Wed, Feb 21, 2018 03:12 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-10-17 communities
Smile Awhile
When I Am Old
Sara Hopson
"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me,

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth/

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other people's gardens.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple."

This is an excerpt from a poem written by Jenny Joseph entitled "Warning." This is the official poem for The Red Hat Society, which was started by Mary Ellen Cooper. Ms. Cooper is referred to as the Exalted Queen Mother, and there are now 10,000 Red Hat chapters in existence.

When Ms. Cooper started the first group, she gave herself the title of Queen. Other titles were: "Vice-mother," the Queen Mother's right-hand-woman, and the mother of vices, so to speak. An "anti-parliamentarian" for the one who enforces the rule that there are no rules. "Barristress" for the lawyer in the group, and "Mistress of Anxiety" who worries about other member's problems for them so that they don't have to. The sillier and grander the title, the more fun it is.

In the information you read about the Red Hat Society, you will note that it is not called an organization, but a disorganization because the rule is that there are no rules. The only thing that is expected of you is that you wear a red hat and purple attire to all the un-meetings you attend.

Cinder and I have been attending the un-meetings for almost two years. We are members (non-members) of a group that calls themselves the Red Hatters of Richmond. We joined this group when a mutual friend of Cinder's and mine invited us to one of the un-meetings in Lexington. We had so much fun we decided to stay with the group.

Even though there are no specific rules to follow, there is one certain requirement which is you have to be fifty or over to join. You can be younger, but you aren't permitted to wear a red hat until you reach the half-century mark. Since she is not 50 yet, Cinder wears a lavender hat and red attire. When Cinder turns 50, instead of having a graduation ceremony, we will have a "reduation." At this time, Cinder will be inducted into the ranks of old. This adds an element of fun to aging, which Red Hatters think is invaluable to women in our society who have learned to dread aging and avoid it at all costs. Red Hatters believe that aging should be something anticipated with excitement, and not something to dread.

The main responsibility of being a Red Hatter is to have fun! They see themselves as those who have shouldered various responsibilities in the home and in the community their whole lives and now they want to say goodbye to those burdens. Of course, someone needs to plan the events that the Red Hatters enjoy or they would never happen. But other members take turns at these things so that they do not become "jobs" for anyone.

If you think you'd like to be a red hatter, let us know. Remember my motto, "Better red than dead."

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