contemplate actually being able to go to either place. I’m not sure how that’s imperialist but will give it some thought. I have had responses from several Indian friends and readers today who had nothing but positive and encouraging responses. I’ll have to see if anything I said offended them.
Instead of asking your Indian friends to perform more emotional labor for you and assuage your white women’s tears, maybe do some reflection on how your equation of India with an alien world reinforces an “other” mindset that is at the core of imperialism and colonialism.
I understand you’re offended, and I do regret that. I was saying I would check with people to make sure I hadn’t upset them, in case they just hadn’t let on, and to clarify or apologize as needed. Not to ask them to perform any emotional labor for me. I do appreciate your bringing it to my attention and will be thinking about what you and Sarah have said.
Here’s another thought – why is the photo of Hawa Mahal labeled as “pink palace photo” instead of it’s actual name (or its English translations, “Palace of Winds” or “Palace of the Breeze”)?
Whether or not you intended it to come across this way, the outcome is similar to white designers referring to any version of an “Asian-inspired” robe as a kimono. Kimonos, just like Hawa Mahal, have their own particular qualities that are flattened because it’s just an aesthetic instead of something that is important to the very place you’re excited to visit!
This is me inviting you to take a moment to reconsider your reaction to multiple people calling you in and recognizing the problematic aspects of this post.
No one here is saying “Karen should never travel to India” or even “Karen should not be excited to experience a new culture” – rather, we’re asking you to recognize the way in which you’re interacting with India contributes to the long history of an imperialist, orientalist, colonizing gaze toward India and other non-European countries.
People of every background have every right to have questions or have reservations about traveling to foreign countries, or to simply feel it’s out of the realm of possibility. And it doesn’t always have to do with our colonialist past as you suggest, and it doesn’t have to do with white fragility. In fact, I reckon this whole ‘calling out’ is far more indicative of that, and you know what it’s tiresome and it’s unproductive.
I spent my entire childhood in India, in a boarding school, alone and away from my parents, and I can tell you– I was probably as well adjusted as anyone could possibly be–and the fact still remains, the cultural differences between the West and India are great, varied and distinct. The language is completely different, the religion, the customs, the food, the way people go to the bathroom, the way people use public space, the way people negotiate daily tasks, the way people navigate commuting and travel, class differences, caste differences… nearly everything.
Westerners shouldn’t dismiss these differences, we should educate ourselves and address our preconceived notions about it, and then ask ourselves about what’s driving us to visit, or what’s keeping us from going. In the same way that we must honor the connectedness between all people, it’s equally important to be respectful of cultural difference. And to be respectful also means to not be naive and not be ignorant.
While it might seem offending to you that an American voices hesitation, I’d say that the flip side–naivety–is far more common, and not any more preferred. Many western tourists to India go in thinking it’s going to be an exotic and spiritual yoga retreat with bright colors and camels and elephants. And when they get there? They get sick, they get lost, they get followed, they get groped, they get robbed… and then they freak-out and seek haven in a ashram somewhere, and woops that’s actually a cult. (Yes. I’m being alarmist, but I actually know of too many cases that actually look a lot like what I describe, not kidding).
In the 80s as a teenager about to travel to France for a year abroad, I felt exactly the same way. For one who has never left their home town for any appreciable length of time, the void of the unknown is incredibly daunting. I believe that’s all that was meant, not that any specific place – Western or non-Western – is so alien as to be inhuman. One feels challenged at the thought of navigating and stumbling through a land with a completely different culture, languages, customs and climate, and is humbled by that challenge.
Alex, thank you for writing this comment and I just wanted to say that I second your comment whole-heartedly.
Like many of America’s ‘foreign countrymen’ would feel about coming to America. To Karen and many others amongst us, traveling to a far away and long desired country would feel. Please do not bash Karen in her moment of excitement. Anyone who knows her, knows she means no harm, just jubilant excitement at the prospect… and I DO NOT BLAME HER!!!
No one is “bashing” Karen. Intent and result are two different things. Take a step back and have a seat if you’re here to white knight for Karen.
Alex, that is a good question about “Pink Palace.” I honestly don’t remember at this point but believe that’s how it was labeled in the photo service (I had simply searched on Jaipur) and how I have recently seen it referenced, which is obviously a reflection of where I’m seeing those references. At the time I plugged it in, I remember momentarily debating whether to change it to Hawa Mahal and now think I should have done both. I just posted a comment saying I don’t want to edit this post, but I will add Hawa Mahal in the photo credit. Thank you.
Ever been to a color run?
I want to say this gently because I can tell your intent is to share your personal evolution and celebrate facing your fear of the unknown, and that’s great. I just need to point out that there’s a lot of “othering” happening in this post. Romanticizing other lands and cultures is a dangerous thing to do. It’s a privilege to be able to travel and encounter the world on comfortable terms, and as you point out, your fear of the foreign is being eased by increased globalization and westernization. Your post upset some of my friends who aren’t white, who didn’t grow up in America, who have experienced tourism as a way for white travelers to come and take pleasure without real engagement, and it would be a poor show on my part if I witnessed the way they feel trodden upon and didn’t speak up. I don’t say any of this to pick a fight, just to prompt a little more reflection before you equate India with Mars. I hope you have a marvelous and life-changing trip and I wish you joy of your pink pants!
