Other Voices: We’re never too old to live a life full of color | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: We’re never too old to live a life full of color

We have become accustomed to ladies appearing all over the country in red hats, sometimes worn with purple dresses. These are women of mature years. Most of them are white-haired. When they arrive in a group at a restaurant or an art gallery or a theater, they seem to descend like a flock of tropical birds. They are chattering and laughing, obviously enjoying themselves.

They are, of course, members of the Red Hat Society, the loosely structured organization that has rapidly gained nationwide popularity. Their stated purpose is to have a good time. They make the reckless assertion that it’s OK to take a little time off from their volunteer activities at the hospital or the library or the food bank and just have some fun – and to look gaudy while they are doing it, no matter what their age.

This is a pretty heady concept for a person like me, who was brought up to believe that it’s improper to call attention to oneself, and who was further admonished to always “act your age.” At 86, I do not look like a babushka exactly. But on the other hand, I do wear conservative, tailored clothes in neutral, interchangeable colors, which I sometimes daringly enliven with a scarf or a bit of jewelry. In other words, I fade into whatever background I happen to be in. You will not be surprised to learn that I have not joined a Red Hat Society.

However, these women have caused me to give some thought to color and how we use it to make a statement about our lives. The Red Hat ladies seem to be saying, “Look at us! We’re all dressed up! These are difficult and scary times, but over the years we’ve been through plenty, and we’re still around to tell you joy has not vanished from the earth.”

An artist friend of mine who made a serious study of folk art concluded that the poorer a country is, the brighter the colors its artisans use. I don’t know if she confirmed some universal truth, but I do understand how color can lift our hearts.

Last week in the mail I received a sale catalog of women’s clothing. As I leafed through it, my attention was caught by a very full skirt, tiered in wide bands of brilliant pink, red and orange. It looked like something one would wear to a fiesta or put on to dance the can-can. Carmen Miranda would have liked it. I did, too.

It made me think what fun it would be to kick up my heels or at least flounce about for a bit clicking castanets. I studied the skirt with the kind of dreamy desire I have not felt since I shopped with my mother for my junior prom dress. I tried to imagine what occasion on my social calendar could justify my ordering anything so outlandish: None.

Even in my manic, delusional state, I realized the skirt would not look the same on me as it did on the lithe young model in the catalog. I also conceded that the effect would undoubtedly border on the bizarre.

Nevertheless, I wanted it.

An inner dialog with my conservative, rational self ensued: “Have you totally lost your wits?”

“No, not at all. What’s wrong with wearing something bright and gay for a change?”

“For Pete’s sake, act your age! There’s no more pathetic sight than an old woman trying to act young and giddy!”

“Well, I feel young!”

“That’s not the same as looking young or being young. For heaven’s sake, get real. I am not prepared to deal with some kind of nut case.” (My rational self is pretty plain-spoken.)

With a sigh, I put the catalog aside, but I have kept it on my bedside table after turning down the corner of the page with the skirt on it. Sometimes I peek at that page and I have this almost irresistible urge to pick up the telephone and order the skirt. But I’ve had the catalog for more than a week, and it says on the cover that “quantities are limited.” They’ve probably sold all of the skirts by now.

If I were a Red Hat lady, I would take a chance and make the call anyway.

Lucille Lovestedt lives in Grass Valley.

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