No, that’s not a typo… I am truly talking about headwear!
So here’s the thing: This post-active-treatment life is freakin’ tough. I’d heard from other cancer survivors that transitioning back into “normal” life could really mess with one’s head, but I did not anticipate just how messy that mess would be. As my primary care provider reminded me recently, healing from this kind of trauma and grief is not linear, and I am discovering that truth the hard way. Every time I think I’ve wrapped my head around what the fuck just happened to me, it’s like the whole truth of it slides out of focus and out of my grasp and hits me from a new and horrible angle.
Which is why it’s so important to find moments of joy and levity wherever I can. And this summer, hats are bringing me joy.
As a curly gal, I’ve always had a fraught relationship with hats: Most of them crush my curls, taking them out of commission until the next wash day. So I have to be strategic about when I choose to wear hats, rather than throwing them on with the careless abandon known (but likely not appreciated!) by the straight-haired.
You can probably see where this is going. Basically, my post-chemo short hair offers a big ol’ silver lining: I can wear hats whenever I want! So today I’d like to introduce you to my Four Hats of Summer. (Yes, this is a ridiculous post. No, I do not care.)
The classic baseball cap
Needs no introduction. A true American classic!
Baseball cap pros:
- Has a slider to adjust the fit (crucial for my tiny noggin)
- Is embroidered with my organization’s logo for sneaky activism
- Is dark blue—doesn’t really clash with anything and is complementary to my mostly neutral wardrobe
- Makes me feel sporty (lol)
- Survives packing in backpacks, suitcases, and various other traveling implements without losing its shape
Baseball cap cons:
- Technically features outdated branding for my organization (esp. bad because I spent many years on the branding team)
- Is dark blue—kind of drab, especially for the summer
- Does not protect the back of my neck; must apply sunscreen or risk a serious farmer’s tan
The straw hat
Purchased years ago at Sacred Feather, a now-shuttered hat shop on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin.
Straw hat pros:
- Has a floral band that offers a bit of visual interest without being garish
- Provides 360˚ coverage and protects the oft-exposed back of my neck
- Is lightweight
- Screams “warm weather millinery” in a way that a baseball hat just doesn’t
- Reminds me of the years I lived in Madison!
Straw hat cons:
- Does not pack down and thus takes up too much space in a suitcase to be truly travel-friendly
- Is, perhaps, a little ostentatious? One cannot hide while wearing this hat.
- Is susceptible to blowing off on a gusty day
The netted wonder
Truly an innovation in functional hatwear. Thanks to my friend Sara for tipping me off about the existence of netted hats like this and thanks to Steven for purchasing a too-small size and generously gifting it to meee.
Netted hat pros:
- Protects one’s face from all manner of buzzing, biting, blood-sucking insects—ideal for evening gardening when the gnats are a-swarmin’ and the mosquitoes are a-hankerin’ for blood
- Has a very wide brim—lots of sun protection!
- Cinches at the bottom of the netting for a snug fit around one’s neck, leaving no gap through which insects can enter
- Is super lightweight
- Folds up into a tidy (and very packable) cylinder
Netted hat cons:
- Obscures one’s vision just a bit thanks to the netting
- Is not exactly fashion-forward
- Doesn’t really offer a convenient way to tuck the netting up and off one’s face—would be great if the netting could be secured on top of the hat
The Regency bonnet
Betcha didn’t see this one coming! My dear friend Kim sent me this amaaazing handmade bonnet for my birthday this year and it is just the most darling (if not the most practical) thing. It’s a poke bonnet, so named because the brim pokes out around one’s face, and was popular during the Regency period. Adorable.
Regency bonnet pros:
- Makes me feel like an Austen character (I’ve always thought I’m a cross between Elinor and Lizzy; HBU?)
- Is unique AF
- …is a Regency bonnet
Regency bonnet cons:
- Isn’t terribly practical if you want to recline or sit back or anything like that
- Has a long ribbon that could get stuck in car doors
- Does not allow for unobtrusive sneakery—this is a hat for a woman who wants to be noticed!
And there you have it: my four hats of summer.
P.S. My hair is growing back at a rapid clip! Having shaved my head twice before this whole cancer thing, I knew what to expect in the growth journey, but I’d forgotten how quickly my hair goes from “yikes, that’s REAL short” to “cute pixie cut!” (Not that I dislike the “yikes, that’s REAL short” stage, to be clear!) My hair started coming back in early/mid-June, and now it’s at the point where, if I don’t comb it after a shower, I can see the curl patterns forming when it dries. (It’s funny when I read about formerly straight-haired people who get “chemo curls” after finishing treatment—that’s just normal hair for me!) I’ve already had to have a few little trims to the hair on the back of my neck (thanks, Steven and Bonnie!) because it gets shaggy quickly, but otherwise I’m just letting it grow.
On the other hand, my poor eyelashes seem stunted. Pre-chemo, they were gently curled and long enough that they sometimes brushed against my glasses annoyingly. Now, they’re just… kinda stubby. I’m still holding out hope that this is just a first damaged batch of eyelashes, and the next ones that come in will be restored to their former glory, but who knows. Chemo does weird things to a body.