I’m sorry to hear your friend was upset by anything I said. The only way in which I was equating India and Mars, as I just said to Alex above, is that they would have seemed equally far away and out of reach to my teenage self.
I do see that the NPR story I referenced about space travel was a discussion of “colonizing” Mars, but I’m operating under the assumption that there is no life on that planet, so by no means meant to imply that I would condone taking over anyone else’s land or culture. I’m pretty horrified by the history of the US in that regard, as well as the history of colonization around the globe. If your friend took me in any way to be saying I’m pro-colonization, in other words, please convey my regrets at that. I am certainly not pro-colonization, and wouldn’t have imagined anyone could think I might be.
But even short of that, I’m not someone who has any interest in “taking pleasure without real engagement,” nor the kind of person who would go somewhere with the idea that I could or would change it or the people there. I’m going there out of genuine admiration of the culture and people, in the hope of experiencing it openly and thoughtfully and humbly.
Rather than being defensive, I ask you to truly listen to what people have said to you here and on instagram. Also, you clearly need to go read up on POC emotional labor if you think it’s not emotional labor to ask your Indian friends to weigh in on this. While you’re at it, you should read about white fragility and intent vs. impact. Regardless of what you intended by this post, the impact has been completely different for many people. You need to go educate yourself.
Sarah, thank you for taking the time to post this comment and I just wanted to say that I second your comment.
Sarah, I just want to say belatedly thank you for this comment, and to apologize for my knee-jerk reaction to it that night. I appreciate your gentleness and your bringing it to my attention, even if I wasn’t ready to hear it.
It is really disappointing to see your defensive and dismissive responses to the two thoughtful posts that point out some of the problematic aspects of your writing.
As white person to another white person, we NEED to take feedback with respect and integrity. That means saying simply “Thank you for pointing that out to me, I would like to learn more about this. Are there any references you may be able to send me to so I can continue to learn about these subjects?” or simply say “thank you” and do the research on what these people are thoughtfully pointing out to you, yourself.
There are a lot of resources out there. Social media is a great place to find people who are speaking about these issues, you can donate to them, become a patreon, support their work and appreciate their teachings.
For a good resource for white people in general, “White Fragility; Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism?” by Robin DiAngelo. It’s on audible, you can listen to it on-the-go during your travels.
Instead of your “year of color” being about wearing brighter clothing, why don’t you make 2019 investing in contributing to people of color, buying their art, listening to their podcasts, following them, contributing money to them, buying literature written by POC…
As white people, we have to be ANTI-racist, and that requires life long learning and investing in perspectives that are different from your own.
Most importantly, just listening and reflecting and being open to learn.
I do read/listen/follow/contribute to POC, and will continue to, this year and always. I’m sorry you’re disappointed in my responses, but I am listening and committed to doing better. Thank you.
Have you ever read anything Karen has written before? Not sure this is a lecture you need to be delivering.
was wondering that myself… like do you even knit Joey?
Catherine, previous writings by Karen do not lessen the impact of her words in THIS post. Also, white people who are defending this post here, why are you all feeling the need to push back against the commenters who are trying to educate Karen (and the rest of us) about what is wrong here? You’re part of the problem here, too.
I was reading your post and thinking ” she should go to India if she likes color” .Sometime in October maybe to celebrate Navrati or Diwali. And then you said that you were going to India!!!
We went to Rhajastan this year and to Uddar Pradesh on a volunteer trip to an Animal hospital and an Elephant Sanctuary. I’m the lady who asked you to stop supporting Heifee. I hope that you looked into it. We only have one world and it should be ok to care about the animals.
Udaipur is wonderful. Delhi is insane. I really hope that you go and let India affect you the way it affected us. I hope that you see everything and I hope that your heart doesn’t get broken when you see things you will never forget. One favor though. Please don’t ride an elephant while you are there. It hurts them. Go to Wildlife SOS instead when you go to the Taj Mahal and you will never forget it.
I am looking into what you said about Heifer, and assure you I have no intention of riding an elephant. I’m going to India to visit textile artisans and learn about the history of textile traditions.
Happy & excited for you, Karen! Thanks for sharing these thoughts, & for always writing such thoughtful posts. I started reading your blog when I wanted to learn to knit 2 yrs ago and still read it every day. You’ve taught me so much & I so enjoy this peek into your mind. Grateful for you, your contributions to this world, & glad you punched that b*tch in the face! (Lol, I loved that line.)
Dear Karen, I love you. Thanks for this post. I’m from Italy, I wait for you here when you want.
In the last of our days, remembering the best of our days, is the great tribute to our lives. So die with memories, not dreams. Go. Now.
Oh Karen, I loved reading this; it nearly brought me to tears. My husband and I also want to travel abroad more, but we haven’t been able to make it work these past few years. And the longer I go without traveling, the harder it seems to ‘get back out there.’ But I’m excited about my own plans, invigorated by yours, and thank you for continuing to share with all of us.
If you’re not already following @swatch_bharat on Instagram, may I suggest that you take a look? I think you’d enjoy the preview of the colors of India.
As a non white person, please enjoy your excitement, anticipation, and eagerness in the lead up to your trip. Then Enjoy the trip. Enjoy all the amazing and transformative parts of travel, from the bewildering wandering of airports at times against your biological rhythms to the inevitable confusion of trying to communicate with people in languages other than your own. Enjoy the photo taking and cultural witnessing and hopefully the cultural exchange and learning and every part, good and less than good.
