“Wear things on your head” is one of my mottos, a battlecry that unites my creative sensibilities with my sensory processing struggles. In regard to the former, while I intellectually understand how and why the contemporary language of attire has abandoned headware as a routine accouterment, aesthetically, I just don’t get it. Hats, fascinators, caps and their kin are wearable sculpture, objet d’art you can park on your cranium, and the piece de resistance for any ensemble. They conjure notions of romance, grace, mystery, and power, and are transformative in their allure. Yet, we aren’t so formal anymore as a culture, and I recognize the ways that hats can seem a fussy, unnecessary, or an overwrought accessory. Still, I wear hats more than most people I know.
I wear things on my head not only for their beauty, but for their utility. I have sensory processing difficulties that have been consistent throughout my life. Sounds are often too loud, lights are frequently too bright, and my wackadoodle vestibular system leaves me feeling dizzy, disoriented, and vulnerable. Hats provide me with exteroceptive feedback, just a bit of pressure on my scalp that helps me perceive how my body is aligned within three dimensional space. This a key aspect of the proprioceptive function, the capacity to sense one’s orientation in regard to the body and its interaction with environment. Proprioception is so vital to our ability to function in the physical world that some kinesiologists refer to it as the “sixth sense”.
When sounds are loud or grating or go on too long, when I am perceiving them in a tactile way due to my synaesthesias, wearing a hat can help me feel contained. It’s akin to placing my hand on the rail as I walk down the stairs; hats give me a bit of sensory feedback that helps me feel steady.
Yesterday as I prepared for New Year’s Eve festivities, my partner Timothy was boiling medicinal tea, pungent with ginger and schizandra. It had been simmering for several hours and I was increasingly feeling overloaded by its aroma. By the time I was getting dressed for our outing, my brain was in full squirrel mode and every sound felt like a punch. I mean this not metaphorically, but literally. I have sound->tactile synaesthesia, which typically lingers in the background of my sensory landscape. It is not my most flagrant syn, yet it amplifies when I am tired or hyperstimulated. Take a night of poor sleep due to chocolate pot de creme before bed, add a full day of wheezing and sneezing amidst the miniature dust storm I whipped up whilst tidying my cloffice, then include two frenzied Jack Russell Terriers chasing a laser pointer through our tiny apartment. Iris and Lucy were yipping like they’d cornered a raccoon, and every bark felt like a slap on my skin. At the same time, the sound made my head bobble and swerve, as my wonky vestibular system suffers when my eustachian tubes get clogged.
The solution to this sensorial cacophony was the prettiest cherry fascinator, one I sculpted in 2018 from wire mesh, Russian net, and plastic fruits that I painted individually, then dipped into a scarlet glitter gloss. Once I was dressed, I placed that hat slightly askew, then pinned it into my hair. The weight of the fascinator had an instant effect, and I could feel my overwhelm diminishing. A few minutes later when Tim and I caught our Lyft to the party, I felt at least halfway better. By the time we arrived, I still felt a little fatigued, but the sense of an impending meltdown had dissipated.
I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I am making one that I’m certain will stick. In 2020, I will wear things on my head frequently, as much as I wish for the sake of both comfort and fashion. I will not be concerned that anyone might find my sartorial sensibilities eccentric or outdated or too glam for an average day. And, I will continue to promote my own favorite motto: #wearthingsonyourhead.
Below are some photos from last year that capture my #wearthingsonyourhead moments. I was a little disappointed to note that most of the 2019 pix on my iPhone show me sans chapeaux. Let’s see if I can stick to my resolution and make 2020 hat-tastic!