To Wear a Hat This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 12, 2012
In the fading light, the old man looked at his son. “You think I'd lie to you? Son, all you need to wear a hat is attitude. And you got that. You think I'd tell you you looked good if you didn't? You look real sharp. You don't believe me?”
– Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Washington winters aren't that cold, but I have a half-hour walk from Starbucks home, and I need to be warm. I have my fuzzy brown jacket and an umbrella in case it rains, but, as everyone knows, most body heat escapes through the head.

Recently in New York I bought a penguin hat with ear flaps that extend to my waist, ending in mitten-pockets for my hands. I tentatively packed it into my bag today, and now I take it out and finger the seams.

My mom has told me multiple times that I do have to clothe myself with a certain amount of dignity because of my responsibilities. A debate president, orchestra council member, and who-knows-what-else shouldn't dress like a five-year-old. She's probably right.

Looking at my penguin hat, I give myself a moment to chicken out. There is no doubt that wearing a hat like this in public will cause a potentially embarrassing stir. But I like it, and I will wear it if I want to. After quickly shaking it out, I pull it over my ears and put my hands in the mitten-pockets. It is warm, but already out of the corner of my eye, I see the barista smothering a giggle.

I push open the door and start walking, past glittering storefronts and cozy restaurants. Initially, I'm not sure whether to pretend to be on the phone or just look at the ground to avoid eye contact, but instead I keep my eyes in front of me and my chin level. People curiously look at me through the windows, as if I'm a strange animal specimen.

As I reach the main street, I feel more people staring. One man waiting at a bus stop quacks at me. A young girl tugs on her mother's hand and gleefully points out “the penguin costume.” I raise my eyebrows at her, grin, and walk by with all the poise of a concertmaster.

In the wicked winter air, a little penguin breathes like a dragon and swaggers like an emperor.

I do believe in me. I believe in all that is good and adorable in this world, and I believe that I can be mature whether I wear a tam-o-shanter or a toque. I believe that embarrassment stems not from the hat itself, but from hiding my face or wearing it half-heartedly. Luckily, I do neither; I walk contently across streets, under low-hanging tree branches, and up the hill to my house.

I reach my front door with my dignity intact.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm
I love the last line. It makes your point while showing off your wit. Good job.
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