The Sombrero Syndrome

Is there room in the suitcase for this?


By Susan Kelly

Tis the season for traveling, touring, visiting, and succumbing to the Sombrero Syndrome.

Definition: som·bre·ro (\sm-brer-()) syn·drome (\sin-drm): an affliction which compels one to buy an item endemic to a specific locale; a purchase that will eventually prove to be useless, such as a sombrero while in Mexico.

I was first infected with Sombrero Syndrome on Nantucket, the college summer I worked in a cutesy “shoppe” schlepping scrimshaw and quahog jewelry. Never mind that I was too poor to eat anything but fluffernutter sandwiches and hitchhiked everywhere; I scrimped and saved until I could buy a $100 (including employee discount) piece of (probably fake) whale tooth  etched with a sailing ship. You want it? It’s right here, along with several strings of worry beads I bought at a kiosk below the Parthenon.

Somewhere in a kitchen drawer is the damask tablecloth I had to have while I was in Provence that looked so romantically al fresco enchanting . . . in Provence.  It’s probably stuffed next to the scarf I bought from a Florentine street vendor, which matches nothing in my closet, but at least it was only $5. Should’ve bought gelato.

The Syndrome virus lurks in every milieu. At Fearrington Village, all the plants look so perfect that I just had to bring home some shrub that was supposed to burst forth with red berries every December. I envisioned instant, perennial mantel decorations for Christmas. Either I got the girl plant or the boy plant or it’s asexual, but there’s never been a single berry.

The Sombrero Syndrome is a different infection from buyer’s remorse. The latter concerns any old thing you buy at the mall which you then proceed to loathe. This includes the Punishment Dress, so named because you have to wear it to punish yourself for buying it. Sombrero Syndrome is the kilt I bought in Scotland (worn once, and then to a costume party) and the angora yarn I sold my soul for in Ireland when I was a knitter. Or flufferknitter.

And while I’ve never been to Mexico, I bought the equivalent of a sombrero in some Napa Valley winery tasting room: a sun hat so wide-brimmed that I had to hold it in my lap all the way across the country so it wouldn’t get smushed. Clearly, I should have opted for a case of rosé (see gelato, above).

Forget Zika, Ebola and malaria. Beware the Sombrero instead.  OH

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and proud new grandmother.

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