Hats are like haircuts. Like getting a whole new wardrobe. Like growing a beard, or shaving off your moustache. Like swapping your Converse for high heels, or your jeans for suits.
They’re about making a change in your physical appearance; adopting something new; being someone your ex doesn’t know. They’re a “fuck off” to who you were before, a symbolic gesture of defiance, a secret password to grant you entry into the next stage of your life.
But more than all that, hats are cool. And kind of quirky.
My own love affair with hats was brief but powerful. I wandered into Urban Outfitters one afternoon, in that vague, half-hypnotised, post-breakup way of mine (the dominant stage at the time was depression, interspersed with “fuck you” bolts of anger and euphoric interludes of denial); I staggered from display to display of painfully cool garments and accessories, occasionally reaching out to stroke a fabric or check a price tag, performing (unconvincingly) the role of a normal girl doing some shopping. The whole exercise was entirely futile: I didn’t actually want anything.
And then, there it was. There may have been angel song and that white light that shines down from the heavens, like a celestial spotlight, when items of importance are divinely revealed; there may well have been “thunders and lightnings”* (this being London, the likelihood is quite high). There may also have been Beyonce and the strip-lights of a store on Oxford Street, but sometimes you’ve just gotta make do with what you’ve been given. In any case, there was certainly a biblical feel to the moment, and the LORD delivered unto me A HAT. It was artfully arranged on top of a pile of books, on a display table that also featured faux-gold costume jewellery and several pairs of inexplicably high-waisted jeans. It was felt, a deep, rich fuchsia in colour, with a dark brown ribbon, and undoubtedly made by the hand of God. It spake unto me and said, in a raspy, sexy voice: You must have me. I beheld it, on its pedestal of books, and felt slightly nauseous. ‘I don’t wear hats,’ I retorted, hopefully not out loud. I walked away, and pretended to take an interest in a crocheted iPhone case. I came back. I touched it, tentatively, with the tip of a finger. Thunders and lightnings and that low, seductive voice. I am yours. My fingers tightened around the rim. For twenty five pounds, the hat hastened to add. ‘But I’m not a person who wears hats,’ I insisted helplessly. Yes you are, declared the hat. And all of a sudden, I was. It was a tiny but monumental shift in my personal paradigm, whereby not being a person who wears hats was nothing more than a story I told about myself, and I could be any damn thing I wanted, simply by deciding it was so.
I swiped the hat off the table, and clutched it tightly to my chest, lest it realised I wasn’t worthy, after all, and chose someone far cooler than me to take it home. We made it to the till without incident and there I placed it reverently on the counter, in front of a bored-looking assistant.
‘I have decided I’m a person who wears hats,’ I shared with her.
‘Right,’ she said flatly. ‘Great,’ and pushed the card machine towards me.
Feeling slightly dejected by her lack of enthusiasm, I typed in my pin and returned the machine with my best normal-person smile, to show I wasn’t completely deranged.
She looked up as she handed over my receipt. ‘Put it on,’ she said.
‘The hat.’ She nudged it in my direction; I did as I was bid.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I can see it.’ She gave a nod: a final affirmation, and a dismissal. ‘You don’t need a bag.’
So I wore my hat out of the store and onto the streets of London, where the wind and rain tried to whip it off my head and I had to hold onto it with both hands, which ruined the effect a little bit. But it didn’t matter. I was a person who wore hats, cool and quirky, and surely not one to let a bit of rain and a failed relationship kill her vibe.
It’s been a while now since I was that person. I revisit her sometimes, on mild, windless evenings when a hat can be worn, but it’s rare. I will always think of her fondly but, the truth is, I don’t need her anymore. She served her purpose, as did her hat, which is now displayed in a prominent place in every room I make my own. As a reminder that, although I no longer wear hats, I can still be whoever the fuck I want. With an edge of cool and quirky, if the mood takes me.
On that note, if cool and quirky is what you’re after, there are several other accessories you can adopt that’ll do the trick just as well. Braces, for example, are an excellent choice, for men and women alike. And the more traditional haircut route is not to be frowned upon, either. My own recovery was significantly helped along by getting my hair cut really short – mostly because I wanted to, and also in part because Iceman (who frequently bemoaned my lack of femininity) had expressly forbidden me from it. Symbolic gestures and small victories: it’s what the path to getting the fuck over it is strewn with. There will be big, defining moments of revelation, too, but in the end, it really is the little things that count.
*Exodus 19:16 (King James Bible) – these, coupled with a thick cloud upon the mount, preceded the delivery of the Ten Commandments. Also applicable to hats.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Get the fuck over it (a literary self-help guide for intelligent people). I hadn’t planned to share it, but then my actual, original post about buying that hat came up on my facebook memories this morning, and it was impossible to resist.