Poetry Sunday: Warning by Jenny Joseph

Here's something for all the mothers, for all the women really, growing older. And maybe the men, too, could take it to heart and loosen up a bit. Maybe it's time that we just all be ourselves, rather than trying to be what we think others expect of us. For the most part, they don't care anyway. They are too busy worrying about what we think of them!


by Jenny Joseph

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 flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.
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 beermats and things in boxes.
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 must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
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.


  1. If I am not mistaken there are actual clubs of ladies who wear purple, and red hats, but I had no idea that poetry had been created to celebrate this time of life and its "to hell with convention" philosophy, all of which is very appealing to me, and I am quite sure very liberating for them. Now where are those sausages........?

    1. Yes, the Red Hat Society takes its name and its inspiration for being from this poem which was written in 1961. Even if we are not actually members of the group we can appreciate its philosophy.

  2. This is a bittersweet poem for me. Years ago I had a co worker who had this posted on her wall. She passed away in 1998 when she was only 58 years old. Life is precious. Now I have reached the purple age. I'm ready to "practice a little".

    1. Coincidentally, 1998 is when the Red Hat Society was formed. Your friend was obviously ahead of her time in appreciating the poem.

  3. Great! I did not know of this poem. I confess, I did plenty of "practicing" in my days as a single mother raising two boys.

    1. I only recently came across the poem. An inspiration to all who have lived sedate lives!


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