The beautiful people

Some of my ex-pat friends are talking like they feel lucky to be out of the U.S. right now, and I understand, but thought I should say that there are still some beautiful, happy people who appear to be enjoying life in this country despite the violence, waste, and ridiculous cost of everything.

I saw some of them Saturday night.

It’s easy to see beautiful people and imagine that they are happy when you don’t know them. And so if you, like me, decide you need to write about something good, partly for your own benefit and partly for others, you could always write about something that looks vital and healthy on the surface, because appearances usually are an indicator of overall well-being.

Sometimes being near some uncontaminated thing gives you a sense of peace in knowing that the universe continues to unfold and renew itself even as you sit and do nothing. You could do nothing for probably hours or even days and it would be OK.

Other times, watching an expression of energy and joy makes you feel empty in contrast. You long for something that you might have had once, but you didn’t know it, or if you did you didn’t know how to make it last. It’s more than something you can capture in a photograph.

Saturday evening we were to chaperone a dance, and since it was Restaurant Week in our town and we were going to be dressed up anyway, I made reservations. I put in my contact lenses and used my curling iron.

Our table was right in the middle of the restaurant, which I don’t like. At each of the tables surrounding us were young people smiling and talking as they enjoyed fine food and wine. Some of them were wearing fake eyelashes. I ordered a chestnut butternut squash soup as an appetizer.

A young man seated beside me kept quietly breaking out into song. He seemed to be trying to cajole his date into joining him. I wanted to turn my head to get a look at her, but thought it might be too conspicuous. The singer was probably 28 or 30, had dark hair, and was wearing Levis with a light gray wool sweater. My husband conjectured that he must have been a music theater major. He noted that everyone younger than us in the restaurant, and many of the older folks, were dressed casually, without jackets or ties.

“I guess Millennials wear jeans to everything,” I said.

But aside from our age, we had another excuse for dressing up, which was the dance.

I ordered fish for dinner. I honestly have no idea what my husband ordered. His plate was behind the bread basket.

At the table behind him, in the corner, where I wish we had been seated, was the most beautiful woman I have seen in a long time. She had long, dark, curly hair and wore bright crimson lipstick. She was probably 25 or 28. I think she was having dinner with her fiance’s parents or something like that. The fiance was blond with a little facial hair and a tattoo peeking out from the sleeve of his button-down shirt. He looked like an actor on a commercial for expensive beer.

I had coffee custard for dessert. My husband had banana gelato.

At the dance, we sat behind a table of snacks and smiled and I talked about the dances that I went to when I was in high school. They were all kind of anticlimactic. You’d get all dressed up and go with this one boy who would either ignore you or expect you to set the agenda and provide all the entertainment for the evening. It was not like in the movies. I think some of these kids who go to the dances with friends instead of dates have the right idea.

Last night, most of the girls’ dresses were similar to the one I was wearing – dark with lace sleeves. A few wore pink dresses, which I liked because they stood out among the darkness. I guess it’s a good thing I wore a pink dress to my wedding. I don’t know if you can wear a pink dress when you chaperone a dance. You probably can, but I probably won’t.

A lot of the boys wore bow ties.

“The bow ties are definitely a Winchester thing,” my husband observed distantly.

He was tired and wanted to go home. I’d signed up to chaperone for the first hour and it was up.

We gathered our coats from my classroom upstairs and looked down at the dance floor below. Some of them were dancing. I know in my heart that some of them were having fun, even if they didn’t know it. I watched one of my former students standing alone in the center of the pulsing crowd. He pulled out his cellphone and touched a button, lighting up the screen, then he put the phone back in his pocket. Last semester, a pretty girl had a crush on him. He never knew.

“You didn’t stay long!” one of my bosses called as we waved goodbye.

At home, I took out my contacts, and my husband settled into his recliner to watch the end of some movie he had started.



Why some people wear hats indoors

Recently I was involved in a brief dispute between a juvenile and another adult.

I am going to write about it.

The adult came up to me and told me that I needed to make sure that the juvenile pulled his hood down off of his head. If he did not, I was to report back to the other grownup and the kid would be in big trouble, the other grownup said.

