"You must be Tabatha. You look like a reporter."
It was my first out-of-office assignment. I stood in an industrial building, saddled with my purse and my DSLR strapped in an X across my torso, a phone each per back pocket of my jeans, my car keys dangling out of the front left pocket. I took off my sunglasses and set them atop my head, above the brim of my black felted wool hat, then outstretched my hand to greet my interviewee.
"It's the hat," she said. "It's a great hat."
I smiled with closed lips, self-conscious that perhaps I had overdone it again -- the hat was too cliche, too caricature of an antiquated idea of my new vocation.
That wasn't why I wore it, though.
The black hat was something else entirely.
Every witch has her magic hat, right?
I don't know where the drive to find a hat came from -- perhaps it was sometime in the fall, when my trusty beanie felt less like a solid choice, stretched out from years of wear on an already diminutive skull. I lamented my search with other fashion-minded friends, my miniature head wreaking havoc upon my sartorial desires as it has done for the entire span of my conscious life.
I knew I wanted something with structure, not too much detail work, and a strong brim. I didn't want varying or contrasting colors or anything too floppy or maleable. So many options were too flimsy or too overwrought or the wrong color or a weird fabric or, of course of course of course too big to actually stay on my head with any amount of movement.
Eventually, I found a hat that actually stayed on my tiny head, for under $20. And somewhere, over the winter, I felt brave enough to wear it, even though it slightly flattened my hair upon it's removal at my destination.
Maybe it's the way I perch it upon the crown of my head that fosters a mindfulness of my posture and composure, not unlike carrying a primitive tiara. Or maybe it's the contrast between my vibrant hair and the black brim that creates a darkened halo around my equally diminutive face, causing my darker features to stand out against my pale skin. I really don't know what magic it imbues upon others, but from that first day out in public I continue to hear compliments about this silly hat.
Except it isn't silly, because I do know the magic it stirs in me.
When I wear my hat, I feel as if a bolder, braver version of myself appears. The hat has become my symbol of aptitude and alertness -- it is the last thing I don before I leave the house, whether for work or for travel or for playdates at the park. It is the finishing touch that 95% of the time makes me feel aptly assembled and comported in my appearance and my sociability.
I am a better version of myself when I wear my black hat. I am less afraid of the judgement of others, of the questioning stares. My social anxiety quells, my brain smoothly shifts gears from role to role, I feel my words fall with more weight, my ideas more worth considering, my intelligence not questioned as much as it once was. The hat not-so-quietly whispers to be noticed, beyond the violet tresses it shields.
Perhaps the hat makes me appear formidable, every bit the intimidating, other-worldly woman I hear so often I appear to be.
Or perhaps it is the modern, adulting version of a security blanket. For when I wear the hat, I can hide behind a lowered brim and heavy bangs and sunglasses without obviously recoiling. A downward glance can nearly obscure me from view, wrapping me in a cloak of invisibility, a shield against the warring forces that always try to make me out to be something I'm not. I can stand in plain view and watch as the berth of space around me (and often, my children) widens, a force field of unfuckwithableness emanating from the top of my spine, off the brim of the hat, down into a cascade of energy to surround me and my littles.
I know this because when I do not wear my hat, people become physically too close. The way I am addressed changes, my autonomy less respected, my more obvious femininity mistaken as an open invitation to invade upon the physical space I take up in the world.
And when I am at home, and take off the hat for the day, it is then I am laid most bare within the walls of my new home, and new life. My hair is swept up and away into hat-incompatible configurations as I go about the work of single motherhood, single lifehood, with creatures large and small impatiently waiting to glean their physical needs from me until I collapse into bed -- and even then the cats will crowd me. Wearing the hat brings out in me the version of myself I wish to be -- bold yet open, strong yet gentle, bright with a touch of wild beneath a knowing curiosity. When I am without the hat, the weights of the weariness that I carry appear broadly for easy consumption -- the truths of the lives I have lived become evident across my furrowed brow, bared roots, and fallen shoulders.
You hear of how people wear so many hats (representative of roles) in their lives, how they take one off to only put on another. My black hat is the one I look forward to putting on each day, as it is the role I chose, wholeheartedly, for myself. It is not something handed to me or borne out of necessity, but truly the time I feel the most myself, the better-becoming-best part of myself.
We all have our talismans as we march on through the phases and seasons of our lives. And this phase, it is a wide-brimmed black hat (and often times, an assortment of raw crystal jewelry, but we'll leave that lie for now) that is carrying me through. Maybe something else will come up to the plate. Or maybe, just maybe, who I am when I wear the hat will just become who I am, period -- no more magic needed.