serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging


Posted by Shae Hadden on 12/13/06

I was surprised to sit down to dinner at a restaurant last night and look up to see a table full of women boldly wearing red hats sitting across from me. Few people wear hats these days, fewer still with any sense of style. Yet these ladies, members of the Red Hat Society, were obviously comfortable with themselves and sassy enough to carry it off.

Curious to know more about them than just their trademark red hats and purple outfits, I went over and chatted with them for a few minutes while waiting for my dinner to appear. What interested me most was that these middle-aged women (all apparently confessing to be over 50 by wearing a red hat) were obviously having fun together, sharing camaraderie and joy in being somewhat ‘outside of the box’.

Two of the women were identical twin sisters: I was thrilled to see they still enjoyed the confusion their looks caused with their close friends in the group, one of whom was even related to them by marriage. Another was obviously the ‘Queen’, directing the somewhat relaxed, dis-orderly proceedings of their ‘meeting’ around the dinner table. A fourth was eager to relate the activities their chapter has engaged in over the years, and how to join an existing chapter or create one of my own. All were intelligent, playful, witty and humourous.

Being younger than the requisite 50, if I should become a member I would, of course, be only a ‘pink hatter’. This distinction based on age is core to the philosophy of the group: one must not wear the honoured colours until THE BIRTHDAY has been reached. That particular day is the society’s placemark, a point from which there is no turning back…only a launching forward to embrace life as it comes with frivolity, affection and enthusiasm.

If my mother were alive today, I think she would have been aghast at how these women dressed…and yet, she probably would have secretly longed to join just such a group. Their spirit and sense of play are contagious and a welcome relief from the gloom and doom greyness of most people’s daily existence. Such a wonderful counterpoint to mainstream media’s image of later life as being filled with boredom, resignation and malaise. And a powerful demonstration that the second half does not necessarily have to be a downhill slide into oblivion.

My metaphorical hat is off to you ladies for stepping out in style, for creating opportunities to celebrate who you are with each other, and for showing me that wearing a red hat is something I can look forward to with joy.


4 Responses to “Hats!”

  1. Rhea said

    This is a great idea for a group. I saw a bunch of Red Hat members attending a drag show in Savannah a year ago.

  2. Shae said

    And I just saw another group featured in a fundraising calendar for a local seniors centre…and they were all scantily clad in red hats, purple gloves and boas…and photographed outdoors too! Way to go…

  3. donna said

    It used to be amusing. Now, it’s just kind of trite.

    The point of “When I am an old woman” is to flaunt societal standards, not to create new ones. The idea that no one under 50 should be allowed to wear a red hat is just stupid.

  4. Shae said

    Lots of things are pretty stupid (or at least have no point) when you get right down to it, but nonetheless are people’s attempt at creating a tradition, at making a distinction. In the case of “the hats”, it’s all about having some harmless fun. My point (and I presume yours) is when the emphasis is on ‘OLD woman’, anything that anyone does is going to look like ‘resistance’ to a fact of life. I am more interested In transforming the whole paradigm of aging, and most of the ‘red hatters’ I met seem to be up to the same thing.

    I don’t mind if they want to distinguish me as ‘younger’…it is just a conversation. I look forward to being an ‘old woman’ without fear, and to being remembered as a woman who embraced fun and ‘flaunting societal standards’ throughout my life.

    Thanks for your comment.

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