As I embark on this new blogging adventure as an author, I am poking around the archives of the blog I let die with the close of the blogging site, Xanga. At the old site, I made some amazing, life-long friends. One of those friends had a blog called My Hat Is Older Than You Are. We all called him Old Hat. This man is an amazing source of wisdom and prayer. My site started out as Big Toes in Heaven and later changed to Big Toe People after my first novel.
Here, I am re-posting something I wrote in 2009. Old Hat chimed in with the excellent advice of a cowboy-gentleman:
(May this post be an act of prayer for the health and safety of Mrs. Hat. Amen.)
On Wednesday night, my husband and I went to the Officer’s Club for dinner. It was the going-away event for our Wing Commander, a man who led our base with integrity, intelligence, innovation, compassion, and humor. Because of his sense of humor, those giving various presentations felt free to be funny. I laughed all evening long.
The event was casual, which meant that slacks and open collars were acceptable for the men (military etiquette’s wording). There was a tall man who strode in with a cowboy hat on. He kept it on all night. We were inside. Eating dinner. Honoring a man who outranked everyone there except the retired generals.
That man and his hat stuck in my craw.
Here’s where my brain went:
First, I recalled being at an Officer’s Club in Okinawa with an old boyfriend back in 2002. M was a Black Marine Corps officer who grew up in a Memphis ghetto. Raised without any etiquette to speak of, he ascribes everything he knows about manners to his military training. He wore baseball hats all the time. I mean ALL the time, though I doubt he slept in them. Then again, maybe he did. He had a baseball hat on for a dinner date to the O-club, and I asked him about it. He said that we lived in modern times and that no one pays attention to old-fashioned hat rules anymore. Then an older officer came to our table and kindly asked him to remove his hat. I’ll never forget that.
Second, I remembered that every single high school I’ve ever taught in had a dress code that included this rule: NO HATS ARE TO BE WORN IN THE SCHOOL BUILDING. Though I felt that students only needed to loosely follow the dress code rather than being a stickler for the letter of the law (let’s be practical…if a girl doesn’t look like a hoochie, her outfit is probably okay), I also felt that the dress code was a great way to teach students how to dress for success and present themselves in a better light. Many kids don’t receive such training at home, so a school’s dress code can help in that aspect of their formation as adults.
So, at Wednesday’s O-Club event, I whispered to my husband that the hat bothered me. He responded that he thought that cowboy etiquette was probably different than ours. “Besides,” he said, “This is Texas. We should expect to see cowboy hats everywhere all the time.”
I didn’t agree with my husband. I thought, perhaps, that cowboys would be more conservative and honorable in their conduct and manners. I mean, when you say “cowboy”, I picture two things: a cowboy on his horse, and him tipping his hat to a lady.
It made me wish my friend Old Hat was there at the table with us. First, so that I could consult the wise cowboy about cowboys. Then, just because it would be so awesome to share this fun evening with someone who loves a good laugh. Someday, we’ll have to go out to dinner and make our own laughs, the four of us: two Hats and two Toes-in-Heavens.
I’m not saying this is something to get your knickers in a twist over, but I do think it is common courtesy to conduct yourself according to a code of good manners. It honors those around you.
I decided to ask Old Hat about it yesterday, and he gave me the most awesome response. I really like the term he coined: Hatiquette.
Here are some excerpts:
“I am sorry to tell you that you will never be able to recognize me at a dinner table by looking for my hat. It will more than likely be on the floor beneath my chair. Yes, I will sit a $200 felt hat on the floor rather eat with it on. I don’t even eat french fries in my pickup while driving down the road with my hat on. I set it on the dash if I am eating. Period. If I am eating a sandwich outside, my hat will still come off. You get the idea.
I am pretty old fashioned. The store I go to to have my felt hats cleaned and reshaped has a lot of different hat benders. I always get the oldest one. It keeps me from lecturing the young ones. You see, my hats always get worn and dirty in the same places and the young hat benders try to tell me how to prevent that from happening. The oldest hat bender knows better than to try to teach me not to tip my hat to ladies.
As for wearing a hat indoors, I think of it as the military does (or used to) regarding headgear. You don’t wear it indoors unless under arms. To an old cowboy, under arms in this case means carrying something that does not leave a hand free for hat removal or having a lady on your arm. Otherwise, my hat will be off when I come in.
When I first met K8tthelate, she came out from the back room of the library to meet me. She asked where my hat was and I held it up to show her. I never thought of wearing it in so that she might recognize me better. I just don;t wear my hat inside. If my hands are full, I’ll be the one in the cowboy hat apologizing for still having his hat on and will be explaining that I really was raised right. =)
I have learned that hatiquette is not taught much anymore anywhere. People seem to want there to be no rules. I don;t think of this as rules though. I just think of it as courtesy. I respect you too much to wear my hat when sharing a table with you or when coming into your home or office. Even your office on a construction site. It is not the place I revere. It is you, friend.”
Like I said above, I don’t think it’s worth getting your knickers in a twist over people’s manners or lack thereof. But I do want to teach my own future children how to honor others through good manners.
Do you have any etiquette peeves like my hat one?
How do you feel about the importance of good manners (or lack thereof)?
Note: Hatiquette is different for men than it is for women, except in baseball caps.