Then visit Mexico, where all my non white family lives and comes from and do it over again. I promise I and my family won’t feel colonized, appropriated, taken advantage of, traumatized, or othered. We will feel that tourism is a part of a functional and developing economy, that people who earnestly and honestly want to learn about how others conduct meaningful lives in places-that-the-traveler-doesn’t-live are working, consciously or unconsciously, to break down their preconceptions and biases, and that you’re simply genuinely trying have a good fucking time on vacation. You’re not going on spring break with MTV, you’re going to India to learn, listen, and grow. Not on the backs of infantalized, impotent natives, but on your own. By exposing yourself to challenging moments and wondrous opportunities and then by seeing what comes out of you as a result. As a non white person I am as sick of attacks on innocent moments of emotional expression by white people as I am of actual, pervasive, and damaging racism and white supremacy.
I am a queer, non white woman. Plenty of parts of my life are affected by that identity and how it moves though the world, how others move through the world with it or against it. Your post about liking pink and wanting to challenge yourself and spend the year learning about the many ways one can challenge oneself to grow? Doesn’t rank anywhere near a problem I need you to confront. Have an amazing and enjoyable trip, Karen. I’ll be reading daily before it, during, and after.
Thank you, Maria. I have had the good fortune to have been to Mexico a few times and plan to see much more of it in the future.
Have an awesome trip! I get it. Travel, or the thought of it, can be both giddy and terrifying. Personally, as an Indian American (or rather, a human), I don’t take offense to your words. Let me also say, based on my own experiences of traveling there as a young girl, teenager and young woman in the 90s and 00s, I never had any urge to traverse the country on my own. My father kept me plenty spooked with his tall tales of spending nights on sleep car trains, from North to South, as his job as a corporate salesman. You were sharing an honest, earnest thought with your readers. Who amongst us hasn’t been a stranger in a strange land? Most people tend to circumnavigative around the familar, the well-known, (of which I am certainly one). It is the brave one, who after self reflection, chooses to expand their horizons. Hooray to you for wanting more color in your life. I find such joy and happiness in bright yellows, pinks, blues and greens, sometimes enough to change my mood.
While some of the comments have been illuminating on the subjects of colonialism and western views and the concept of otherness, I don’t like the vitriol that seems to be attached to others. I fervently hope you have not been adversely affected by them.
Also, on a textiles note; I vaguely recall reading some journalism a few years back, on the prevalence of handloom advocacy groups and even towns where artisans relay their talent in order to preserve a certain type of weaving, etc. Hope you have fun learning about them, as I have wearing them!
Hey Karen – I can sympathize with dreaming of going to a place for a long time, and the emotional rush of finally deciding to go. In high school, I met a woman named Midori who was from Nagoya, Japan, and she stayed at our house for a year to participate in the exchange program at our high school. I got glimpses of a place in little snippets, and growing up in a rural area in Northern Missouri, anything that wasn’t there seemed perfect, interesting in its perceived differences to my own background. In the years before I went to Japan, my adoration turned into a reductive caricature of the country—although it was a gleamingly positive one, my understanding of the country (and I’m sure how I talked about it with other people) was entirely constructed from a western perspective, white people writing movies, essays, etc shaped everything I thought I knew. It’s so clean! Indigo! So safe! Bright Tokyo lights! Anime! Etc etc etc. There is so much western (which can absolutely mean white) supremacy seeped in how white people write about Japan, but it’s subtle and implicit enough to almost read as tacit praise, and it unequivocally shaped how I perceived the country for many years. It is shameful to admit that those stereotypes may have permanently stuck if I didn’t go to Japan to study, and it would be disingenuous to suggest that they’re 100% completely gone.
I suppose I say all of this winding anecdote to illustrate, in a world where the American public education system shaped our understanding of other countries, if you are American, your history education will always be filtered through the lens of colonialism. This is why it was so easy for me to buy into this false, flat, perception of a country that is just as diverse in opinion, culture, thinking as my own country. I didn’t see it for what it was, and I absolutely accidentally perpetuated some extremely harmful model minority stereotypes, at the minimum. Although it wasn’t my intention, I’ve come to realize intention doesn’t mean that I’m not personally culpable for the words and thoughts I’ve expressed in the past. Even if you’ve felt like you’ve done the work to unpack the way we were taught about other countries, because colonialism is taught from day 1 in school as an ultimately positive effect on other counties, it will -always- shape how we talk about someplace new. It is something that will always be in us, and we must constantly self-check, and not rely on our POC friends, or physically going to a country to realize your perception is false, to challenge us when we’re painting with broad strokes.
I am sure your trip to India will be one that does change and shape your life from this point forward. I suppose I’m also writing this from the perspective of a reader whose been around since the beginning of your blog, that you’ll use this space to elevate the voices of Indian women during your trip, and let them speak from their perspective, especially as it relates to textiles. As others have pointed out, it is a privilege to visit another country, and it’s also a privilege to have a wide audience who care deeply about your thoughts, and the things that are written here. Getting to go to India would be a great opportunity to exalt voices that the demographic here, majority white women, don’t get the opportunity to hear from, or don’t take the time to seek out. Thanks, Karen –
That is my hope and my goal.
SO EXCITED for you Karen!
