All my life I've felt like there was a particular skill set that I was lacking and would be made fun of for lacking: anything involving athleticism. I am not strong, not particularly fit (although that wasn't true in high school - I did dance), I have horrible aim, horrible depth perception, and horrible hand-eye coordination. Until the last several years I didn't even know the rules or the aim of most sports. I suppose this happened because neither of my parents are athletic, my mom is one of the most physically weak people I know, and my community was of the sort that believed "women shouldn't lift heavy things because they might ruin their ability to have babies!" Since I can remember, every time anyone would suggest I do anything athletic, whether that be throw a football or go snowboarding, I would immediately reject the idea.
This isn't just because I didn't know how to do these things and wasn't good at them. It's also because I was made fun of for not knowing. I remember not understanding why we were supposed to dribble a basketball in first grade and getting made fun of for asking the question. I remember being behind everyone else in swimming and getting made fun of. I'll never forget how the second time I went skiing in my life, I was going down medium-hard hills without falling once - until the Abusive Asshole made me go down one that was a little too steep for me, and then mocked me for months afterward when I fell right under the lift and everyone saw me. I have a long, long history of being made fun of for being unathletic, to the point where it takes a great effort of will to even try.
In the last year, GreenHunk has endeavored (with more patience than I probably deserve) to help me overcome this fear I have of being mocked for being bad at anything athletic. He's taken me to the gym and helped me figure out weights. He's been patient with me about my terror of going to Muay Thai with him and learning in a classroom full of fit men. And he's asked me, "Why is it so bad that you don't know something? You don't know about quantum computers, but when our friends talk about them you get really excited and ask them a lot of questions. How come you are so afraid to learn about sports?" And I realized it's because I have always been made to feel that it's not okay that I don't already know.
It is okay. It's okay to not know. None of us know everything. Nobody taught me the skills I would have needed to be good at sports, so I wasn't good at them. And that's okay. I can still learn. There are lots of things I know that other people don't know, and vice versa. That's one of the reasons why people work best in a community: so we can hold a diversity of knowledge we would not have as individuals.
I am also thinking about this in terms of Erin's main page article on home ec classes. She started the article with an anecdote about an ex who couldn't make dinner and how she laughed at him for not knowing what she considered basic life skills. But we need to stop making fun of people who don't know things they "should" know. Sometimes people don't know things. Maybe their parents didn't know (my mom still can't cook very well, and I didn't learn how until last year). Maybe they were raised by a single parent who didn't have the time to teach them. I have a friend who never learned to drive because no one taught him, but you know what? He can juggle sticks that are on fire, blow glass, and do gymnastics. And I can't do any of those things.
We are a community. We should teach each other what we know, instead of making others feel bad that they don't know everything. It is okay to not know everything; none of us do.
ETA: Thanks to Darklighter for the heading image! See what this community can do together!