The story: I told her I would cook dinner. We hadn't had any more than a passing hello for months, and we haphazardly managed to get to the same bar on the same night to see the same guy play his guitar. It was nice to do that, but the fact that the rest of my night was littered with a half-dozen other random appearances by friends I hadn't seen in a while coupled with loud music and random meetings from the other patrons left us little room for any real conversation. So we, like the techno-savvy folks we are, made a note in our Google calendars for a nice private, more intimate reconciliation. I say intimate in that it would be the two of us, not in the way that carries a connotation of romantic involvement. For the record.
So the stage was set, and I brought my 'fixins' for roasting, sauteing, and ultimately consuming. Perhaps it was a bit naïve of me to think this would be simply a friendly dinner and chat session. In all honesty, I don't think I ever made that assumption, but it may have still been somewhere in the back of my head. To turn a long into a short, the Engineer is a woman who has always challenged me. Not in a confrontational manner, in fact, quite the opposite. I can't really explain why she and I have always had such an easy and open rapport, but that's the fact of the matter.
She warned me that after the prep and pleasantries were over with, she would become more direct, and potentially ask some pushy questions. Of course, I acquiesced. So while the oven performed its transformation of raw ingredients into cooked ones, we sat and had an impromptu interview (on the record, literally) about the blog, my writing, and why I have left it in the dust for the time being. In the end, my answer kept landing on one thing: laziness. It was honest.
If you want full disclosure, I've had a lot to write about lately, just not the drive to get it done. I don't know how much of it will end up here, and how much of it will stay in the ether, baking into a golden crust or (more likely) a burnt carbon of an idea, something which I have over-thought and decided to let decay.
And, in perhaps not the same words, she later asked me how hard could it be for me to spit out a few hundred words on a weekly basis and get them online. Her points being mainly that I myself have stated many times that this blog was more for stretching my writer muscles than it was for showcasing actual work, and that I never seemed to lack for ideas and opinions about things. Now whenever I get a person asking me the “how hard could it be” line of questioning, I usually have a knee-jerk reaction of asking them what exactly they are writing at the moment; in this case I knew that such a question would serve to make me look like an idiot. See, the Engineer writes and maintains SEVERAL blogs, a couple websites, a batch of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that see regular updating, and she churns out a fairly sizable amount of content every week, if not every day. If I was looking for a way out, I could have potentially argued that for her content was her job, and her dream, and she didn't have a day-job to contend with her time, and blah blah blah excuse excuse. Which is complete horseshit. The fact that she has a child is more than enough to kill my argument of other obligations. Also the fact that my day-job doesn't really take up more than 20-30 hours a week of my time. And that I had already admitted to spending most of my time sitting in front of my computer with my fat cat napping in my lap looking at memes for hours at a time. Or watching entire series of shows on Netflix. Or just reading books.
So yeah, I was in a corner, but she tossed me a line. Rather, she gave me a homework assignment. I was to have it completed within two weeks. I mentioned my hat, in passing. One I had lost a few years back. She looked at me, and said, “There you go. Write about your hat. Write a post about your hat, and have it done by next Thursday.” I laughed it off, but later that night, after I was in bed and with a few drinks in me, I thought about it. All the next day, I kept thinking. Then I started writing.
The Hat Is Not A Metaphor
I found it at Target. My girlfriend at the time would frequently drag me out there and, as is the duty of all boyfriends, I obliged with some small amount of groaning and sighing. While she was in the dressing room, I liked to dig around the Men's department, or (if she was taking too long) find my way to the video games to see what was on sale. This day, I found myself at a shelf of hats, popping them on to see how silly each one made me look.
I've never been one for a hat. I could occasionally pull off a baseball cap, but like any accessory, I was always more prone to forget to even put it on in the first place. That along with the fact that baseball caps always seem to have a need to promote something, be it a team, or a soda, or a business, and there are very few things in my life I have had so fervent a liking for that I felt the need to advertise them on clothing.
My hand landed eventually on what would soon be my constant companion: a black, cloth, pin-striped fedora. One could say, with some accuracy, that it was more likely a trilby hat as it was shorter in brim and in crown than most fedora hats. I did a double, maybe even a triple-take when I tried this one on. Hats like that always look ridiculous on me, but for some reason this one stuck out. It fit. It was, in the immortal words of Goldilocks, just right. My girlfriend's face appeared in the mirror behind me.
“I like it.” I told her.
“Then buy it.” She replied with a smile. I was hoping she would tell me it looked silly so as to remove the consideration completely from my head. I should have known better, but maybe I hadn't quite figured out that when it came to shopping, she was completely an enabler. Still, I didn't immediately decide it was mine. Instead, I wore it around the store, on the constant back and forth trips from the dressing room to the Women's department. I think at one point, I even put it back. But, as I'm sure the more astute of you have surmised by now, it was on my head when I left the store. I paid for it, of course.
It wasn't, for me, Just A Hat. I wanted it to be part of what identified me physically. I made a conscious and concerted effort to make sure I was wearing it as often as I could. Part of this was because it was so unexpected, for me, to find a hat that actually fit me and complemented me, and the other part was just a little idea that I would like being The Guy With The Hat. It didn't take long for that identity to stick, as I began to notice on the rare occasions that I forgot to wear it, people would ask about it.
I loved that hat. It went everywhere with me. Nine states, two beaches, two graduations, a vow renewal, several family vacations. It stopped being an accessory, and just started being My Hat. It was rough and tumble, never lost its shape, and no matter how many times I misplaced it, I could always trust that it would find its way home. I was going to post pictures of the various things I was doing while wearing this hat, but I hesitate because I don't have very many of them, and the ones I do have are filled with other people whose permissions I don't have to put them on the internet.
Tragedy struck, as it always does and is wont to do. I left my hat on the chair next to me while I was out to dinner with my family. I didn't quite realize it until the next day, and when I went to retrieve it, it was nowhere to be found. I was distraught. It's fair to say that I kept it to myself, I tend to do that when I'm hurting.
But before long, shit went south in my life. I had a lot more to think about than the hat, and soon it was a memory. When the storm settled, I started buying more. Target no longer had the one I had bought, and I went around to every single one withing 50 miles to make sure. I began ordering them online. Too small, too big, too stiff. Goldilocks all over again, but without the just right. I think all told, I bought seven hats, landing on a straw hat that fit well enough, and even fixing a nice flower to it to class it up a bit.
Eventually, that hat faded by the wayside, to the point that I can't even honestly answer to where it is now. Even when I was wearing it, I knew it wasn't a permanent solution. I never became attached. It was fun, and filled the void that the previous hat had occupied, but in the end... it just didn't fit. So I laid it down, or forgot it, or left it, and put it out of my mind. I decided I was OK without a hat. So for about year or two, I decided that I didn't need a hat. I am who I am, with or without my coiffure.
Enter: this introspective. I don't know why my conversation with The Engineer brought up memories of the hat, but here we are. I do miss my hat. It was a part of me, for a while, but it isn't anymore. I couldn't have that hat again, no matter how much I dig for it. Maybe it's just time to move on. I've been trying so long to find a hat to replace the one I lost, maybe it's just time to find a new hat, a hat that just is hat it is. The hat, by the way, is (not) a metaphor.