Most women probably buy hats throughout the year. Others (and I belong to this category) are lazy shoppers who buy their hats only twice a year, once before Pesach and again before Rosh Hashanah. This by no means indicates that we have few hats because, when we finally get around to shopping for a hat to wear to shul, we buy several at a time.
In spite of the lingering warm weather that we customarily have in September, when I think of the approaching holidays I always think of felt hats. My mind is just wired that way. This is unfortunate and is the reason why, on many a past Rosh Hashanah, I have been uncomfortably warm because I chose to wear a felt hat when the temperature hovered well above eighty. Nevertheless, I do the same thing every year. It’s ridiculous, but I wear a felt hat after Labor Day. Fall doesn’t officially begin until the third week of the ninth month but my mother’s words continue to echo in my ears, and as a result, I eschew white pocketbooks and straw hats after Labor Day. To me, September conjures up thoughts of autumn! It’s a natural result of faulty brain wiring. As a result, there have been numerous times when, wearing a felt hat, I have arrived at shul dripping with perspiration. It occurs to me that, should my hat be accidentally knocked off, everyone would be a witness to the fact that my hair was plastered against my head. Not an attractive sight! But by then, I’m so miserably hot that my focus is on my discomfort and not my appearance. It has also occurred to me that, if I had bothered to sprinkle a few seeds on my head before I left the house, I might have arrived at shul with flowers sprouting from my scalp. I’ve never been into horticulture, but it is my belief that between the heat and the humidity, anything could grow under a felt hat—sort of like a greenhouse effect.
When Pesach approaches there is a different issue to deal with. The calendar says that spring is here, but so what? Who wants to parade to shul wearing a chapeau of straw, while remnants of the most recent snowfall are still visible? But, with or without snow, April tends to be chilly and that makes the adornment of a straw hat look ludicrous. But there are some options. There exists a little known and probably unwritten rule which is, without doubt, the least known of the rules governing any Jewish holiday. It’s an edict, probably created by some frustrated females, that dictates what type of hat it is permissible to wear. While it’s unclear how or when it originated, and while we don’t know who is responsible for the decree, it goes as follows: in September and in early October, if the weather is warm, wearing straw is considered acceptable, provided it’s a dark color straw. Conversely, in a spring month, specifically April, when the weather is still quite cool, it is totally okay to wear a felt hat provided it’s a pale colored felt. For those who have never heard of this, I promise that I am not making it up. I couldn’t possibly be that creative. But I have it on good authority that this is how some women think. In the dictionary, next to the word mishugas, Merriam Webster would do well to print those lines about dark straw hats and light colored felt ones.
Contrary to what one would expect, and against all rules governing common sense, what a female thinks carries a lot more weight than what actually is! But there’s some good news here too. Designers, in addition to being artistic, are resourceful souls. They’ve given us another option, one that is known as the transitional hat. For the uninitiated, as well as for the disinterested, a transitional hat is one that is made of neither straw nor felt. It’s made of a fabric that is not too heavy or too light. Hence, it’s considered to be the perfect choice when the temperature doesn’t match the season. But there is one problem; from a distance, a hat constructed of fabric may appear to be made of straw and, since some fashion conscious woman don’t want to be seen wearing straw in the fall, it defeats the whole purpose. It could be 100 degrees, but those of us who came of age in the 1960s, and remain uncomfortable about wearing straw in September, don’t want anyone to think we’re in straw. If we gave as much thought to other things as we do to our shul hats, the world might be a better place.
Fashion may not be my strong suit but I still don’t want to do the wrong thing. There was once a time when I was blissfully unaware that fashion isn’t my thing, but I know better now, thanks to the occasional odd glance that I get from any one of my daughters. When my girls were too young to critique my attire, I actually thought I looked pretty terrific. But ever since my girls grew to adulthood they’ve been known to (silently) indicate otherwise! One look is all it takes. But there’s good news on the horizon because, as I age, I’m getting the sense that less and less is expected of me and my choices. Amen to that! But I’m not quite there yet, so it would be premature to celebrate.
September has just arrived. It’s the one month of the year that always takes me by surprise. I have no idea why. What else did I expect after August 31? In any case, Rosh Hashanah is less than two weeks away and once again I’m griszuring as I ponder about what hats I will wear. As I no longer have my beloved husband, I am technically not a married woman. For all I know, I may not even need to be wearing a hat anymore. But I still feel married, so chances are that I will. To the best of my knowledge, while a married woman is specifically required to cover her head, there is no law that says an unmarried woman may not cover hers. I don’t intend to ask my rabbi about that and I sincerely hope that no one will feel the need to set me straight. That’s just the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.