So interesting, I am knitting a indie dyer mini skein fade SWEATER right now. The rest of my wardrobe is practically black because over the years I have decided it is “universal” and “flattering” and I am so sick of it. This one sweater will have more color in it than my entire wardrobe combined and I am obsessed with it. I see a lot of similar sentiment from the others commenting. I wonder if we are all suffering from a fashion trend OD or something. The past few years have been preaching minimalism to a painful degree, maybe there is an underground revolt coming?? I adore minimalism and am a minimalist at heart, but I feel that THIS YEAR (at 27!!) I have FINALLY figured out what I feel comfortable in, and what I actually like to wear that makes me feel like ME, not what pinterest or fashion blogs are telling me I should be comfortable in (even though they have so many good recommendations!). I told my husband, THAT is how strong the grip of marketing has been on women. 27 years before I am comfortable in my own skin and truly know myself. I love the sentiment of your post and I am right there with you. I have a feeling I will be savoring your words again during nap time for deep inspiration!
Excited for you, Karen! Eager to see you in some pink. I am feeling the same draw towards all shades of red. Starting with a shawl/scarf and then onto a red sweater, I think.
I am thankful for my travels before I got married and had children. More to come as the littles get older too! Can’t wait to see your blog posts on India.
This post was sitting uneasily with me over the past day, and I have since seen women that I resect and care about have found offence in the tone and language used in your post about your upcoming holiday.
I understand that you had no intention of posting such a anything that would cause offence or pain for others.
You opened up about the joy that you are finding on your desire to travel and see the world. You also allude that other reasons where holding you back from travel in the past and that you sometimes even struggled leaving your own home some days. It must feel good to be free of these restrictions and feel the freedom that you feel.
Over the past month I have been undertaking research on racism and the ways it manifests. This research has been very uncomfortable to undertake. It has shown me the times where I have been incredibly insensitive, and downright offensive to BIPOC. I did not consider myself a racist person but I can see the ways that my actions and language have been racist. I also now understand that it’s not good enough to say “I didn’t mean to be offensive so you need to let me off the hook”, but instead I have to listen to what I am being told, and sit in a very uncomfortable place and think about what I’ve said or done and make come changes. I also should not try and defend myself. I need to acknowledge what I’ve done / said, apologies without any caveat, and make changes.
I highly recommend the workbook book created by Layla F. Saad called “Me and White supremacy”. It clearly outlines all the ways that racism is hard-baked into the way that we white women live. Racism is insidious, and sometimes hidden from white eyes. But it’s there and it’s up to us to find out how it manifests and do something about it. We need to listen, believe and support the BIPOC in our knitting / crafting community.
As a bi-racial POC, I understand that it is shocking for people to receive backlash when they say things that they in no way intended to be racist, particularly because the subtleties of racism are more difficult to perceive and understand than those words and behaviors that are more overt. For a person of color, the subtleties are easier to see and understand because we see and hear them all the time. ALL the time.
Layla’s workbook is one of the most important resources to have come out of last year, and I’ve been excited to see how many people are using it–really using it; digging deep and letting go of defensiveness in how they react and then further act as a result.
I’m also working through “Me and White Supremacy.” As a POC who often benefits from white privilege while also being targeted because of my race, it’s an odd position to be in. I stayed away from portions of Layla’s IG challenge over the summer because much of it was painful to witness. But, as I posted in my own IG page, this time I’m forcing myself to face all of it.
It can be painful in many ways to see your own culture viewed through the perceptions of white people, particularly when your culture is reduced to quaintness and marketing ploys. It is aggravating to listen to otherwise open-minded people return from trips abroad and repeat the kind of “oh golly wow” statements that are embodied in the appropriation of our cultures.
But I do not think that this is what will happen when Karen visits India, nor do I think she will witness and feel and experience India as a white woman who’s got a romanticized ideal in her head. I trust Karen. I trust her ability and even determination to be critical in thought, considered in word and action, and I very much trust her humility and her ability to appreciate the beauty of other cultures, beliefs, people, and their skills and traditions.
I will also say this: all over the online making community, Karen’s post has sparked debate. Some of it very ugly. Much of it defensive. POC need those who do not understand, or who refuse to understand, that there are times when we are not going to sugarcoat our words when we tell you (meaning the general you) how your intentions have an impact different from what you intended. We should not put the hurt, anger, and exhaustion of our re-lived experiences aside to politely tell someone that they’re being racist and to please stop. But this you know.
Again, thank you for your well-written and well-explained comment, and I appreciate that you’re doing the hard work required by Layla’s book.
I’m going to amend my previous statement.
Having now read thousands of comments on IG–including your responses, Karen–I need to make something very clear to you and to those here and on IG who’ve been sloughing off POC who’ve explained time and again why this post is problematic and how makers of color are so often excluded, debased, and not taken seriously, particularly within the knitting community.
Do not blow off our very real experiences as if they’re anecdotal incidents. Do not roll your eyes and tell us we’re overreacting when we see, from other makers who we heretofore trusted, racism that you can’t, won’t, or don’t see because it isn’t overt and obvious TO YOU.
We see it so clearly because we live it. Daily. If some of you feel indignant when you hear from us, when we call you out on it, reflect upon why it is that you’re so willing to try to argue it away. You don’t do that when a man shows disrespect to a woman, so why do you do it to us?
