MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS Your Stories  >  I Just Bought a $1000 Hat

I Just Bought a $1000 Hat

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by Ellen Feldman

I am a drudge. I’m an over-weight middle aged woman who schleps to Brooklyn every day to work at a desk. (OK, I love what I do, but that is not where I am going with this.) My point is, there is nothing to distinguish me from millions of others of my ilk who are the galley slaves of society.

No one pays attention to me.  I get my own ketchup in restaurants; I have had my hair cut by a hairdresser on a cell phone.  I go out for cocktails with people who text furiously all through conversations because whoever is on the other end must be more interesting than I.

Against all odds, I am getting married at sixty.  Weddings have a gravity for a woman and even though I thought it would never happen to me and stupidly told myself I was immune – I was sucked in!

I would go into a store and start looking at formal dresses – no strapless lump of white whip cream for me – and there, from someone actually looking away from me, would come the bored drawl:

“Can I help you?”

“Ummm.. it’s for a wedding..”

“Black is very slimming.”

“No, it wouldn’t be right..I’m..eh in the wedding party..”

“We have some very nice mother of the bride dresses in the corner over there.”

“Well, eh, actually, I’m the bride.”

That is the moment the lions spot the limping zebra.


I swear they keep staff in a basement bunker to call out for just this occasion. Suddenly THE BRIDE is surrounded. Perrier – or champagne even – is produced from nowhere.  Someone is sent out for cookies. The article being shopped for must be beyond the best because it is THE MOST IMPORTANT {whatever it is} IN LIFE!

This tsunami of attention is overwhelming and as irresistible as flood waters.  THE BRIDE is swept away.

I have just had the ultimate version of that experience.

Again, I began as my practical, little church mouse self, trying to be realist about what I could expect to look like.  I am not going with the big bridal gown so a veil is inappropriate. I have thin hair so I thought the big updo is out. I decided on a sort of hat/snood idea that would add some balance to my mass, but be very light.  I made an appointment with Kokin, a hat designer and an artist I admire. I thought I could impress him with how NOT bridezilla I was by choosing images from 15th century paintings instead of brides magazines. I wrote down words like “symmetry”, “balance”, “sophistication”, “dignity”, “camouflage”.

In the words of my mother: “Ferget it!”

Kokin sweeps in, tosses aside my carefully bookmarked forty-seven pounds of art books announcing “Oh Honey, you are just channeling some past life”, sends the assistant our for bottled water and cookies, and starts doing me as I have never been done before.  My hair is teased and tossed and sculpted as no hairdresser ever dreamed. For 2 hours I am turned into iteration after iteration of gorgeous versions of myself. “Look how beautiful you are” he keeps instructing me.

A $2700 jeweled silk scarf is turned into a fantasy turban. Bouquets of $300 each handmade bejeweled gold & silver leather flowers are stuck around my head making my gold and silver hair look like a work of art. Veiling with Swarovski crystals covers my crow’s feet & laugh lines. Feathers from mythical birds carry the eye away from my double chin.

Kokin has worked magic.  I am gorgeous even to myself and for an overweight, middle aged Jewish woman, that is a miracle.

I am weeping as I hand him my credit card.

I stood on the street afterwards, shaking.  I was drunk with the experience for days.

When I sobered up, I told my future husband, with tears in my eyes, how much I had just spent.

“Sweetheart,” he said, “you can always tell them you got carried away and you need to cancel the order.”

Then, from the root of my womanhood, the howl I thought I had squelched:


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