Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Must Be Getting Old

A few weeks ago I realized that I might be a fuddy-duddy.

It was the beginning of a nice little Sunday with my girlfriend. We had plans to go to Ikea (our idea), Pier 1 (her idea), and Bed, Bath and Beyond (if we had time). One can't buy pant hangers on an empty stomach, however, and we decided to grab some breakfast at a local diner before we headed out. We walked over, took a seat right before the place got busy, and got down to business with some eggs.

I looked over her shoulder as we were talking and noticed a young man at the table behind her. He was in a group of three; he was one of two teenagers and there was an older man who was presumably their father. The teenager I couldn't stop looking at, however, was different from his counterpart insofar as he was wearing both a hat and sunglasses indoors.

My first thought was "What the hell is with this kid?" Despite my blue-collar upbringing, I was raised with a pretty strict sense of sartorial protocol, and wearing a hat and sunglasses indoors was something that would get me scolded pretty quickly. Teachers in elementary school were like drill sergeants about it.

Shortly after I wondered, "Where does this rule come from?" I can clearly understand why it's stupid to wear sunglasses indoors; sun won't get in your eyes when you're inside a building, and you also prevent others from looking you in the eye when conversing, which makes the sunglass-wearer come off as an uncouth jackass who fancies himself so cool that he can't be bothered with laying the naked eye on those he thinks are beneath him. But a hat? Where does the custom of removing one's hat while indoors come from, and why is it considered so disrespectful?

The custom doesn't have a distinct origin, but it seems to be steeped in simple etiquette. Hats are outerwear, and leaving it on while inside implies to your host that you won't be staying long, essentially rebuffing his/her welcome. For men, this tradition has extended to being in restaurants, schools, and most Christian places of worship (Jews wear yarmulkes and Muslims wear kufis), and sporting events while the National Anthem is being played. And elevators, for some reason.

To play it safe, ditch the headgear anytime you're indoors; you'll be viewed as a polite guest and please all the fuddy-duddies like myself. If you're like our badass friend pictured above, however, do as you please.

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