Author Archives: Caitlyn McMahan

The Sweater Curse

Background: The sweater curse is a superstition commonly held in knitting communities. My informant is a 28 year old knitter from California who has friends who have claimed they experienced this phenomenon. 

Me: I’m more of a crochet kind of girl, but I dabble in knitting. I’ve definitely heard of the sweater curse on the internet. I actually first found out about it like, right after I had the thought I should make one for my boyfriend. It was spooky! But anyway, what’s it all about?

A: Yeah, the sweater curse. Brutal stuff… Basically, the sweater curse affects girls [or boys, nonbinary people] who are knitting a sweater for their boyfriend [or partner, assume all characters can be genderswapped or gender neutral], and says that they will break up. Probably before the sweater is finished. It’s only supposed to affect unmarried couples, so it’s not that everyone who knits their partner a sweater is doomed. But yeah, knit your boyfriend a sweater too soon and you will pay the price. 

Me: Geez yeah, why do you think this happens? Because anecdotally, this is totally true. Do you believe it?

A: I mean… yeah, I think there’s something to it. It happened to a close friend of mine a few years back. she was 25 and her boyfriend was the same age, and they’d been dating for like, 8 months maybe. She started working on this sweater for him as a Christmas present, like, back in the summer. Knitters can get so involved in their projects, you know that. I think probably even more so when you’re making it for someone special, so she was knitting ferociously and was putting a lot of her time into this, like, fairly complex sweater. Anyway, they broke up sometime around thanksgiving, which is kind of a thing of its own, y’know, breaking up before you have to meet parents… Family is stressful, being close to someone is stressful, and I think that’s why the sweater curse has merit to it. So much effort and love goes into making a sweater, it can be too much for some people. I think my friend’s boyfriend found out about the sweater around the time they broke up, and I don’t know too much about how it went down, but I think he might have been a little… off put. The sweater can signify a lot of commitment…

Me: Yeah, especially if that commitment is one-sided… I feel like girls who knit are pretty dedicated people. 

A: You have to be if you tackle those big projects! If you date a guy who just isn’t reciprocating that energy, it’s probably not going to work out. You should save your sweater for someone you’ve uh, vetted better *laughter*

My thoughts: This superstition sounds silly at first, but there are a lot of reasons why a large, personal gift like a sweater can cause a reevaluation of the relationship, especially if the relationship is relatively new. I don’t think that anything handmade is a bad gift idea, but a sweater represents commitment to a degree that people are understandably uncomfortable with. The sweater itself can represent strangulation quite literally if it’s poor-fitting. It can also be very possessive, wanting to clothe someone in your work. I don’t think the intention is usually so negative, but the reception is what matters.

For more information on the sweater curse, see

Charlie, Charlie

Background: Charlie Charlie is a children’s game similar to a ouija board in which a group of kids get together and ask a spirit, Charlie, to answer their yes or no questions. My informant S is a 19 year old girl who played the game when she was in middle school. We were talking about our childhoods and trying to find some similarities between the games we played.

S: So the game is simple, you have a piece of paper with “yes” and “no” written on opposite corners of the paper, so like, yes across from yes and no across from no y’know, and you cross two pencils in the middle so neither are pointing at the corners, one on top of the other so it kind of balances on top of the bottom one. And then everybody asks “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?” and then the pencil on the top moves and points and everyone loses their minds. Charlie is supposed to be a demon or something.

Me: I think I’ve seen something like that. It was kind of an internet thing wasn’t it?

S: Yeah it was during Vine in like, 2013. I found out about it because I saw videos on youtube and then everyone in school was trying it. It was like everywhere for a while.

Me: It’s crazy how I don’t even remember it. I wonder if kids still play it. So, do you think it was real?

S: No of course not, someone would always like, blow on it so it would move. But if one gullible kid lost their shit, it was a good time. 

My thoughts: The prevalence of this game is interesting because it was so widely spread online, and it reached kids from all over the country and possibly the world who played it for themselves. It was such a short lived cycle because it took place in the early 2010’s when short videos, such as Vines, were growing in popularity, and people began to consume more pieces of smaller media. Things would become rapidly popular and then become rapidly replaced, a trend cycle which has continued into the 2020’s with apps like TikTok.

The “S”

Background: My informant is a 20 year old boy who grew up in California.

G: So the concept is to just draw a cool s with the six lines and the connectors so it kind of looks 3D. This one is pretty common, we all learned it in school from our friends at some point. I think I learned it when I was 8. You can just put it anywhere, it’s funny if you put it on a homework assignment or something to kind of mess with a teacher. You see it in graffiti a lot too.

My Thoughts: I learned this when I was about the same age and going to school in Colorado. I’m not sure how long its been around, but I think it’s something that every kid learns how to do and then doodles it all over their school notes. I think I learned it from older kids, so it felt almost like an initiation.

The neighbor’s chicken is a goose

Background: My informant, O, is a 19 year old male consulting over text with his 60 year old Persian aunt. He recalled hearing this proverb from his great grandparents and grandparents growing up.

مرغ همسایه غازه in Farsi 

O: It basically means that from your perspective other people’s things look more enticing then they actually are. Sort of like “the grass is greener on the other side”. Because geese are more valuable than chickens apparently. In Persian culture, money and status are really important, but uh… virtues are as well, if that makes sense. So a lot of our proverbs are reminders to ourselves to keep our principles. To avoid envy in this case. 

My thoughts: This proverb is interesting because it is so similar to the english proverb “The grass is always greener on the other side” but in farsi it is the way it is because it has a certain sound to it that makes it easier to remember, much like how many english proverbs have alliteration or rhyme.

A fish caught is always fresh

Background: My informant, O, is a 19 year old male consulting over text with his 60 year old Persian aunt. He recalled hearing this proverb from his great grandparents and grandparents growing up.

ماهی را هروقت از آب بگیری تازه است in Farsi

O: My dad always says this one to me, and my great aunt too. This idea is very ingrained in the culture.  It means that it’s never too late to do something, it’s never too late to start school or accomplish a goal you’ve set for yourself. My family would say it as a sort of comfort, like they’d tell me stories of people who didn’t find success or their calling in life until they were older. 

My thoughts: I personally really enjoy this proverb because it speaks to a exceedingly common insecurity about how to live one’s life. Across cultures, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that you don’t need to be doing everything at the same pace as your peers, and if you need to take some time off in your life to figure things out before you go out and find what you are meant to do, you can. But you should always know that one day you can do what you dream. The fish are always there for you to catch, and it doesn’t matter at what point in your life you accomplish something, it’s more important that you just accomplish it.