December 16, 2018

No More Pink Hats

“Why do you always wear black?”

This was the question that my boyfriend asked me when I met him in a black dress on which I’d already received numerous compliments from others. I didn’t give him an answer and, in the interest of decorum, won’t print what I did say. But I will give you the answer: because it looks good on me. That has been my guiding principle in choosing my clothing’s color palette. I’m light skinned and have dark brown/black hair and tend to look good in black and strong jewel tones. That I should dress in colors in which I look best has always seemed obvious to me, but not necessarily to others.

For example, I had a friend with light brown hair (in other words, for a Jewish woman, blond) who asked me why I did not have any suits in “neutral.” I told her that I did, pointing to my suit, which was black. “No,” she said, pointing to her suit, which was light tan, “neutral.” I let go of my strong suspicion that the color tan was not actually named “neutral” any more than my little brother was actually named “Big Boy,” as he claimed when he was five, and explained that “neutral” (I knew about the quotation marks.  She didn't.) made me look washed out.

“But it’s neutral,” my friend responded. “It goes with everything. Everyone has to have some neutral in their wardrobe.” I was about to explain that “neutral” does not, in fact, go with everything – such as, for example, my face, when I decided to take a different tack. “Black goes with everything, too,” I said, “and it looks good on me, so I don’t see why I have to buy something in ‘neutral’(more invisible quotation marks.)” “But neutral goes with everything,” she non-responded. Did I mention that she graduated from an Ivy League law school?

Never mind my (former) friend. Others over the years have taken exception to my fashion choices. Besides the otherwise-complexioned or colored, like my “Jewish blond” friend, people who happen to like whites and pastels (because they look virtuous? feminine?) as well as advocates of variety or change just for its own sake have at times urged me to wear clothing out of my favored color palette. With the exception of the occasional casual summer wear at ridiculous sale prices, I have resisted these pleas.

But a while ago, I gave in. Here’s what happened. I married. Yes, to the same man who posed the obnoxious opening question.  At the synagogue I attend, it is traditional for married women to wear hats. I’m not really a hat person, but I don’t have strong objections to wearing hats if appropriate. So I went shopping for one. The first hat I chose was – you guessed it –black. I liked the color (surprise!), but was not thrilled with its shape. However, because I hate shopping and had already tried on three other hats that I liked even less, I bought it.

But the hat was for winter, so when spring came, I decided that I should buy another one. When I went into the shop, there were numerous hats displayed, including a few on sale. A salesperson, sensing my hesitation, approached. “We have some lovely hats for spring,” she said. “This one,” she said, pointing, “is a very good value.”  As she said this, she reached for a very well made hat that was – pink.  Pastel.  And not a good match for anything in my wardrobe. Normally, I would have immediately rejected it and asked for something in a more appropriate color – like black.

But instead of following my instincts, I dutifully tried the hat on. It fit nicely, but, how shall I put this…pinkly.  I can only say that standing there looking in that mirror, I remembered not only every time I’ve heard my fashion choices questioned, but every time I’ve heard self-help experts lecture me on the importance of change and flexibility. Add to that the recording in my head of every time I have told myself I needed to do something to shake my life up, and the resulting guilt and insecurity were too great to resist.  So I said “I’ll take that” to the pink hat.

That Saturday, I looked through my entire wardrobe for something, anything, that would look nice or even appropriate with my new hat. I came up with nothing but regret. Due to my hatred of shopping and the fact that I never wear hats outside of synagogue, I decided not to run out to buy another hat more to my liking. As a result, every single week, my mirror reminded me that I had listened to others against my better judgment and wished I hadn’t.

There is a silver (or black) lining in all of this. My weekly regret for betraying my own instincts has given rise to a vow never to betray them again. Now, when I get advice that just feels wrong, no matter how many people give it to me, I just repeat my mantra: No More Pink Hats.