My Hat, My Freedom

A faded red baseball cap sits on the pavement in the middle of the road daring the passing cars to flatten the carefully rounded brim. I stop, almost falling victim to one of the cracks in the sidewalk. Could it be? After all these years? I spot a break in traffic and scurry to pick it up, darting back over to the sidewalk with it firmly in my grip. I hold my breath as I flip it over to read the writing on the front of the floppy hat. “Washington Nationals” it reads. Close but no cigar. I walk over to the bench with the least amount of bird poop and put the cap down. I let out a sigh as I sit down next to it. Three more words and it would have been the same hat as mine. Or maybe even the infamous hat itself.

The infamous hat that I wore all throughout fifth grade, perched backwards over my messy ponytail. The infamous hat that disappeared after fifth grade, never to be seen again. That hat was the keystone of my ten year old identity. It completed my wonderful tomboy look. Oh the great outfits it was paired with! The great baggy grey shirt with the even baggier shiny silver shorts. Everything was color coordinated. The shiny shorts, blue this time, complemented the blue and white basketball camp shirt that I so loved. Jeans were out of the question. It was only shorts and sweatpants for me. And my shoes! Oh the amazing shoes. I wore only one pair: brilliantly white Nikes. Those were the days. Fifth grade was the highlight of my great tomboy career that spanned grades four through seven. That backward baseball cap really brought each outfit to the next level, something I was never again able to replicate.

I have never really been able to figure out why I was such a tomboy at that time of my life. I think my feminist friends would say that I astutely picked up on the power dynamics between men and women and thus was drawn to emulate the possessors of power in a patriarchal society. That’s an interesting theory, but not really applicable to me, I don’t think. Maybe it was my way of asserting my individuality. Maybe I decided to build my wardrobe around my favorite and most time-consuming pastime: sports. Or maybe I simply liked wearing really comfortable baggy clothes. I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that at that time in my life, I didn’t worry about clothes, or what other people thought about my outwards appearance. I had lots of great friends, who didn’t care what I wore. Many of these great friends were boys, and learning to relate to those of the opposite gender was something I had a leg up on in middle school, carrying into high school as well. But most importantly, I learned to be confident and free. I may love earrings and swoon over a cute pair of shoes now, but being a tomboy and wearing that backwards baseball cap was an important phase in my development into the person I am today.

I stand up, leaving the hat sitting on the bench. I don’t need it anymore.

By Caroline Leahy

Feature image via.