Of Suppositions And Purple

     [I’m very tired, and the news is so monochromatically bleak that I can see no point in commenting on it. I did find one interesting article from Roger Kimball a few days back, but it’s long, dense, and deserves more time and thought than I’ve had available, so for now please read it and form your own conclusions. I promise to address it eventually.
     For now, “enjoy,” if that’s the right word, the following tirade I first posted in September 2017 at Liberty’s Torch V1.0. Apologies to poet Jenny Joseph, who I’m sure only meant well. And yes, I did do most of the things described below, at some point after I decided – oh, most reluctantly, I assure you – that I was “old.” — FWP]

     I’m beginning to wonder if I’m turning into “one of them.” You know, the old folks who seemingly can’t shut up, particularly the subvariety that expresses itself on the Web compulsively, on any and every imaginable subject. I’ve known others like that. They seem animated by consciousness that their time on Earth is running out. They fear that they might die with something left unsaid…perhaps by anyone ever.

     Well, if so, then so be it. I am what I am, to quote America’s most famous sailor. (I’m told God said something along those lines to Job, too.) Anyway, there are far too many developments and phenomena that deserve to be observed and commented on for me to slacken off now. I mean, it might be a cushy job, but someone has to do it.



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 the 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 practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

[Jenny Joseph]

     The above poem gave rise to a social phenomenon: The Red Hat Society, which numbers over 40,000 local clubs throughout the English-speaking world. Though I’ve been familiar with the poem for quite a long time, I learned of the Red Hat Society and its satellite clubs just yesterday. The occasion was dinner out with the C.S.O.

     Well, of course it was because a chapter of the Red Hat Society was present at our chosen restaurant! I drew the C.S.O.’s attention to the table full of purple-garbed, red hatted ladies, and she informed me about the Society, its thousands of clubs, and her opinion that it was a rather superficial treatment of the sentiments in Jenny Joseph’s poem.

     But what are those sentiments? Clearly it’s not a sartorial prescription. Neither is it a sneer at society’s exhortations and conventions, at least as they apply to younger folks. The exhortations conduce to our individual betterment. They do, you know: Get your first serve in, don’t draw to an inside straight, do unto others and then run like hell…but I digress. The conventions help to preserve a state of public peace in which we can generally trust that we won’t be knifed, gang-raped, or besieged by life insurance salesmen on the way to the corner store for milk.

     It’s been on my mind intermittently since yesterday at the restaurant. It will probably be there for a while longer.


     There’s a dimension of latitude that comes to some of us with age. It would be a mislabeling to call it “freedom;” typically, an individual is just as free before he turns decrepit as afterward. It’s more about the lessening of some of one’s personal inhibitions. Other people’s opinions of us and our choices matter less. We no longer worry as much about “setting a good example for the children,” whether our own or those of other parents. Some of us get a little careless about a few things – vocabulary, associations, flirtations, certain indulgences we carefully limited in our younger years – and become rather insouciant about them.

     It’s certainly that way with me. (Send $20.00 and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the details.) As I look a bit younger than I actually am, I draw a fair number of dubious looks and disapproving comments for it. My usual response to those bothered by my little ways is to shrug, smile, and say “Too bad for you!”

     Here’s an example: I sing along with the music in retail establishments, at least if I know the tune and the words. I can carry a tune, and I’m told my voice is decent, so I get some pleasure out of hearing something I know from years ago and joining in. The way other shoppers look at me is often enough to blister paint. Now and then, one will actually approach and upbraid me for it.

     The last time someone dared to castigate me about that practice, I waited until she’d run down, smiled, and said, “Suppose I’d been a black teen with a boom box, playing that garbage they call ‘rap music’ at pain-threshold levels. Would you have approached him?” Needless to say, there was no reply, so I tipped my nonexistent cap, wished her a pleasant afterlife, and passed on…still singing. It was refreshing.

     However, if you have a voice like a frog with a man stuck in his throat and can’t carry a tune with a forklift, you might want to suppress the habit. For the children, don’t y’know. Also, honesty compels me to admit that most of the retail establishments I’ve patronized in recent years now play the most godawful repetitive techno crap on their PA systems. No words, barely a recognizable tune, and it never BLEEP!ing changes or ends. More than coincidence? Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.


     If there’s a theme to the above, it would be that other people’s suppositions about you are not binding. There are limits – no fondling the unwilling, no writing graffiti on other people’s fences, and for the love of God, aim before you spit and spit accurately! – but they’re looser than most think.

     So what if you’re sixty-five and look like the “before” side of a weight-loss commercial? Go to Carvel anyway. (Buy a six-pack of Flying Saucers. Buy two; you’ll get 25% off. It’s a real bargain.) How much longer do you have to enjoy what life has to offer? And do you really think your equally decrepit wife will regard you more amorously if you lose the potgut? Get serious.

     So what if “they” say that anime is only for kids? Order a set of xxxHolic and enjoy them. They actually have a lot to say, and the banter among the characters will remind you a great deal about young rivalries and young love.

     So what if “they” say a mature man who buys a red Corvette convertible is out to make a fool of himself? Flip ‘em the bird and buy the damned thing while you can still get into and out of it. Alternately, say “At least I’ll be doing it to myself. Who botched the job on you?” And make sure to wear a propeller beanie when you drive it with the top down.

     The above was written with absolutely no idea in mind…except purple.