Karen, I hope you go to India with a new perspective. I think you will. I hope you’ve learned how the things we say reveal deep biases that we may not realize we hold. You have been an important part of my knitting journey, and I realize that you meant no harm, so I hope you’ve truly taken to heart the criticisms that have been levied against you. They are valid. I’ve found you to be such a considered thinker that I am holding optimism in what you will and can learn from all of this.
To everyone I offended by what I’ve written here, I want to say I hear you and I am sorry.
I have read your comments, and am thinking about everything you have said. I will be thinking about what’s been said in response for a long time to come.
As I don’t believe in editing the historical record, and in support of transparency, I am leaving the original post as it is, with a link to this at the top.
You’re sorry people are offended? That’s not an apology for your deeply racist and reductive statement. Please rethink this trip. Don’t force the people of India to deal with you and your colonializing mindset.
Rachel, I really hate the phrase “I am sorry if I offended you,” but that is not what Karen said. Several people have expressed offense at phrases she used, and others have described what they think are the issues with this post. Karen apologized to those who were offended, and stated that she is thinking about what people said – which I hope people can accept as the start of a journey of inquiry and understanding.
If we are already determined that thought and growth and development can’t happen when difficult issues come up, why bother to talk to people in the first place?
Holy backlash, Batman.
Because I was curious, I asked some friends of mine how they felt about folks traveling to India. Including women who are ACTUALLY Indian. Not white women doing ally theatre on Instagram.
She shared several videos with me with this comment: “Share this with them and show them that India and Indians want tourists in the country. We don’t want India to be shown as only as slums and poor people which is the way the media always pictures us as our traditional ambassadors Gandhi and mother Teresa make it look like.” (my friend is Rini Ghosh Chakraborty).
*Incredible India Twitter feed. Check out Incredible!ndia (@incredibleindia): https://twitter.com/incredibleindia?s=09
I personally don’t even see what you wrote that could possibly be offensive 🤷🏻♀️
Well good thing this white lady has absolved you, Karen, of any offense that others felt.
You go! I am so glad to hear that you will be adding color… and I think pink goes with everything you own!
You mention in your comment that you’re leaving the post as-is, preserving the historical record, which is of course worthwhile. But preserving the emotional labor so many people of color spent educating all of us (white people) in connection with what you wrote matters even more to me, and I’m glad more readers will be able to benefit from their work.
Hi Karen, I am glad to see that you say you are now thinking about the concerns that several people have raised both here and on instagram regarding the troubling language and imperialist undertones contained within this post. As a prominent voice in the knitting community, your blog has the ability to impact how inclusive this community feels for many, for better or for worse.
I am a white, cisgender woman and have, for much of my life, not had to think deeply about issues of race as a result of this privilege. I have begun to research the history of race and racism, and interrogate my own biases and complicity as a white person living in a post-colonial country built on a history of racism (Australia). White people tend to see racism as overt, conscious and intentional. As a result we are often quick to defend ourselves against any suggestions that our own thoughts or actions may be in some way racist. Yes, some racism is the ugly, menacing type. But it is also the unconscious biases that we have imbedded in us as a result of being raised in a society built on systemic racism that can be just as harmful.
In Kelly’s comment above she recommended a workbook which I haven’t read but will seek out. Something that resonated with me and was also very educational was the Seeing White podcast series (by Scene on Radio). There was also an excellent series of posts by Aboubakar Fofana on his instagram recently (starting here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrC2USIl_pv/) which may make uncomfortable reading for Westerners but which speaks many truths about colonialism in relation to textiles.
Lauren, thank you for sharing the posts by Aboubakar Fofana in particular.
Thank you so much for your words and for exposing us to Aboubakar Fofana’s words as well. I’ve been reading this whole thread and not responding so far as I try to unpack ideas, etc. I cannot speak to Australia, but I can to my area of the world — I’m in the southern Appalachians in the United States. While I think the use of “master” would be unwarranted, one cultural difference I want to point out here is that cultural norms here mean he would consider how we handle our own traditions to be debasing them. There’s been a long, ongoing, effort in this region of the country to give people some craft workshops (total a few weeks’ worth with practice on your own) so they can transition into selling their work as long as it meets certain standards, and this is seen as a way to supplement income and alleviate some of the poverty that exists in this region. I can point to organizations not very far away from me that exist for this purpose, and have taken open classes where most of my classmates were there with the specific aims of building enough of a skill set to start selling their own items.
I think it’s problematic and presumptive when someone tries to apply those relatively loose standards to skills and work from another culture, particularly in a situation where it’s obvious there’s a strong tradition of apprenticeship. I think one should always be transparent about one’s qualifications so that consumers can make an informed decision. However, I think there also needs to be some understanding that there is often a much lower bar for selling one’s own work here in this culture. I think there also needs to be understanding that low-level classes from another culture’s traditions are often not seen as an expert in the craft passing on their understanding, but as someone who has had more access than you have giving you a chance to get a little exposure to a technique you might never otherwise get exposed to at all. As someone who grew up in a small, pretty homogeneous, town, I’m really thankful for the exposures I did get to outside cultures, even though I knew at the time that they were imperfect. They were small, tantalizing, windows to the world outside my community, spurring me to learn more about the wider world.
As I said, there’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m not for people calling themselves experts in a field when they’re clearly not.
