When I am an Old Woman…

Source of photo: Amazon

Do you remember When I’m an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple? The poem, entitled Warning, was written in 1961 when the author, Jenny Joseph, was just 29 years old. Here is a link, with Jenny herself sassily reading the poem aloud just a few short years before her death.

I think I was a young woman aged about age 29 myself, when I first read that poem. I smiled affectionately at the thought of that cheeky old lady finally letting her hair down; finally acting any way she darned well pleased, free from social conformity at last: wearing purple if she wanted to, drinking brandy if she wanted to, learning to spit, sitting on the pavement if she got tired, and ‘hoarding pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes”.

It’s a wonderful poem and I clearly remember feeling, as a young woman, a bit of the wistfulness Jenny Joseph must have been feeling when she wrote it. There are so many expectations, when you are a young woman; to act a certain way; to dress a certain way; to wear shoes of a certain height; to be pretty, polished and attractive.

But not too attractive.

For some woman (not all women, mind you) there can be such a sense of competition: I was never one of those women whom other woman had to worry about, if their husbands were in my company at say, work, or worse still – a conference. But because this is not really something that woman actually feel comfortable talking about, I do remember the occasional sideways, suspicious glances in my direction at the office Christmas parties. I am a very quiet, observant soul and as these looks were utterly undeserved, I always greatly resented their implication, even as I empathised: some women – and some husbands – were indeed up to no good at those conferences. I had quietly noticed that fairly frequently, too.

If you are one of those people who pick up on the smallest social cues in this regard, I am here to tell you that something wonderful happens, as you age. I know I am still in the earliest years of ‘old age’ or the ‘crone’ years, but I already see the difference and oh, I am enjoying it. My white hair is a beacon for people of all ages now: it tells young women that I am no threat to them (even if I know I never was a threat); it encourages young men to preface things they tell me with “My Mom tells me the same thing all the time.”. Young children instinctively treat me as a surrogate Grammy. Salespersons cut me a bit of slack if I ask for help.

While I will admit to being a bit a bit vain about never leaving the house unless my hair is done ‘just so’ and I am sporting a bit of lipstick, it’s been years since I have felt the need to even remotely keep up with fashion. Today, my idea of ‘dressing up’ is to wear my nicest pair of jeans and maybe a crisp white blouse. Oh – and flat, sensible heels of course.

Recently, quite by accident, I experienced my first ‘wearing purple’ moment. My husband and I were on vacation in a sunny climate. I have been needing to go to the optometrist for a pair of prescription sunglasses for quite awhile, but have put it off for ages. To my dismay, I realised that the glare of the tropical sun was truly painful: I had to do something.

“I need to buy a sun hat,” I announced to my husband. “Nothing fancy or expensive: I just want to be able to see without squinting quite so much.”

Off we went: I am one of those shoppers who goes, finds, buys and leaves, so the entire process was over in perhaps five minutes. Being – as I have already mentioned – a bit vain about my hair, I chose a straw visor that would have as little contact with my hair as possible. It was a nice, wide and particularly long visor. I was satisfied that it would protect my eyes very well indeed. I did try it on for my husband and he did say something vague like “don’t you like this other visor, over here?” I was emphatic, however: the other hat was indeed cute, but it had a short, jaunty little visor that wouldn’t protect my eyes nearly as well. No, this was definitely the hat I wanted, I told him, and – pleased with myself – I headed to the cash to pay for my purchase.

It wasn’t until a few days later, when our daughter called us via videoconference – that I realised just how much my husband didn’t like my new hat. “Why don’t you show C_ your new hat, Patti?” he suggested, as he more ominously added, speaking to our daughter: “Wait ‘til you see THIS”

“You don’t like my hat??” I asked him, surprised, “Well why didn’t you SAY something? What’s wrong with it??”

“It would be a fine hat if you were, say, 95 years old,” was his retort, as I scurried off to find the hat in question and to put it on, for my daughter to see.

