Street Life of a Mad Activist

Hey, lady. You got a problem with my hat? I mean, look. I was just walking down Fort Washington Avenue, minding my own business on my way to the A Train, and you — an ordinary, middle-aged white lady in a blue plaid housedress — stop to glare at my hat. How friendly is that?

Susie Day's CapThis is a good hat, lady, a cool hat. My girlfriend got it for me. Yeah, my girlfriend, see? She got me this tough, proletarian, newsboy’s cap. Says to the world, “I may be cute, but I’m still a dyke.” You got a problem with that? You don’t like that I am wearing a lesbian hat?

Oh, I see I’m scaring your little pug dog. Yap, yap, yap — well, so what? Maybe little puggie, here, is afraid I’ll tear off your blue plaid frock, afraid I’ll sweep you into my arms and rain ardent kisses upon your upturned, horrified face. That would teach her to support gay marriage, wouldn’t it, little puggie?

I’m sure you are aware that homosexuality is not a disease, lady. We queers may be going to hell, but we’re going with a certificate of mental hygiene from the American Psychological Association. There’s obviously nothing wrong with me, other than the fact that you don’t like my hat.

It’s too “mannish,” isn’t it, lady? Too “unfeminine”? My hat subtly tells you that, if my girlfriend and I were to get married, I would be the groom. That the night before, there would be a torrid lesbo stag party with whips and spike heels and big, hairy, tattooed bulldykes throwing their babes over Harley-Davidsons and banging them for hours with the lubricated butts of AK-47’s — and everybody would be wearing these hats. Is that what you think, lady, is it? Oh, SHUT UP, little puggie.

All I’m doing is wearing a hat, lady. Big ordinary deal. But I can see it bugs you. You hate my hat. I mean, hat hatred is a terrible thing, lady. So many hats suffer needlessly.

Compared to the war on Iraq or global warming, my hat, for you, is real pain. I’m trying to empathize, here, lady, how’m I doing?

It’s hard being a middle-aged lady in a blue plaid housedress, with no hat and a yappy dog, isn’t it? There are no blue plaid Pride Marches for your kind, no special bookstores, no blue plaid issues to defend on The O’Reilly Factor. You’re about to lose your social security, your health plan won’t pay for your skin-tag removal, and you carry, deep in your subconscious, the chronic awareness that the nuclear power plant supplying this city’s electricity could, any day, send out radioactive plumes that would kill us all within a week. Yet you, for some reason, decide to fixate your existential malaise on my hat.

Have you ever worn a hat, lady? I bet it was a nice hat, a frilly, girlish hat. When you were courting your hubby, you held hands, didn’t you; you kissed openly on the street. He removed your hat, caressing your heaving bosom, and you never once asked for “special rights.” Of course, you had no problem getting married; looking every inch the provocative little minx you were in your blue plaid wedding gown. That’s because you were a hat-erosexual — get it? Oh, well. . . .

I suppose, because you are relatively powerless, I enjoy venting on you. I should be grateful that you are not a gang of frat jocks who would do more than sneer at my hat. And I admit that, while I have nothing against your housedress, I do see you as a stereotype. It’s hard for me not to think of you as “one of them.” Because I am so sick of all the snide little glances “you people” give off when I pass.

But I have a large soul. I can forgive. I forgive you, lady. My hat gives me this power.

So, if you have a problem with my hat, if my choice of chapeau oppresses you, please tell me. Go for it, lady. Share. It will bring peace.

Our time on this planet is limited and shortens, even as you glare. And yet, would your life improve if I actually took off my woman-identified headgear? I think not. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

I can’t explain it, but your life would, in fact, be somehow diminished if I removed this hat. And so I shall wear my hat — for you, lady. I shall wear my hat as I walk past you and your yappy dog.

For you, I shall wear this hat as I ride the A Train downtown to a demonstration against the war on Iraq. Perhaps I will not be taken seriously because of my hat, and the US will remain in Iraq — but that will be your fault. I shall wear this hat in the wind and the rain and in paddy wagons and on sunny days at the beach. And someday, lady, someday — I shall maybe even wear this hat at my own wedding.

Susie Day lives in New York City where she writes a humor column for feminist and gay publications. She has also written on U.S. political prisoners and labor issues and thinks her girlfriend, Laura Whitehorn, is hot stuff.