Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sometimes a hat is more than just a hat

How often do you give up something you want--just to please someone else?

My most recent occurrence happened last week, and it involved a hat.

Where I live, in Ontario, Canada, hats are a necessity for at least half the year, especially for people with extra-sensitive ears like mine. I HATE wearing hats. Most make me itchy and sneezy--others don't fit on my very small head.

And then I tried on a hat at le Chateau--a black one with a beaded snowflake design embellishing the front, off-center. It looked almost exactly like the hat Angelina Jolie's character wears in The Changeling. And strangely enough, it both fit AND covered my ears.

I asked a salesperson for her opinion (which would be biased, of course). She said it looked better on me than on anyone else she'd seen try it on. I already knew that my husband would laugh.

I own exactly one hat which he doesn't find hysterical on my disproportionate body--a baseball hat that he insisted I try at a New York City street fair. He loved it and so did I. (Logically, of course. Would I complain about a hat he actually liked to see me wear?) He bought the hat for me and compliments me every time I wear it.

Others, he laughs at. The straw bucket hat I wear to protect my face when I garden; the black winter hat that's shaped like a kerchief, but covers my ears and doesn't itch.

The le Chateau hat was no different. When Pete met up with me in the store, predictably, he laughed. First he said I looked like someone from the 1920's, which my research later showed me made sense, considering it was, at that time, a popular style of hat. Next he said I looked like a Mennonite, which of course was completely illogical.

I took one more look in the mirror, put the hat back and sighed inside, staying distant as we sat through a movie.

When we left the theatre, the first thing I said was, "I LIKED that hat."

"I'm just not used to seeing you in hats," he said. And later, "I thought you put it on for me as a joke."

Somehow that hat came to symbolize the self I wanted to try on, but never had. In my late teens and early 20's, I became obsessed with dress pants, which I wore with black chunky-healed ankle boats or sandals, depending on the season. I had black, khaki and my favorites, navy with white pinstripes. To hide my top-heaviness, leaving my appropriately dressed for church and activities with church friends, which is what my life consisted of at the time, I wore them with either a black tank top or a knit top with three-quarter-length sleeves.

I was the always-dressed-up girl, at least when I wasn't baby-sitting, teaching piano or living most of my life, which was spent, logically, at home.

When I moved in with a roommate several years later, she mentioned my perpetually dressy habits. But it wasn't that I didn't want to look casual--I just didn't know how to do it in a way other than sweatshirts and shorts.

After that, I found a balance between casual and dressy.

Until I lost my friends to different parts of the world, ran out of money, became more depressed, met my boyfriend/now husband, gained weight and stopped leaving the house. When I did, it was usually a trip to the grocery store, an appointment with a chiropractor or therapist, or Sunday morning breakfast with Pete. My clothes stopped fitting and I started wearing his instead; then bought several plus-sized outfits. I wouldn't buy a new coat of course. After all, I was losing the weight--any time now. I wore one of Pete's many coats instead, or a zip-up sweatshirt for trips in and out of the car.

This hat represented the pretty, feminine me that I hardly ever had the chance to be anymore. I once wore makeup every day--foundation, lip gloss and mascara at the very least--and never left the house with dirty hair. Now I have little use for pretty and feminine, particularly in the winter when I'd rather hibernate than step behind my front door.

But a hat won't change sizes. It will still fit when I can wear my long, black, quilted winter jacket, or my short army green one with the detachable fur at the collar, or the long, brown, belted leather coat I picked up 15 years ago at a second-hand-store.

Someday those coats will fit me again, and when they do, I'll have the hat to wear with them. Because I went back and bought it, of course.

Today, my life may be less about going out and more about errands and appointments. But if I'm willing to take a chance on myself, this black, 20's-style hat may be the start of a more fashionable, feminine wardrobe. And the return of a me I lost 20 years back.

* A HUGE thank you to the website SaSSy Chic (http://www.ssasychic.com/) and their post on different types of hats. Without this post, I would never have known what a cloche hat was or who should wear it. Thank you. :) http://www.ssasychic.com/fashion/hats-types-and-trends-for-2009/

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