Earlier this week, I was driving to the gym and, at a red light, noticed the car ahead of me. The driver had affixed to her car large magnets resembling red hats, much like the omnipresent magnetic ribbons.
Her license plate holder was red and said, "Official Member: Red Hat Society."
In her back window I could see a doll-sized red-brimmed hat.
Naturally, I was intrigued, so when I got home, I found the official Web site for the Red Hat Society. It's a group of women, aged 50 and older, who get together at social functions wearing red hats and purple dresses.
It all started when one of them discovered the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, about a woman who wore a similar ensemble. So she bought a red hat in a thrift store and shared the poem with a friend, giving her a red hat, as well.
Soon, enough people had passed along the poem and red hats to form a society. So about 18 of them went out on the town, wearing red hats and purple dresses, like in the poem.
From there, more friends got involved, and the society grew until it became a national organization. Of course, nobody wanted to make it a stuffy affair, so one of their strict rules is that there are no rules. They simply get together and have fun.
If you want to join the society and you're under 50, you have to wear a pink hat and violet dress.
I think I've heard of the Red Hat Society before, but I didn't know much more about it. It certainly seems like it would be a lot of fun. I wonder if my mom would be interested in joining, as this is one of her favorite poems. She once had a poster of it in her office, and she has a purple T-shirt that says, "When I am old I shall wear purple."
The whole idea behind that poem is that aging should be a celebration and that you should never be afraid to express your individuality. Above all, you shouldn't lose your sense of playfulness. Of course, I believe that, if you want to be eccentric, there's no time like the present.
I could be an honorary member
I think it's high time people created other organizations based on their favorite literary works. Here are a few suggestions.
The Honeypot Society: Fans of Winnie the Pooh carry honey-pots and sample dishes involving "hunny."
The White Wing Society: Fans of Jonathan Livingston Seagull wear feathers (in hats or elsewhere on their person) and help each other achieve their dreams.
The Rolled Trousers Society: Taken from the famous line in T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" ("I grow old... I grow old... / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled"), members roll up their pants legs and grouse about getting older.
The Leftover Sherry Society: Named after Emily Dickinson's oft-quoted description of herself in a letter ("I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut bur — and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the guest leaves. Would this do just as well?" ), its members drink sherry and discuss poetry, gardening and baking (Dickinson's three favorite activities).
The Pipe and Cape Society: Sherlock Holmes fans don his famous garb and share their love of mysteries.
The Codpiece Society: For Shakespeare fans, who dress in Elizabethan costumes and read Shakespeare aloud.
The Black Turtleneck Society: Fans of the Beat poets get together in coffee shops to smoke clove cigarettes, drink espressos and recite poetry (OK, this already exists, except for the turtlenecks).
I'm open to more suggestions, and should anyone want to join me in founding any of the above societies, let me know!
You don't have to wait to be eccentric.