Freelance Writer Files: The Hat Rule

When an older style comes back into fashion, it’s generally made new by some twist or touch that makes it fresh and welcome. Hats are back in now, perhaps for the first time since everyone sent their hats to Goodwill when Kennedy made them “old hat,” so to speak. But the new twist this time is that people don’t know when to wear or not wear hats.

Hats for men and hats for women are in, and even more so these searing days of late June, when the sun can bake your brain and leave you standing, zombiefied, at a Price Chopper cart corral, fit only to be carted away like a burned sacrifice.

This guy looks cool in a hat.

Cool look. But lose the hat in the movie, okay?

It’s nice to see hats on men again, and the selection of styles is improving. Still, though, men have a hard time choosing a proper chapeau.

A guy wearing a flap-cap in this weather is plainly nuts. I don’t care if they are the height of fashion at the Art Institute.

Cap with "100% COWBOY" on it

Not without the Stetson, you ain't.

A guy who wears a cowboy hat should also wear some other Western acccoutrements. You can’t just jam a Stetson on your head when you’re wearing cutoff shorts and a Tommy Hilfiger shirt. Commit! Go whole-hog or not at all, or look like a tourist in town for the rodeo.

Caps are the tofu of the hat world. Like tofu, they have no real taste, but they absorb whatever flavor their emblem has. Be careful which cap you choose to wear where, guys. Don’t wear a CAT hat to a cocktail party. Don’t wear a Ralph Lauren cap to a pig roast, unless it’s at a country club.

But here’s the the important rule about hats, and it applies to women, as well as men:

Take off your gol-danged hat indoors. Especially when you’re in a movie theater or at a public event, where people have either paid or pushed and shoved to see a play, a world-famous pianist, or a renowned speaker who is saying something important.

In the silent-movie days, you would see “Ladies, please remove your hats” projected on the screen. Today, since people have forgotten the hat rules, I vote that custom be resurrected and applied to men as well as women.

As a certified Short Person, I fear sitting behind the World’s Tallest Man, Big-Haired Woman. Tall men and big-haired women can’t be blamed. But hat wearers at indoor events are just plain inconsiderate.

Now, to ask people to doff their hats indoors is nothing prissy and old-fashioned like, “A gentlemen must doff his hat when meeting a lady.” No, I don’t ask that, though a return to the respectful gestures of yesteryear (or respect in general) would be most refreshing. I simply ask that people remove their hats indoors. Let’s recall the main purpose of a hat or cap: to protect the head from the elements. It seldom rains, snows or hails indoors. Nor does cruel Mr. Sun beat down upon our pates.

So take it from one who has seen everything from flap caps to cowboy hats to seed caps to bowlers, Easter bonnets, and Russian fur hats (Yes!) worn indoors: Take ’em off, or you look like a goofball, especially in a dark movie theater, where nobody can see you anyhow. And the Certified Short Person behind you can’t see at all. If you decide to ignore the hat rule when sitting in front of a Certified Short Person, don’t be surprised if Drastic Measures are taken to relieve you of your sightline-blocking headgear.

You have been warned.

Freelance Writer Files: How to Learn How to Write

Person writing with a computer

There's more to writing than typing.

Occasionally, I get an e-mail from someone wondering how they can learn to write, or how to become a writer. They want me to tell them. And I really can’t. To someone who has had the urge to write since childhood, to someone for whom writing is as essential as oxygen and food, the question is puzzling. How do you learn to breathe and eat? Well, you just do. You have to in order to go on living.

Today, instead of meeting the young man for coffee, as he had suggested, I decided to write a brief response that comprised all I can possibly offer on the topic of “how to learn how to write.”

In his e-mail, the young man had indicated that college recruiters and the Web had not been helpful to him in figuring out how to learn to write. From the spelling and style of the e-mail, it seemed that a little formal training would help, as well as a working knowledge of Spell-Check. Anyway, here’s my response:

Dear _____,

I don’t know how to tell you how to learn to write. But one thing I know is that most writers start out being voracious readers. Read books and short stories and poems by great writers, and good writing will soak into you. Read everything, from ancient Greek plays to Charles Dickens’ novels to modern short stories.

Not all writers are schooled in writing, but most are. Formal learning, in a Composition or Exposition class in college or at JCCC, is an excellent basis for beginning to be a writer.

There are also books good writers have written about how to write. Stephen King has written at least one. The Elements of Style is a Bible of good writing you should read. There are many others, of course. Seek them out at the library.

Start writing. Even if what you write is terrible. And of course, it will be at first. Don’t let that stop you. Keep on writing and reading, reading and writing. Take English courses, literature courses, history, art, etc. Everything you learn will help you as a writer.

Pay attention to what’s going on in the world, and especially, in your world and inside you. Be observant. Write about what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Keep a journal. Write in it every day.

Really, this is the best advice I can give you. Good luck!

Best wishes,