Friday, May 12, 2006
What IS it about the combination of red and purple, liberally encased in glitter and feathers of every sort, on women of a certain age that gets on my last nerve? In the spirit of disclosure, I must admit that I’m about 1 ½ years from being counted in that age group. I’m 48. And I’ve already warned my friends: NO RED HAT STUFF when I turn 50. Of my closest friends, only 1 has turned 50 so far. The rest are further away from contemplation of that year. But we’ve already had that discussion. The Red Hat Society (www.redhatsociety.com) started out innocently enough. Based on the poem by Jenny Joseph called “Warning,” a woman in Phoenix decided, around 2001 or so, that she was going to have fun as she grew older. She decided, like many others, that old age is a gift, not a burden. Ms. Joseph’s poem has become the Red Hat anthem, reading in part: “WARNING – When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” Red Hatters (and others) seem to particularly enjoy the last stanza of the poem, which states: “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.” The poem is empowering to some women, giving permission for them to be themselves after they’ve spent most of their adult lives caring for others. The notion of the Red Hat Society is not a profound one…they want to have fun. After all, we have enough doom and gloom in our lives. We should be able to gather with our gal pals and just flat-out enjoy each other and our lives. But somewhere along the line, it went a little sideways. Some women (not ALL of them) choose to indulge in an orgy of bad dressing and sometimes seem to claim a sense of entitlement that goes beyond “assertive” and borders upon “obnoxious.” That’s just wrong. As far as sartorial sense, there seems to be (again, in SOME women) an overabundance of polyester and spandex on mature figures; and an overabundance of glitter, feathers and flashing red pins. More disclosure? I like purple. It’s my favorite color – in all its shades. From the nicest lilac to periwinkle to a nice vivid shot of regal purple. But not paired with red. And not paired with anything flashing. And only if it fits appropriately so that I don’t look like a wayward Fruit of the Loom grape. I also like red. One of my favorite suits is a cardinal-red color that I think looks just spiffy. I’m just giving my opinion, but I have to tell you that, for me, if I’m over a certain age (and over a certain weight), the only time I should be wearing anything red and flashing is if there’s an ambulance wrapped around me. Let’s face it, there aren’t too many people who’re young who look good in spandex ANYTHING. Much less red and purple stretchy stuff. And the red shoes with the purple ensembles? Only if you’re Dorothy and on your way back to Kansas. Let’s digest that whole “over 50” thing. I know some absolutely fabulous women who are well past 50. They don’t need to be defined by bad wardrobe decisions. They’re so comfortable in their skins that I rather envy them. So should there be a cut-off for the Red Hat age group? Many would undoubtedly say no. But many women I know who are over 50 – and several well near the end of their 60s – say that the whole thing is an excuse for bad dressing and bad manners. At a recent event I attended, the Red Hatters were out in force. Admittedly, there were a few who were just darling. One woman was in a lovely lavender tweed suit and it was outstanding. Her outfit was tailored well, there was just enough of each color and the outfit fit her – she didn’t compete with what she was wearing. On the other hand, there were several women who came in and caused me to say to myself, “What was she thinking?” Even another friend of mine (who admits to being “well into” the Red Hat age group), when faced with a gaggle of Red Hatters, said to me, “Oh my.” But really. Are we still where we need to define ourselves by our outfits or “colors”? I would think – or I would hope – that by the time I feel the need to further define myself, it won’t be just by what I’m wearing. And anyway, the only time I want to be seen in feathers is if they’re angel wings.