I went up to the juvenile in question and asked him to lower his hood. He complied and it was business as usual.

If I were in the mood to write a fiction story, I would name that kid Puck or Finn (short for Finnigan) and he would not have done as I asked, but instead he would have pushed me aside, yelled “Get out of my face!” and proceeded to run out of the building, leading several adults and, ultimately, the police on a high-speed chase. The story would end in tragedy, and the theme might be something along the lines of: When a grown-up tells you to do something, it’s a lot easier to just do it.

Probably, though, I’d want a more sweeping and meaningful message to my story. Finn or Puck might be sort of a tragic hero. You know the type: smart, rugged good looks, dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. The theme of this story would be more along the lines of: Society has a lot of rules, and sometimes it isn’t worth losing your mind or risking your life to break them.

Or to enforce them.

But I am not in the mood to write fiction. Instead, I would like to write a listicle speculating on the reasons why people might wear hats and hoods indoors even though it is generally considered a breach of etiquette. According to The Emily Post Institute, men have traditionally removed their hats and hoods indoors as a gesture of respect. Women, on the other hand, have been exempt from hat rules and may wear their hats indoors. Cancer patients are always exempt from hat rules.

I can tell you that girls are not exempt from certain school dress code rules regarding hats and headgear. I have seen people cry over such rules, but so far I have not been one of them.

At any rate, here are some reasons why I think people might want to wear their hats and hoods inside:

They are having a bad hair day. I really think this is the No. 1 reason people want to keep their hoods on. For me, pretty much every day is a bad hair day, but I usually solve the problem as best I can with a ponytail. On the rare occasion that I wear a hat to keep warm, my hair never really recovers. Maybe we should amend the no-hat rules on days when the temperature is below freezing? You have to understand that the most important thing to many of us is being cool. We don’t want to admit it, but it’s true. How are we supposed to feel cool when our hair looks terrible? You say we should have gotten up earlier to fix our hair, but the truth is, we did get up early and we had to work pretty hard to look this bad. We do not want to be ridiculed and so we wish to cover ourselves. It is a sad thing to feel this way, but many of us do.

They just forgot. Have you ever had a lot on your mind? Personally, I am always thinking about what I should do next. As a result, sometimes I forget about what I should be doing RIGHT NOW. Because I don’t wear hats or hoods often, I rarely forget to remove mine indoors. And I have a feeling no one would feel threatened if I forgot to remove my favorite black fur-lined hat inside a building. Very few people feel truly fearful when they see me coming, even when I wear my hat. But anyway, when I am lost in thought, I sometimes forget to put my keys in the right pocket or turn the ringer on my phone on. Sometimes I forget where I parked or I forget someone’s name. I would imagine something similar happens to a lot of people who wear hats when they walk inside a building.

They want to be cool. By wearing a hat indoors, some people, especially juveniles, might feel they are subtly showing their disregard for authority. They are above authority. They do what they want! Anyone who challenges them will rue the day. And besides, they do not care about the impression they are making on others. That is why they want an additional barrier in the form of a hood between them and their fellow man. They don’t need anyone’s approval or some deep social connection. Come to think of it, compromised peripheral vision is a good thing. Less stimulation equals better focus. I can actually imagine a juvenile explaining this to me. It’s along the same lines as the argument that having earbuds in with country music or gangsta rap blasting into the old eardrums helps a person focus.

Their parents wear hats indoors. And said parents have possibly told them that anyone who questions their practice of wearing a hat indoors is probably a supreme dork who has to kiss up to the man just to keep earning his meager paycheck. Not only could such a cog be easily destroyed by a brief physical confrontation, but a phone call to the cog’s boss might just get the cog fired.

They are thinking of robbing a bank. Or writing a story about robbing a bank. Or maybe they have just seen a lot of movies about bank robbers and some of those bank robbers were tragic heroes, played by really good-looking guys, who broke some rules sometimes. Personally, I think you’d probably need a bit more than a hat or hood to really pull off an epic heist. But as I have said, I don’t know much about all of this. I am just a little old lady, and I rarely wear hats or hoods.