The surprised, horrified whoop of laughter emanating from my lovely daughter’s mouth (which she had clapped her hand over, for added emphasis) as I appeared in the screen confirmed it: I had bought a bonified old-lady-wearing-purple-drinking-brandy-and-sitting-on-the-sidewalk-when-I-am-tired hat.

Mom!!! What were you thinking???” laughed my daughter, staring in comical horror at my new purchase.

“It protects my eyes from the sun and I like it.” Was my grinning, unapologetic response.

I wore that hat for the remainder of the trip and I have every intention of wearing it out next summer, too.

After all, we old ladies have no reputation whatsoever to uphold…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

43 thoughts on “When I am an Old Woman…”

  1. I love all of this…and I say wear the hat and enjoy! It IS a blessing to focus on function and pleasing yourself first. And hey – the giggles your hubby and daughter enjoyed? You provided the humor and entertainment free of charge! And yes…I remember the poem. So good! Thanks, Patti! 😘

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I have always enjoyed and agreed with the concept behind the Jenny Joseph poem, although actually wearing purple would be difficult for me. I am neither a purple or pink person. I stopped doing many of the socially appropriate things expected of me when I retired in 2021 and it was freeing. I mostly do, say and be whatever I want now so you go wear your visor proudly and ignore what everyone thinks. I am fully over judgy people and their comments- even in my own family.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I don’t know if I have ever heard a sentence which included ME and the words ‘living it up’, Wynne 😂 I am SUCH a quiet homebody. I have been sitting here for a long moment, trying to work out the juxtaposition of me (me!!!!!) ‘living it up.’ And you know what? I LIKE the sound of that!!! And it totally works with my new look! 😃 Thank you for helping me branch out even further on this purple journey of mine 🙂💕😔

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just found your blog so “hi!” I remember this poem but I balked at it when I was younger because I don’t look my best in purple clothes. Now, as a more mature woman who still doesn’t look good in purple, I rather like the message of the poem and can overlook my dislike of purple clothing. I suspect that means I’m old enough now to appreciate being old. I say wear your hat with pride.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi :

    I really related to this piece – it is my time to be me and embrace the things that make me special – so what if my hubby Brian from “Writing from the heart with Brian” doesn’t like it ! He doesn’t always pick out the best hats for me! ( just ask him ) ❤️Love your piece !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well it is truly LOVELY to meet you 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂 I am profoundly touched that you related to this piece. I think, every once in awhile, we write something that we recognize as the acknowledgement of a ‘turning point’. I know this was one of mine and I know I am changed because of it.
      I hope Brian will perhaps write about picking out hats for you…now I am curious 😂


  5. Thank you for sharing!!.. I think that after so many years of making sacrifices for the benefit of others, we reach a point in our life where we decide to be “me”.. I know I have and enjoying every minute of it… “When someone tells you “you’ve changed”, it might be because you have stopped living your life their way” (John Pence)…. 🙂

    Hope your path is paved with happiness, “It is not easy to find happiness within ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” (Agnes Repplier ) and until we meet again..
    May your spirit only know peace
    May your heart only know love
    May all your dreams come true
    May your life’s journey be filled with happiness
    And life is all that you wish for it to be….
    (Larry “Dutch” Woller)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a truly and delightful post! I love that you wore that hat and liked it! I’m inching toward this time in my life and I’ve already noticed myself changing for the better. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a bit of grey in my hair now and bunions that refuse to let me wear heels.. cue the sobbing noises… but I have yet to find the purple. Doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to it though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post. I have always wore deep purple, but now I own it. I reached that stage perhaps earlier than most as I refused to dye my hair and went gray early. I totally appreciate how you wrote the story out. I will be back to read more. Bernie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO much Bernie 🙂 Oh I would love for you to come back anytime, and I will keep trying to connect with your page. I’m sure whatever isn’t working for me will get straightened out eventually. So glad you ‘own’ deep purple: it’s a great – and freeing – look 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂


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