I should wear a helmet every time I go climbing. This is objective; a fact. I read enough tragic headlines and accident reports to know it. It’s a no-brainer (ack, sorry, I really just couldn’t help myself, sorry).
In fact, lots of things I like to do necessitate the wearing of a helmet. Some helmet use is more ingrained in my psyche—I’ve always worn a helmet to ride a bike, for example, but resisted ski helmets until I looked around at the ski area one day and literally everyone else was wearing one.
Okay, I’ll admit it: for years, I’ve avoided wearing my climbing helmet because I looked so unbelievably dorky in it.
Not all helmets are created equal, of course. Here is a comparison of various helmets, how long we’re supposed to have been wearing them, and their relative coolness:
As you can see, climbing helmets—specifically mine—are at the Extremely Uncool end of the spectrum.
Exhibit A: I desperately wanted to post this photo after reuniting with some beloved Alaskan friends to climb in Idaho, but I couldn’t because LOOK AT ME IN THAT HELMET. How did I manage to look so impossibly much dorkier than everyone else?
Exhibit B: It only gets worse with hats. GAH HOW DID I MAKE BEING LITERALLY INSIDE A GLACIER LOOK LAME.
My conscience, who also isn’t really that cool, would give me pointed looks and say things like, “Well, you’re an adult, it’s not like I can tell you what to do…” And then I’d have to wrestle between my desire to not look like a doof and the perennial need to not end up as a headline in the paper the next morning next to a picture of my mom crying.
Finally, after years of dragging that damn thing around from one apartment to the next, stuffing it in my backpack and reluctantly strapping it on only when absolutely necessary, I took matters into my own hands.
Climbing helmets (unlike Jar Jar Binks, who, like my old helmet, remains largely “forgotten,”) are getting cooler, and damned if I wasn’t going to get in on the action. Even though the only thing wrong with my old hunk of plastic was its tendency to contribute to regrettable photos, I splurged and bought a helmet I’ll actually wear. Seriously, check out how much cooler I look now:
This was (is) extremely vain of me. I’m aware of that. But in the same way that it’s socially acceptable to bribe children into eating their vegetables, I believe it’s better to wear a Cool Helmet Because Of Vanity than it is to wear No Helmet At All.