I learned of Aboubakar Fofana last year when he was teaching at Verb but haven’t seen his IG posts. I’ll take a look, thank you.
I love this country. I love freedom of speech and ALL our freedoms. BUT..”political correctness” is making me sick, and furthermore, people who have the time and emotional energy to find racism, sexism, and all the other “isms” in transparent blogs need to do some true soul searching. Last I found, most blogs are free to read, if you don’t agree, continue on your path .. but you DO have a right to leave a reply..so, there ya go. Karen, live, travel, make memories and tell us ALL ABOUT IT and anything else in your head because YOU CAN..so eloquently..and let those offended be offended. It’s THEIR RIGHT, afterall!
Well said, Amy. My feelings exactly.
Just keep on keepin’ on, Karen, with your head up, ’cause we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. YOUR STORY MATTERS, TOO.
I’m brown and I grew up in India. I teach about racism and sexism and all the isms everyday to university students. You didn’t offend anyone. The people screaming at you are another form of white Colonialists who want will clutch their pearls anything that has to do with race. Racism goes away with education .. Which is precisely what you want to do. You aren’t appropriating anything. You are wanting to travel and learn about a country, whose culture is horribly portrayed my western media.
My heart and my support will go with you whenever you want to go visit India.
Your comment makes sense to me. Are you on Instagram, or do you have a blog I could follow?
Thanks, and best,
Thank you. I write about things when I am generally angry. LOL. You may enjoy this post. http://mindbogglingblogging.blogspot.com/2013/08/response-to-dust-over-india-by-mark.html
Loved reading your rant. What strikes me in all the posts and comments that I have read and seen on this subject is the polarization to stereotypes (west to east, white to colour, ….). Allow me to bring another point of view.
I grew up in one of Western Europes most visited cities (at least, back in the days before travelling and that next hipster spot became a global thing). Tiny Bruges which was at any day of the year overrun by tourists of any race, religion, geographical region whom could afford to hop around Europe in 4 days. Two categories of tourists, regardless of colour, race, whatever not: the ones whom were openminded and respectfull to the culture on display. Second category: the ones that saw in everything a way to debase the country, city, food, people, accommodation, for whatever reason, always finding a reason why their society, culture, services were superior over what they were now visiting. It was not just a white thing, or a colour thing.
I’ve encountered these categories and attitudes on each and every one of my travels regardless if that was east or west, rich or poor, corrupt or non corrupt. It’s not an “ism” thing. I fear it is a human thing in the good, the bad and the ugly
That was wonderful. I read the piece to which you were responding, too. I bet you made him think twice. ;-) All of it, and especially your last paragraph, when you talk about the smile that you cannot forget, helps me understand better what it is I love about India. I have a similar story….about a street vendor who rescued me from a fall I took on a cobbled street in Delhi. Anyway, thanks, Rini. I will be looking for more from you. XOC
Yes, thank you Rini. Yours is a very helpful response. There’s so much that’s so wrong in the world. This is not part of what’s wrong.
What Rini said, echoed by another brown woman who grew up in India. I have followed Karen for a while and she does not deserve this.
Go to India, Karen! Have a great time! Buy things directly from artisans. Visit weavers and embroiderers. Spend your dollars, meet incredible people, and bring back wonderful memories and beautiful things.
I am so excited for you. I would like to go to India to learn more about textiles, surface design, and textile art. Traveling is a privilege that I don’t take lightly (and I’m sure you don’t either). I hope your year of color and travel is wonderful.
I have to say I didn’t find anything unusually offensive in this post, which is to say it’s by no means a stand-out example of the problematic ways India/Asia generally is thought about and talked about in the ‘West’, and many of us with family roots in that part of the world are so used to hearing these things that we barely notice them any more.
But I think your trip might be with Ace Camps?? I have before felt very uncomfortable about Ace Camps running craft workshops, for Americans, overseas but using American tutors. That seems really odd to me, particularly with a craft that has an encredibly strong tradition in the country being visited. It’s similar to the issues with Western teachers running yoga retreats in India – using the location to lend a sense of history and cultural richness to their own work, without anyone having to have too much actual contact with that culture. Perhaps Ace Camps handle all of this with tremendous sensivity and understanding of the nuances of colonialist mindsets and legacy, etc, but there’s no obvious sign of that from their website.
Karen- I read this post expecting to find something truly horrifying…
What you wrote is so akin to things that I have felt, thought or even written in the past. I am so excited for you! This is all so wonderful!
I am a white woman. I try to be sensitive to all POC and I am very conscious of how I interact with the world with my privilege. That being said, it is SO hard to walk that balance all the time. To know what to say, how to say, how to share our own joys, reflections, opening ups, triumphs, failures, and expectations of life, without offending someone. All we can do is listen, gain perspective, learn and try to do better.
I MORE than feel that you are doing that. I hope that all the debate that your post stirred does not detract from you joy about this trip.
I’m sure you have been inundated with replies to this post.
All my love. I will continue to adoringly read your blog.
Have a fabulous time in India! It sounds like a wonderful trip and the realisation of a life long dream. Soak up the experience 😊
I’m so sorry people have taken your words and twisted them to have a negative feel. I must say that I identified with this post when I read it and am taken aback by the outrage. I know your fear and social anxiety for I have struggled with it my whole life. You went out on a limb exposing your fears and I’m disappointed in our fiber community for not accepting them as they are. We all have that negative voice in our heads, let’s not make it worse by voicing it to others and being hurtful.
