The Gift of a Hat

(Author’s note: I wrote this in mid-January but haven’t gotten around to posting it until now)

Julie was surprised when I mentioned a scarf as a possible Christmas gift. I explained to her how nice a scarf would be for the cold, minter nighttime bike rides I regularly do, but she was actually surprised that I didn’t have one from my mom, who recently has been knitting up gifts for many non-childrens of hers. This Christmas, however, I discovered that I was not left off the list when I found a knitted black hat in my stocking.

On first take, it wasn’t too special: for warmth, my primary hat is a black toque, but then I saw the 2 pointy ears on the sides. They looked a little puffy, but it was unmistakably a Mr. Spock hat with a black cap of hair and 2 pointy Vulcan ears. Fortunately, I haven’t become too cool to be excited about it and popped it right on to check the fit.

In the minutes after opening it, I questioned whether I would actually wear it. My black toque was thicker, but more importantly, I didn’t know whether I really wanted to loudly proclaim my nerd side as with the hat. Regardless, I brought it back to the west coast with me, and for a week or two, it was mostly a novelty I would pop on to show and amuse my friends with my mom’s handiwork. Nights, however, became colder as January progressed, and my fingers and ears suffered the most on my bike rides. Unfortunately, my toque is too thick for me to wear it and my helmet safely. The Spock hat, however, was thinner and also covered my ears with the pointy version. Since I made this realization, a biking Vulcan has been seen around Mountain View.

I was still self-conscious about it at first: I didn’t put the hat on until just before mounting my bike, and even then, I hoped that no one would see the ears at night when I whizzed by. A few days later, however, I wore it around San Francisco to show to my coworkers with whom I was on a coffee crawl. In fact, it might actually have helped me blend in more than stick out in San Francisco.

The big test came shortly after on a particularly cold morning. I decided the warmth was worth it and put on the hat for my commute in the morning light.

People were looking.

If you don’t know what I look like, visit the links in my blog’s sidebar. I’m sure you will agree that my appearance is largely unremarkable. I’m a little short, quite underweight, and very Chinese, but other than a funny birthmark on my nose, there isn’t much to notice, and I’m used to receiving little attention. Wearing the Spock ears in daylight, however, has taught me what it means to “feel” others staring.

The best of the bunch was a second grader being walked to school by his mom. I pulled up to a red light and while I waited, he crossed the street in front of me with his hand held tightly by his mom. From the opposite sidewalk to the sidewalk beside me, his head turned smoothly to lock his eyes on me, and as he passed in front of me and past me, he looked back until I had a green light and sped off.

I think I liked the attention, but not strongly. It isn’t a mixed bag as much as disappointment about how little I felt about it. I thought that the attention would be more remarkable than this. The comparison is perhaps weak, but I think this is about the closest experience I will have to what attractive girls experience in public. The intent of staring strangers isn’t the same curiosity as I received for the novelty of my ears, but I hope that the attention isn’t a negative for anyone.

Regardless, I feel pretty good about wearing the hat now. I’m comfortable enough being a dork that if the worst someone can do is make fun of my hat, I think I’m doing well. I don’t usually fuss about my appearance much, but I now know what it’s like to project an image. ItĀ isn’t so special, so I guess I’ll carry on with my t-shirts and jeans.

And Spock hat. Just for the ear warmth.

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