Not a ten-gallon hat. But ten hats - actually, perhaps nine - on his head. Literally.
This past weekend, I was at a gathering of a group that I have been involved in for ten years. There was a guy, a very sweet, gentle guy, that was there for the first time who turned out to have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism which makes social interaction and relating to others (empathy, etc.) difficult. I soon noticed that at each meal, he would have an additional hats on his head. (The stack started with cowboy hats and was topped off with a few billed caps.)
I asked a friend what this was all about, feeling stupid for wondering if this hat-stacking is a characteristic of Asberger’s Syndrome. He explained that the guy told him that he wears the hats to attract attention to himself and away from his disability and to help him interact with people, with them asking him what’s up with the hats.
"Smart guy," I told my friend. "He’s a smart guy."
I said this, because I know exactly what he is doing. As I have written about before, I do the same thing with my overalls, as well as my mismatched high-tops, rainbow shoe laces, dreads and hats - although I wear one hat at a time. I use them to focus attention on myself and away from my disability. When, at one point during the weekend, the guy said with considerable pride and warmth, "I’m the crazy, autistic man with the hats," I totally related and was thrilled.
What’s more, I said this and also that the guy is brave, even though I usually hate it when people say this about me. Okay - I admit it - I admire this disabled guy and found him - yes - brave and
What’s even more, I went to the gathering with my new Vmax speech synthesizer, and it was a huge success. Not only was I able to talk more to more people, it turned out to be, once people saw how I use it, a magnet.
Like those hats for that guy.