I am astounded that a blog post celebrating the excitement of the fulfilment of a long held ambition to visit India could be so willfully misunderstood. Might I suggest that unconcious bias is not exclusive to western supremisists. I do live in the West and recognise that that means I live a privileged life. I have lived in Northern Ireland for most of my life, all through the troubles, the peace process and beyond. Visitors to our small misunderstood corner of Europe rarely had any sensible grasp of the history or politics in the place. Those of us who still live here cant agree, and we are talking about historical colonialism, oppression, poverty and civil war if you chose to interpret events that way. Many do. However we as a province always welcomed visitors, we laughed knowingly at their failure to understand the political situation, saw it as an opportunity to educate and to show them that our country was so so much more than what they saw from news reels.
I have always experienced travelling to other communities and countries as an opportunity to learn and see for myself. It has raised my awareness of my privilege but also increased my understanding of the inequality and diversity that exists across our increasingly small world. Surely this is a good thing, education through personal experience is a great vehicle for change.
I have recently had the opportunity to visit America and yes as a teenager for me in Europe, it might well have been Mars. I went there with a number of preconceived ideas, very hard not to with the media coverage of the current President. While there I had some of those ideas challenged, not least the very complexities of the gun lobby, and while I may still hold some strong opinions of my own, I have learned that I don’t have any of the answers, but I am so much better informed now.
And back to tourism, here in N Ireland we milk the tourists of their money with tours of ‘troubles’, Game of thrones tours and any other way that we can exploit our notorious history for monetary gain. And I say bring it on, we want visitors because it brings prosperity for everyone here and let’s the intrepid explorer find the real Northern Ireland.
India is of course different for lots of reasons, I would love to visit. I think it would be a life changing experience. What an opportunity to educate yourself and us. I applaud your curiosity and maybe if you’re looking for your next visit, come to Northern Ireland, we have a wealth of textile heritage and we would love to share it with you.
Amanda, You make me proud as an American of Irish heritage. 💚💚💚. Unconscious or not, to some, perpetuating the conflict for the sake of conflict instead of resolution, repairation, and positive change seems to be the driving force. The net result only serves to shut down communication and understanding, exacerbate the original problem, and create new challenges. 🤦♀️ I appreciate your contributions to the conversation, and your willingness to visit America despite, well, you know. 😉. One day, I will make it to the Emerald Isle! And I think, North or South, my heart will know it is home. 💚☘️💚
The definition of Alien is belonging to a foreign country or nation. I would say that anything different from our own individual norm could be construed as alien.
Having said that when we visit somewhere we become the alien r different thing. I don’t see this as a problem. It’s an opportunity.
Saw references to this on Instagram, and I had to read some of the comments to see what was offensive. Ridiculous. I agree with others who said that the people who keep finding isms in everything are the real problem.
Just on the topic of India though, don’t be nervous :~) I’m getting ready for my 7th trip (a total of 2 1/2 or so years…), and I always travel alone. Or with dogs or cats :~) I’m still alive and looking forward to going back. It’s chaotic and can be stressful, but I feel like , with your love of colour, you’ll love it too. Just plan to relax and not worry too much about your specific plans. Time doesn’t always mean a lot there :~)
I love this blog post! I hope you meet amazing people and savour incredible food, fill your senses with all the colour and sound and smells of a new, vibrant place. And travel, for me, just affirms the idea that we are all connected; I hope you feel that connection as well. Hooray for saying yes and being courageous!! 💜
I realise that what what I have written below will be seen as yet another prejudiced white woman trying to defend whatever not white opinion and accept the consequences and will respect (polite) feedback. Heck, I probably offend a lot of people trying to write in a language that is not my own.
In my opinion “racism” is not and should not be a thing of colour. Racism is a thing of being intolerant and unrespectful about any and each single thing that segregates one person from another whatever that thing is. I fear it is a thing of people to be non inclusive towards anything that is not near and dear. I refuse to believe that because I am white, I’m inherently and actively a racist towards people of colour, though I’m no doubt guilty, involuntary or not.
We are all biased by the place and time and environment where we grew up and in that lies the potential to offend or hurt each and every other person we interact with. Should we thus research and read up on any type of interaction we have with others to avoid being offensive and why what we do would/could be offensive even when we (of course) don’t mean any harm? Should we not all be open minded and accept that other people can hurt and offend us by sheer ignorance, wherever that ignorance originates? Should we not assume that the majority of people are not malign?
Of course, all over the world there is deep and continuously suffering because of racism and the battle is not over, far from even and that battle is very necessary and justified, but really should each piece of text that is written be scrutinized and taken as an opportunity to denounce racism? Does this battle need to be fought on the turf of a woman who is just simply trying to overcome the past, even when the tone is respectful? To (strongly) suggest even that she has to rethink what she wrote and “educate” herself?
I do think that it is the responsibility of each and every one to accept that there are people that are different than you, to accept that those differences might be hurtful to you and even collide with your beliefs, just like your beliefs might be offensive to others. Our differences enable us to keep learning.
Karen, enjoy your time in India. It’ll take and give back plenty.
