Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hat Lady

At the dog park today, a little black schipperke approached me cautiously while I sat on the bench with another dog owner. The dog barked at me a few times, then he walked up and let me pet him on the head.

The dog’s owner explained the dog’s behavior. “He’s friendly; he’s just never seen a hat before,” he said, referring to my sun hat and its wide brim. “I’ll have to start wearing a hat at home so he’ll get used to them,” the man added. Friday (the dog’s name) waited for a few more pets and then ran after George out onto the grass.

I think it’s a shame that people don’t wear hats anymore. (A baseball cap does not count.) I long for the times when people dressed up – the days of gloves and heels and hats, when women wouldn’t be caught dead in pants in public, when men wore hats and shined shoes and made sure their pants had a sharp crease.

What does it say about our society, now that people wear pajamas and slippers in public? The next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery, look around you and survey all the people within eyesight. Usually, there is no one dressed well. It’s a sea of dingy jeans, cutoffs, bra straps, and sweatpants. And of course I’m not saying we all need to dress up all the time, but I think it’s sad that sloppiness is the norm.

I wasn’t alive in the era I’m talking about, but I watched it on TV all the time. I loved those old black and white movies with the elegant men and women. And I loved looking at the photos of Mom and her sister in the 50’s in poodle skirts, cardigans, and bobby socks.

So, I am a hat wearer. When I wear a hat, it means I’m in a good mood. In hats, I feel creative, artsy, dressed up a little. When I see other people in hats, they seem jaunty, edgy. You have to have a certain self confidence nowadays to wear a hat. Hats make a statement. My sunhats make me feel like I’m on vacation. Berets feel European. Newsboy hats feel cocky, opinionated.

And hats hold memories. My Mom’s fellow teachers gave her a hat party when she had cancer and lost her hair. I hung a row of antique hats in the kitchen of my first apartment. I tend to buy hats when I travel to other countries. And Mom and I always wanted to buy me a real top hat – the kind that is flat and then pops out so you can wear it – just like Fred Astaire. I’ve always had a hat collection.

After writing this, it makes me think of my Grandpa, in his black shined shoes and houndstooth pants, stopping by the door to put on his fedora on the way out. I’ll have to find that hat the next time I’m at Grandma’s. It’s a connection to Grandpa, and to those past times that make me sentimental.

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