Last night, Amanda and I were invited to a party for our neighbor’s daughter. There was to be a bonfire.
Hold on. Please hit the play button on the song below. Let it play as you read the post. Consider it mood music.
There was to be a bonfire, and we would be hanging out in the cold, sitting around the fire. I knew I needed two things: a travel mug of hot apple cider spiked with spiced rum, and my red hat.
I’m a girl who likes her hats. Mickey Mouse ears, cowboy hats, you name it. I mean, just look.
I went to Girl Scout camp. I learned that you lose 49%* of your body heat out of the top of your head. (*That number if unconfirmed. I remember someone saying 49%, but it could actually be a lower or higher percentage; I can be certain that I was not wearing a hat when I received the information, and that I was eating trail mix with m&m’s in it.) Point being: I need a hat to stay warm.
So last night, I got my cider ready to go, and then realized a very crucial detail: I haven’t seen my red hat in months. I don’t remember unpacking it when I moved. I can’t say with certainty when the last time was that I wore it. I believe I wore it to the dance studio I used to work at, but I never saw it there again, not even when I sifted through the lost and found box to fish out my flip flops after the Dance-a-thon, long after the cold weather had ended.
I checked in my car, under the seats, in my closet, the dresser drawers, the nightstand, and even the pockets of my winter coats.
No use. My hat is… gone.
This may seem silly. There are people still without heat in New York. We’re a mere two days away from (hopefully) ending the nastiness and bad manners flying around in anticipation of the election. There are bigger issues at stake, and I know it.
And yet, there’s a small (or not small, whatever) voice inside of me that says, “But… I want my hat!”
My friend Andrea has a safety hat. It’s the right size, it fits her well, it keeps her warm, and she likes it. I sympathize; this hat was my safety hat. In the cold weather, it was loose enough on my head so that it didn’t give me a headache when I wore it for long periods of time. It had a short visor to the front, minimizing my hat hair flipping out of from underneath. I could pull it down easily over my ears, even my eyes if I wanted.
It was soft, red, and perfect. I got it at a store in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a store that seemed to carry anything and everything, from Army-Navy surplus items to Doc Martens to fishing tackle to novelty plates with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on them. I fished that hat out of a barrel of similar hats. It was cold in Provincetown for Women’s Week, colder than I expected, which is always the situation I find myself in when I go to Provincetown.
I have worn that hat for years. Every winter, once it gets cold, when I leave the house, I have my coat, a scarf, and that hat. I can spot myself in pictures based on the hat alone.
Last night, all was not lost. I had other options. I layered up, pulling on long johns (I’m Southern; it’s cold to me), long-sleeved shirt, jacket, and zipping up my boots. I found a cream-colored knit hat and pulled that on. It looked okay. But it was tight. And too short. I couldn’t have pulled it down over my face if I wanted to hide away. It didn’t cover my ears the way I wanted.
I looked in the mirror, taking it off and putting it back on again. Taking it off, tucking my hair behind my ears, and then putting it back on again. I told Amanda I forgot how to wear hats. I told her this hat was dumb.
I whined on Facebook about my lost hat.
Because that hat was safe. It was comfortable. It was the right hat, the way some people cling to the right pair of jeans, the right shoes, the right purse. This hat was cheap, it was a spur of the moment purchase, but it was right.
And maybe (where are we in the video? has Celine hit her chest yet? are we to the triumphant crescendo?) – maybe there’s another perfect hat out there somewhere. Maybe there’s a sea full of hats in a hat paradise, a place where I can splash around in an ocean deep with hats, trying them on until I find the perfect one.
Maybe hope springs eternal in the idea that another such hat is out there, hanging forlorn on a rack in a lonely department store, or a Target, or a Kohl’s. Maybe it’s time to stop coveting hipster knit hats and stop hating myself for coveting hipster knit hats and to just try one of those.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that I’m under a lot of unconscious stress because my life is changing – I’m moving to a place where I won’t know anyone, to be by myself while my girlfriend deploys for nine months at a time; I’m unsteady in my professional path, banking a lot of energy and time on the hope that I get a book published. Perhaps it’s possible that I don’t miss the hat at all, but rather, I’m projecting my issues with my life and change and my lack of control onto the hat.
That hat was a place where my girlfriend comes home to me from work everyday; it was a place where I know street names and good neighborhoods; that hat was a place where everybody knew my name.
Or maybe it’s just the hat and I’m petulant! I don’t know. But I can tell you one thing with resounding sureness: my hat is gone. My hat is gone. My hat is gone. And I can either sit and whine about it and lose 49%* of my body heat through the top of my head, or I can move forward, smile, and make due. And I will. But first, I’ll break this ish down a bit further, to the stylings of Dusty Springfield (sort of).
(Because this post needed more drama.)
A chair is still a chair,
even when there’s no one sitting there.
But a chair is not a hat,
And a hat is not a home,
When there are no hats that fit you right,
And no hat there you can wear tonight.