Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Boyfriend Sweater

I spent the first half of 2006 driving around Ireland doing research for my guidebook, and as you can imagine I met loads of characters almost every place I went. In Leenane I met Tom, an American artist in his sixties, who was at that time working as a handyman at Sleepzone Connemara. Tom had a serious case of wanderlust—and by “wanderlust,” I don’t just mean location-wise. He told me several stories about the women he’d loved and left, and I was struck by one story in particular. One of his girlfriends had knit him a sweater, and he continued to wear and treasure it long after he’d moved on. Eventually the sweater started to unravel, and he decided to send it back to her with a note asking her to fix it.

Needless to say, he didn’t get the sweater back.

I don’t know if I was more appalled or amused by the size of Tom’s cojones, but his story got me thinking about the etiquette involved when one knits a gift for a significant other. The rule of thumb seems to be that the recipient should return the item if the relationship ends, but I suppose it depends on how amicable the break-up is. And is the garment a general symbol of your affection, or does it symbolize your feelings at the time you were making it?

I see why you’d ask for it back (and I seem to recall Tom saying his ex-girlfriend had wanted him to return the sweater, but he liked it too much to give it up), but it feels a little like giving with strings attached--so I think I'd rather not make the sweater at all than give it with any sort of stipulation. Feel free to disagree with me here.


Cara Barker Yellott said...

I agree with you. Gifts are gifts, not loans or hostages to good behavior.

Camille said...

Well put, Cara! This post has acquired new significance for me lately, since I went through a break-up a few months back—but I still feel the same about handknitted gifts. He kept everything I made him. :}