Hat or No Hat?

It’s amazing how one’s perception of you can magically change at the drop of a hat.

In July, Rich Juzwiak wrote an article for Gawker called, “When Gay Men Think Baseball Caps Make Them Masculine”. Hats, apparently, make you seem like more of a man, and since we sissies hate ourselves and love a real man, wearing a properly fitted cap could get you laid. Cute guys, he said, would “flock to [him]” with the simple addition of the baseball cap to his wardrobe. Rich’s article was a thoughtful, earnestly written exhortation to gay men to reject our trademark superficiality, and focus on the people, rather than the parts, that we find attractive.

My takeaway was that I needed to get a hat.

♦◊♦

“Does this make me look ‘masculine’?…”

In presentation, I am not a particularly masculine man, but for many, that’s the ideal gay man. He’s tall.  He’s muscular. He speaks with a deep, gruff tone, and he drives a Jeep Wrangler—Tom Brady, if you will, but with a penchant for Armani Exchange and cock. While I am tall, somewhat muscular, and would consider a Jeep Wrangler, I bought my second Mini Cooper this week, and when I speak, it sounds as if I have a delightful combination of sparkly purse and giant penis trapped in the back my throat. It’s so obvious that when I was cast as a basketball player for a commercial in college, they dubbed a gruff, “urban”-sounding voice over my lyrical whistle. I’m also black, and as a result of this delightfully challenging combination, I’ve rarely, if ever, gotten hit on by anything other than a very drunk Latino looking to get a chocolate fix.

“Does this make me look ‘sexy’?…”

Well, why not just hit on them, Cameron? Why not do that? Well…I do. In fact, I’m pretty good at getting strangers to tell me things. I once spent an hour on the patio at Fiesta Cantina convincing an independent Asian conservative to switch his vote from “undecided” to “strong Obama”. I didn’t get his number, though, because one should never fuck a man who is that interested in fucking himself.

But I digress.

What I’m not so good at is talking these people into having sex with me, or worse, meeting me for coffee. I can think of exactly zero people who have met their significant others in bars; but still, it looked fun. I had to wonder: might a hat bring me the attention I assume I so richly deserve?  Could it make me into a real man?

Let’s find out.

♦◊♦

The Hat

The last hat I remember owning was a purple and turquoise Charlotte Hornets hat from the Michael Jordan era.  I was probably in fifth or sixth grade, and during that time, there was a lot of discussion of my “style” of dress, and about what were “appropriate” clothes for a pre-teen black man months into the process of memorizing Dionne’s lines from Clueless.  My uncle felt that the hat, as well as the matching jersey and shorts, would be a good look.

I thought I looked fucking ridiculous.

I wore it sporadically, but more than anything, it felt like a costume. I could slip it on, and suddenly the nice, Jewish boys at my basketball camp took me more seriously. They started asking me if I was in a gang. I was a man worthy of their attention. And I liked it.

For this hat, I needed to find something similar. I headed to the Beverly Center. Cris directed me to our first stop—Traditions. The salespeople were helpful, but unclear on my needs.

“Are you looking for one hat in particular? Something graphic? A specific team?”

“Oh, Umm…” I replied. (There really is no easy way to say: “I’m looking for hat that will get me some dick.”)

Finally, we retired to Lids, where I saw it: Chocolate brown with a white, embossed LA Dodgers logo on the front. I put it on, took off my glasses and stared at myself in the mirror.  I was a completely different person. No longer did I look like a snarky, black homosexual wearing a embroidered diesel sweater. I looked like a black man. I looked like a stereotype. I looked like I would fuck up your credit.

“Did you find everything you were looking for?” The saleswoman asked as she slid my card.

“Yes, yes, I did.”

♦◊♦

I once spent an hour on the patio at Fiesta Cantina convincing an independent Asian conservative to switch his vote from “undecided” to “strong Obama”. I didn’t get his number, though, because one should never fuck a man who is that interested in fucking himself. But I digress.

That night, I slipped on the hat and hit the boulevard. From the moment I stepped out of the cab, I noticed the difference. Everywhere I went, men of all ages, sizes, and races looked lustfully into my eyes. In terms of eyefucks (when two gay men stare at each other until one of them looks away or is penetrated—we haven’t decided who wins.), this hat was definitely doing its job. That is, it did until I reached the first bar and was told I had to remove my hat.  Apparently, the owners of Fiesta Cantina’s other branches had witnessed fights over caps and, as a result, had banned both LA Dodgers and Washington Nationals hats at all of their establishments. This seemed like an appropriate response for this location, though, because if there are two things I know about a bar full of 18-34 year old homosexual men, it’s that they’re into sports and prone to violence.

Still, even without the hat, I felt different.  It had given me newfound confidence, and I strode over to a blackish young man who’d been staring at me and struck up a conversation.  He was adorable; a model, a rapper, and very, very drunk. His eyes lit up when I approached him, but when I started to speak, he seemed confused.

“I had such high expectations for you,” he said, and turned back to his previous paramour.

Later, at a different bar and with my hat back on, I met another one, this one slender and almost my height. He grabbed my hand, pulled me over, and struck up a conversation. Again, though, once I started to speak, he was confused. After standing in awkward silence for a few minutes, I left as he lit up another cigarette.

♦◊♦

Now, it could possibly be that I simply have no idea what I’m doing. Were I a more talented talker, perhaps I would have better results.  I think there’s more to it than that, though.  I think the problem is that I don’t match.  No matter what business I’m in, after talking to me, emailing with me, or reading something I’ve written, no one is ever expecting a large black man. But the inverse is also true: when I’m judged on my looks, people are often surprised by my manner.

When someone casts you for your looks, he expects the persona to match. The hat, it seemed, was writing checks that my mouth could not cash.

But as I left the bars, taking in the gazes and come-ons of my newfound fans, I was struck by a larger question: Why the fuck should I try to meet these people’s expectations of me anyway? The day I decided not to become a young associate at a San Francisco-based law firm and marry a cold, but beautiful, light-skinned black woman was the same day I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to meet other people’s expectations of me.

I can only be myself.

So, if you’re looking for a six-foot, mandingo-ass nigg(a) who has three roommates and a phone in his mama’s name, then that’s not going to be me. And if you’re fooled into thinking I’m that because I’m wearing a hat, well, I worry about your life choices.

But if I can tell you a secret, it’s that the best part about not fitting in anywhere is that you can fit in everywhere. When you cannot be defined, you get to define yourself. So, I’ll wear the hat again, but I’ll do it at the library.

…In pumps.

Me in “Thug Life” mode.

♦◊♦

A different version of this post appeared at Cameron J. Awesome.

Read more on Gender & Sexuality.

—Photo rwkvisual/Flickr
—Photo miggslives/Flickr
—Photo renee_mcgurk/Flickr

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About Cameron Johnson

Originally from the Bay Area, Cameron Johnson is a writer living in Los Angeles. Currently, he says terrible things for both fun and profit. Follow him on Twitter @cameronjawesome, and check out his blog at CameronJAwesome.blogspot.com.

Comments

  1. Careful when and where you have that cap on …..

    LA Dodgers …… The Crips (L.A.), Gangster Disciples (Chicago), Latin Aspects (various)
    Why: The Crips use it for color association. For the GDs, the “D” stands for Disciple. For the Aspects, the “LA” stands for Latin Aspects.

  2. That is some good writing. Very, very interesting and entertaining. More!

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