Now I see why there was no blogpost yesterday. I just read this thing from beginning to end and I’m stunned at the emotional roller coaster ride I’ve just been on. I love learning new things and exploring different points of view, but I feel like I was punched in the stomach. I can’t imagine how you must feel. You will have a fabulous time on your trip-I know it.
Woman of color here- I came here to read this. I had heard some rumblings of it being offensive. I don’t see it. I’m glad you’re going to India, wearing more color, blooming now in the fertile soil your life has given you. I hope to be so inspired to travel one day too, but I’m all about color right now. :)
I have been thinking about this post and it’s responses for a couple of days now, and since it is ongoing, I wanted to add: self examination is always a good thing it it doesn’t overwhelm us, self examination in a fairly public forum is brave, and should be supported. While constructive dialogue is usually a good thing, shaming someone in their own “home” serves little purpose. Many blogs do not permit the sort of dialogue that has gone on here, and the willingness to do so should be praised and respected.
And while it should not need to be stated, but it seems to have been missed by some, “pink” is a personal metaphor, not a simplistic summation of a culture.
I was moved by your emotionally revealing post. Now I am sad that the extreme response of a few people will probably affect your goal to not edit yourself in anticipation. As much as I understand criticism of tourists projecting their romanticism and transformative dreams onto other peoples and cultures, it is a major stretch to accuse you of that sin. Traveling to another country with the express intent to learn about artistic traditions is wonderful, FULL STOP. If only more people were curious enough and brave enough to humbly engage with the unknown.
Yes, one must decolonize their vision and language, but don’t shut up or stay home.
Now I’ve read this post three times and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I don’t see anything even slightly racist and there is not one thing that you need to apologize for! We should all be thanking Karen for being an open and genuine person willing to share her deepest insecurities with us and just appreciate her for who she is. People, stop being so belligerent!
I think my reply to Rini upstream disappeared so trying again.
I have followed Karen for a while and find absolutely nothing offensive. I’m a brown woman who grew up in India and love that country passionately.
Karen, take your empty suitcases and go to India! Have a splendid time. Meet wonderful people. Spend your dollars buying directly from artisans. Visit weavers and embroiderers. Get some outfits tailored, colorful ines. Come back with beautiful memories and gorgeous things.
Oaxaca City is wonderful – be sure to go to the Textile Museum in Centro. Well worth it. The next International Pipe Organ Festival is coming up in February, 2020 – definitely highly recommended!
I didn’t find the first post offensive. I thought you were speaking from your heart and realizing that you had missed out on things and had decided to be more embracing of new experiences. I think some people can see offense in anything.
There is so much intentional, hurtful stuff going on in the USA right now. You are not in that group.
Be reassured. It’s ok.
All of the intentional hurtful stuff going on the US right now has elevated my awareness and made me that much more vocal and activist. But one thing I hope we can all stop and think about is the extent to which white supremacy is built into our culture, and how that needs our attention just as much as family separation and discriminatory legislation and neo-nazi rallies.
Karen, you’ve been unintentionally or otherwise “woke” to racism etc this past few days regarding your blog. I’ll not deliberate. I’m a former academic with several degrees in clothing and human behavior. I’ve also had a Fulbright award to Pakistan and taught at the National College of Art in Lahore in the Textile Dept. as well as conducted research In Afghan refugee camps. In a former life time I also conducted fieldwork in the Niger Delta and more recently development work in Central Asia assisting women’s community groups in textile craft economies. I’m reciting my background only because there are several suggestions that I believe you’d appreciate reading prior to your departure. Jasleen Dhamija and her books and bio are amazing. She’s in her 90’s but she’s written about Indian textiles and people of India. I believe she lives in New Delhi. Her good friend Professor Emeritus Joanne Eicher at the University of Minnesota has edited the Encyclopedia of World Dress (many volumes) which includes articles about the cultural aspects of dress of ALL groups including an entire volume on South Asia. My area of expertise is Afghan women and human rights issues related to their dress etc. so at times overlaps Central/South Asia. Joanne was my former advisor for both my masters and PH.D. Also check Judy Frater who started an NGO more than 30 yrs ago in India that’s still productive. http://www.kala-raksha.org/ I just spoke with Joanne and we’ll provide additional suggestions if you’re interested. Between the two of us we know many scholars and friends from the region. My only other suggestion is that color goes hand and hand with not only the textiles but the people as well. That’s the most valuable piece; people! And as an after thought yes I’m a knitter! Knitting got me through grad school; not financially but emotionally and psychologically. It’s as if every angst and joy was knit into each stitch. Finally, every time I’ve journeyed around the world I’ve always had my knitting and my knitting has personalized my presence in all communities among both men and women. Safe journey and travels. You’ll be even more “woke” and inspired!
Thank you for these names and publications — I will definitely check them out.
Hi, everyone. I’ve never done this before but have made the decision to turn off commenting on this post and the follow-up. There are loads of comments awaiting moderation, many of which I’m not comfortable having on my blog without a proper response, and I simply can’t respond to them all — I’m only one person and there are only so many hours in the day. So rather than even trying pick and choose, I’m closing it here.
The upshot of it all is the same as what has already been said and responded to. So I just ask again that you please read what I and others have written, ask yourself why it may still be so hard to accept that people were hurt, and try to learn from it. I hope we all want a more just world, and honoring each other’s experiences and perspectives is an essential part of the process. Thank you.