My fascination with women’s hats predates my self-awareness as a person. I have no idea why from the age of 18 months old I started wearing them. My mother insisted that this was something that I did on my own. She was hardly the type to initiate such frivolous behavior with her youngest child.
I don’t wear them regularly, I don’t own any and don’t wish to. It’s only when I’m in a fine department store, and the hat needs to really be vying for my attention. Another important point, like drinking or most other recreational activities, I don’t try on women’s hats when I’m alone. It’s a spectator’s sport and is played for the amusement of whomever I’m with.
There is no hidden truth waiting to be revealed here. I do not covet women’s clothing or get any arousal from it. It’s just the hats.
Years after my toddler obsession went dormant, I remember going shopping with my mother for clothes as a teenager. Walking down the street you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at me, but I love clothing shopping. We used to go together to one of two stores depending upon our mood, Bloomingdales or Lord and Taylor. Both were refined department stores, and we went to the store which best reflected our mood at the moment. Bloomingdales had salespeople which were more haughty and self-important, which was off-putting, but their inventory was incredible. Lord and Taylor always had the most attentive and personable staff and was always my default choice.
I could appreciate the aesthetics of the clothing, and see how they would compliment my mother’s body type, hair color, complexion, and personality. She soon came to depend on me to help her with her selections, which sometimes amused the other shoppers as I made my recommendations, (my wife today also relies on my assistance).
While my mother didn’t wear extravagant clothing, she created a thirst in me for this indulgent form of self-expression. My favorite was Ralph Lauren shirts. The fabrics were celebrations of the endless possibilities you could achieve with color, design, and exquisite cotton. I had to learn the difference of appreciating something intrinsically beautiful, and the need to own it. Some things can be appreciated from afar, and don’t need to be owned. Additionally, not everything which looks good, looks good on you.
Inevitably we’d pass the section for women’s hats, which was always a mandatory stop. She would never try them on, but you know I always would, and the more outlandish the better. We’d get different reactions from the saleswomen working in that department. Usually, a mix of surprise followed quickly by a look of disapproval. Occasionally I’d get a brief smile, which always earned a knowing wink in return. A shared secret about an object which is made to be a triumph of beauty and personality waiting patiently for expression on the right head, sometimes taking itself too seriously, but made to be noticed and talked about. It’s mission to adorn the wearer in celebration of her inner and outer beauty and most definitely out of context on this teenage boy’s head.
During these outings my mother covertly taught me other valuable lessons: It’s less expensive to pay more money up front for something of quality which will last, then to spend less on something of poorer quality which you’ll need to replace several times over in the same time frame.
My mother didn’t take me shopping with her to teach me any morals or code of ethics, we just enjoyed each other’s company and shared an appreciation of certain things. But her ability to disregard gender roles during these activities was not lost on me. She never thought that cultivating my appreciation of such things would make me more effeminate. Beauty is to be found wherever possible in an endless variety of forms and is to be nurtured and celebrated. Similarly, she never gave importance to other things that separate most people such as sexual orientation, religion, race, or ethnicity. These differences were to be taken as unique expressions of life and revered, to use them in any other way was to cheapen her own life experience and was not even considered.