Monday, March 14, 2011

The Red Hat Society

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that 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.

 This weekend, I spent much time going within.  The death of my client, and the word I received before I left work on Friday that another client had been passed away, left me in a state of disbelief that two could be lost within a week, but also feeling the crunch of my own mortality. I am a child of the 1960s, and in a few days I will be 64.   We used to believe that one could never trust anyone over thirty for they were considered the establishment.  Well, look at me now.  I am more than twice that age.  When did it happen?  I remember how it was when I was in the prime of my youth that I never thought about getting old.  The world was my oyster, and I had so much living to do.  Growing old only happens to others; it will never happen to me....

....but what does it really mean to grow old?  What is the criteria we use to measure that someone has really grown old? Because the truth is, I have known people in their twenties and thirties who acted as if they were already in their seventies or eighties, and I have  known people in their eighties and nineties who acted as if they were still in their twenties.  So, what is it that makes a person old?  I believe we do it to ourselves.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I am 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,
And learn to spit.

When I think of oldness,  I am reminded of my grandparents.  To me,  they seemed old, but I also have to remember that theirs was a different time, a time when one grew old and retired...or was it that I was so young, that I remember them as old?   Today we work right up to our 70's,  and 80 year old men and women graduate from college.  Although one may show signs of aging, one does not have to grow old.  I truly believe that age is a state of mind.  You may never be able to stop your body from aging or the birthdays from rolling around, but, the fact is,  growing old is as much in your mind as it is in your body.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.

And you know what I learned about myself this weekend?  I don't think of myself as old.  My body may try to make me believe that I am--my hips are wide, my knees are round and ache with every step I take--but my mind still has much to learn. I look in the mirror and see the wrinkles in my face, and but I know that the trade-off is wisdom.  And, you are only as old as you feel.  So, I got myself dressed and went for a good long walk, something I always used to do, but always find an excuse not to do it back hurts, I'm too tired, I don't feel like getting dressed.  We do these things to ourselves and then wonder, "Why do I feel so old?"

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.

I choose to grow older, but not yet to grow old, regardless of what the calendar years say.  Yes, it's true, I will be turning 64, but I still feel young enough to choose the good, and reject the bad. I choose to grow old, but in my own time and my own way, and to do so as gracefully and gently as I can.  Oh, and by the way, I absolutely love wearing purple.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!

--Jenny Joseph--


  1. My fave is RED!
    Old is in your mind....just sayin;0)

  2. Purple and hot pink are my favorites! Old is something you choose to be. Not going to get old.

    Wishing you a day filled with laughter!


  3. I have had this poem in a drawer of mine since I was in my 30's. Also....We are the same age...will be 65 in October...oh dear friend....we have so much in common....and we ARE BOTH young at heart!!



  4. That's one of my favourite poems! I first heard it read in a UU church by an older silver-haired lady who laughed so hard while she was reading she could hardly get it out. I immediately went out and bought the book that the poem was contained in! Good for you for not feeling or acting old, Mary!

  5. 64... Rejoice Dear. I'm turning 74, before the month is out. :-)

    Some days, I feel older than others. And the relative nearness of death is a CONSTANT companion. But as long as I can make this "constant companion," move me to LIVE NOW. And not to worry... Then I count that, a Win.

    I also used to buy into the "When I'm Old I will Wear Purple" thing. But that has changed to. I don't choose to be tooooooooooo "free" in my style-of-dress. It's hard enough for older people to be noticed-in-a-good-way, as is. I don't think it wise, to flaunt too many "differences-in-dress" at the world, too. :-) But that's just me.

    I certainly do embrace all the freedoms which do come with age. Just... Don't need to wear a purple-dress-and-a-red-hat. :-) That sorts of thing. Because there are ladies who do choose very different outfits. And... Now... It's kind of sad, for me, to see them.

    Wow! How did you get me off on this tangent? -gigggles- Best close now! :-)

  6. I believe there is a Red Hat society branch in our area...someone told me that she had tried to join and they were nasty...hhmm??

    Age gives you the opportunity to do what you feel...hopefully...