By Bruce A. Smith
I like hats. I have panamas, Stetsons, baseball caps, Indiana-Jones-type hats, and balaclavas. My wife has bought me many of those hats, but not any more since she doesn’t like me wearing them. That woman is no longer my wife.
I never realized that she objected, and in retrospect I must have been unaware of how often I wore ’em. It must have been something like a gradually acquired taste because I haven’t always worn a hat, but now, it seems I do. Perhaps as I’ve aged my eyes sting a little more from sun glare or bright lights and I need a brim to shield them. Nevertheless, if I’m not wearing a hat when I leave the house I don’t feel fully dressed.
But I do remember the moment my wife first objected to my hat-wearing. We were at the movies. She leaned over, nudged me with her elbow and said, “Honey, no one else in the theater is wearing a hat.” I looked around. Even though she said, “No one else is wearing a hat,” I knew she meant no other man is wearing a hat.
“Son-of-gun, you’re right,” I said, craning my neck and looking around. “Lots of bald-headed men here tonight.” That was my way of flipping her off because I knew her real message was: Stop being weird and embarrassing me, and I didn’t feel like capitulating so the hat—a baseball cap with my company’s name on it—stayed put.
On the way home we had a “hat talk.” The central issue was: “Why did I feel the need to wear hats indoors, especially at the family diner table.” But the deeper issue was “why can’t you be a normal, regular guy,” but we didn’t touch that one.
My defense consisted of attacking her nicely, of course, about her foibles, especially about her cold hands and feet and how she shocks me awake in bed every night after I’ve gotten cozy and warm and she wants to snuggle.
That night when I dressed in my pajamas I also put on my baseball cap. (Note: I had never slept in a hat before). Unbeknownst to me, my wife dressed for bed with wool socks, mittens and a scarf. When we spotted each other we laughed so hard tears streamed down our faces. We made sweet love that night, however eight months later we were divorced.
During this time I developed a very strong desire to relocate from suburban Long Island, New York to the Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina. On our vacation we drove down to the mountains to start scouting for a home, or getting her warmed-up to the idea of living in the country. Tellingly, we drove in my Four-Wheeled Drive, 3/4- ton pickup truck, not her yuppie Nissan sports car.
On the drive down I pulled into a truck stop in Galax, Virginia to get gas, and also see if their famous fiddle convention was happening any time soon. While I fueled the pickup my wife went inside to get a diet cola. When I walked in to pay for the gas I saw a half-dozen truckers near the counter. They all wore Stetsons or baseball caps that said, “Detroit Diesel” or “Caterpillar.” I sidled up to my wife in line. When we got to the register we saw that the two women working the counter, and each wore neon orange baseball caps that read: “Disney World.” There was only one thing I could say—
“Honey, you’re the only one not wearing a hat.”
Ironically, this baseball cap is both my favorite and the last hat my ex-wife purchased for me. I especially like the “Zia” symbol on it – the “sun sign,” which is the state symbol of New Mexico. It is a symbol that has originated with the Zia Pueblo people, and I understand it to represent the many quatrains of life: summer, fall, winter, spring; infancy, childhood, adulthood, elder; morning, afternoon, evening, night; etc.