My mother’s favorite childhood humiliation story of mine (and there are several) is the infamous Hat Day incident of 1979. I was in the third grade. My brother was 3 and we were attending the Light & Life Christian School. The preschool where my brother was kept was a separate building at the other end of the parking lot, but they were always bringing the little ankle-biters over and foisting them on us older, and clearly more sophisticated elementary school types. One of the things we always did as a whole school is special emphasis days, spirit weeks, etc. This particular incident occurred when my brother brought home a colorful flyer announcing “Hat Day,” detailing a contest with prizes for the most outrageous hats. In my third grade wisdom, I deduced that since it was Hat Day for the preschoolers, it must be Hat Day for us older kids as well. Makes sense, right? I urged my mom to help me create the most fantastic hat we could conjure from bits of kitsch around the house. The result was a white Gilligan hat festooned with souvenirs, pins, toys and pretty much anything we could affix to the sad little floppy hat. I was ready.
My distaste for mornings began early in my life and my morning tardiness has persisted for the whole of my life. I was always a few minutes late every morning for school and this particular morning was no exception. I remember this being a damp morning, and either it was raining or it had rained that night, so I was gingerly picking my way across the basketball court so as not to slip on the concrete, one had holding the atrocity on my head. I ran up the stairs into the classroom just making the bell so I wasn’t technically tardy. As I eased into the bustle of children removing coats and backpacks, stowing lunch boxes, my keen powers of observation detected that there were no other hats in the room, whimsical or otherwise. I quickly swept the hat off my head, into my bag, and went on with my day. When mom came to pick me up, she asked me how it went and I told her. She’s still laughing.
I made another foray into hat land in the eighth grade when I chose to wear a soft pink hat, that I can only describe as kind of a swinger but not totally. I was the only one wearing a hat, but I didn’t care because I loved it. It was my last brave fashion act in a while. The rest of adolescence was spent in dutiful trend-following and primarily safe choices, with the possible exception of bright teal Converse high tops. It was the ’80s, after all.
I have declared this the year of the hat, partly because I live in a cool, damp climate, but also because, I look good in some hats and, damnit, I’m 35. If I want to wear a hat, I’m wearing a hat. Welcome to the year of the hat.