Taking the Santa Hat into the YMCA is just asking for some sort of reaction. For that matter, taking it anywhere is asking for some sort of reaction, and I promised myself I would not be mean to Christmas folk who tried to bond with me. I forget I’m wearing it, honestly, because it is a warm hat. It’s a one dollar bargain basement type thing, likely made of Chinese children or at least by them, but it is uncommonly warm.
You would think children, or people with children would be the only people who really stop and make it a point to speak to me, but it’s everyone. Not as in everyone I meet but I mean there doesn’t seem to be a demographic that seeks me out more than any other, and there doesn’t seem to be one who isn’t affected. This fact, more than anything else, I find very odd.
The downside of all this is working out is nearly impossible. People want to talk to me. It’s not like I’m a stranger there, so most people know me by sight, but now I have people walking up to the treadmill and telling me they like the hat. I nod, say thanks, but at least two people want to talk Christmas with me. Remember the part about being nice to the Christmas folk? I feel like if you’re going to walk around with a Santa Hat on, you have to play the part out. But it gets worse. The Rule Of All Men dictates that in a locker room, the last man into the locker room takes a locker as far away as he can from the guy that was there first. With the Santa Hat, even men like to be around me. Naked men. This is not going to end well.
The woman putting the Christmas tree up in the lobby of the Y is a very nice young woman and she wants to tell me all about the tree. In fact, my opinion suddenly means something. Very earnestly she asks me if I think the decorations are done well, and honestly I’ve never paid any attention to Christmas decorations. She has these tiny strands of beads looped here and there and it’s pretty. It is. It’s a very pretty tree, except for the fact that it’s dead. I almost say this aloud but bite it back. The ornaments aren’t those cheap plastic things but real glass, and it’s obvious she’s spent some time on this. I look at her, and truly, she wants my opinion on a Christmas tree, and it means something to her. It is beautiful, I tell her, just like you. The Santa Hat has given its blessing. The young woman beams.
Just walking into Publix I have this odd feeling everyone has been waiting for me to arrive. “Hey Santa! Hi Santa! Santa!” The hat is magic, I tell you. You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? You think I’m stretching this thing out a bit, but I’m telling you, people are surreal this year. This is the third year I’ve worn the Santa Hat, and this year, by far, is the strongest reaction from people. An elderly woman creeps up on my blindside and puts a hand on by shoulder, and tells me “Merry Christmas!” Nothing, there is nothing on earth that creeps me out more than for a stranger to come up on me like that. Human beings are the most dangerous animals on earth and to have one slip into knife range like that just makes my skin crawl. But she never even notices it. To this woman, I am a part of the festive holiday spirit, and she wants to thank me for it.
It’s like I’m a blonde with implants.
So can all this come from wearing a red hat trimmed with fake fur? It’s something to think about. I wonder if I expect people to treat me differently, and so they do. I wonder if once I make up my mind not to growl at people who come too close, if they don’t somehow pick up on this. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe people are just so damn tired of being beaten down by how bad it’s been that anyone, anyone at all, who dares to be happy, or appears to be so, is infectious. Maybe I’m different when I wear the hat, or maybe they’re different when I wear the hat, or maybe people are just like this at Christmas and I never noticed.
To be very honest I am enjoying all this.