I bought another hat last week. I wanted to hide it from my wife. But, given the nature of hats—you do have to wear them on your head—I couldn’t sneak it past her.
“You bought another hat?”
“Maybe,” I answer, sotto voce, a trick I learned from our teenagers. Apparently, if you mumble your answer softly enough your parents won’t understand you, and rather than ask you to repeat yourself, which they know will only result in a repeated mumble, will send you to your room to “Think about it!” At least that’s the theory they go by, and since they were headed to their room in the first place, it sounds like a reasonable strategy.
It didn’t work for me, since she could see the hat there on my head.
“How many hats do you have?”
“Fewer than the pairs of shoes you have,” a diversion that didn’t work either.
“Only because you wear them on the opposite end.”
“You have to have shoes to walk around,” she explains patiently, as though talking to a child. “You don’t have to have a hat to do anything but hide your bald spot.”
A retort that wasn’t fair, even if true.
“So how much did you pay for it?”
“For a hat?”
“You spend more than that on a pair of shoes.”
“These are Pierre Buttons. Do you know how much Pierre Buttons cost retail? And, I got two of them and you only got one hat.”
She thinks she’s got me because she’s using higher math. But, I’ve already bought the hat. I’ve already worn it. You can’t take them back after you’ve worn them.
“It’s like underwear,” I reply smugly.
I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Quickly I change the subject.
“Beautiful shoes. Are they new?”
“Why, yes they are.” She sounds pleased. “I can’t believe you noticed.”
I sneak away while she admires her shoes, a smile of contentment on her face. As I head to my room I reflect on “hatism,” a word that I admit I just made up. Still, I think of myself as a member of a proud, though misunderstood, race, misunderstood not only by our wives, but by the rest of you as well. We are your friends and neighbors. We have jobs, pay our taxes, raise families. We are, for the most part, just like you. And yet we are different. I would like to say that our difference goes unnoticed. But, we wear it for all to see. On our heads. With pride.
We are the People of the Hat (a phrase that even as I mumble it, I hear in my head with a touch of reverb). We would no more dream of going out in public—sunny day, rainy, even at night—without our hat any more than the rest of you would dream of going out in public without pants. (At least it’s my sincere hope you would not.)
We like to think of ourselves as a minority, though other than the occasional small boy pointing us out at the mall with, “Look mommy, Indian Jones!” we are not persecuted for our difference. Except, perhaps, by wives who have better things to do with fifty dollars than spend it on a hat.
My Uncle Bod, who is one of us, will only wear cowboy hats, and has disdain for my Panama. Though he reserves his greatest ridicule for the guy who dusts his Stetson off once a year for the Stock Show, or the guy who buys one of those spray painted hats in Progresso that have already been bent into a bull rider shape.
Whether we’re wearing a Stetson, a Melton Cloth Walker, a fedora (an Indiana Jones hat to the rest of you), or a panama, we know, We of the Hat (insert reverb here) that even though you can put it on and take it off just like clothes, a hat is more than an article of clothing. It’s a part of who you are. Something to be cherished and respected. Our motto is “Respect the Hat.” But don’t tell your wife how much you paid for it.