When I#039;m an old woman, I#039;ll wear purple

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 13, 2003

Jaine Treadwell Features Editor

For sure, there are some good things about growing old -er.

The best is that you're still hanging around.

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Running a close second is that you no longer have to care about what others think or what they have or where they go or what they do.

"Mature" citizens can just lead a laid-back lifestyle and do what they want, when they want and how they want.

And, people will accept their behavior because they're old and can get away with being a little eccentric.

"There's no fool like an old fool;" Old and childish;" "Once a man; twice a child;" - all cliches that give license for old-er folks not to conform - to anything.

A group of Troy ladies have joined the Red Hat Society, a national non-conformist group. In their red hats and purple dresses, they are the pacesetters in fashion and fun for the over -50 gang. They are on the cutting edge of old-er age and they are loving every minute of it.

Red Hats don't care what anybody thinks or says.

They don't even seem to mind the odd looks they get while standing on the street corner in their outlandish garb waiting for the traffic light to change.

Neither do they notice the snickers when one of their members comes sashaying into a restaurant with a purple boa draped around her shoulders.

No member of the group raises an eyebrow when a Red Hat announces she is now Mistress of Mayhem or Creative Contessa. After all, a Red Hat must have a moniker worthy of the outfit she wears.

The Troy ladies didn't organize as Red Hats. They were originally the TGIF girls who got together each Friday morning at Yesterday's to discuss everything from the world situation to the price of tea in China and some other issues that could be classified as pure gossip.

But, then along came another idea - a rather eccentric one.

All across the country Red Hats groups were being formed. They had no rules, no mission and no purpose other than to have tea and fun.

"Wouldn't if be fun if we were Red Hats," someone suggested. And the ladies were off to the thrift stores looking for red hats and purple dresses.

The Red Hat dress code is dictated in the poem, "Warning," 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."

"We thought it would be fun to be Red Hats," Nancy Scott said. "So, we decided the first Friday of each month would be Red Hat day for TGIF."

TGIF meets each Friday morning at The Pines and, on the first Friday of the month, they come as Red Hats and turn heads all along the way.

"Some of us wear our red hats and purple dresses all day," Jane Segars said. "People look at us funny, but we don't care because we 're Red Hats and we can do what we want to do. Red Hats rule."

Red Hats might rule but there are no Red Hat rules for Red Hats. So, there is no order to the meetings and no rhyme or reason to them either.

The constant s are something sweets on the table and something to fill the cup. After that, Robert's Rules of Order are tossed out the window.

Red Hats are never called to order. They have no roll call, no minutes, no treasurer's report, no programs and, strangely, for a group of businesswomen - no business.

There's just chatter - fast and furious chatter -nine women and 90 conversations - all at the same time.

Red Hats can jump in on any conversation from any place around the table without checking in or calling time out.

Bouncing around conversations is an art and the Red Hats are true artists. But the funny thing is the method of bouncing.

Some of the Red Hats are true blue - and orange - Trojans and talk in all-flat vowels.

Others are transplants.

"Yankees we call them," Gail Foster said laughing. "And, they sure talk funny."

The Red Hat transplants giggled as they teased the GRITS about the way they talk.

"What surprised me when we first moved here was that everyone said, "Hey!" Sandy Garrett said, laughing.

"Hay is what people feed horses."

Other "Yankees" were flabbergasted by Southerners who say things like "Will you carry me to town?"

"You want us to literally lift you up and 'carry' you," the Yankettes laughed. "But the most ridiculous thing is 'fixin' to.' What tools do you used when you're fixin'?"

The Southern-born and Southern-bred girls took all the teasing in stride and, even they, hooted and hollered when Jane Segars threw out a South Alabama expression for dissecting.

"Beenabein'" she said. "We all say that."

But everyone, even the oldest Southern gal among them, was puzzled by that.

"We don't know that expression. Use it in a sentence."

"Well, like, it's hotter than it's beenabein'" Segars said, and the table erupted in laughter.

"Beenabein! You run all of your words together and don't you have a 'G' in your alphabet," one Red Hat quipped. "Well, you never use it!"

Flat vowels, drawlin' and all, the Red Hats who were late arrivals in Dixie all admitted that Troy, Pike County and Alabama are great place s to live and work and they are proud to be living in the South instead of "up north."

And, they are proud to have found a group of ladies how like to "flock" together in Red Hats and "be as silly as we want to be."

"Every decade we can let something go," Foster said laughing. "Now, we're at an age where we can let it all hang out."

All the Red Hats agreed and left The Pines to "pick the flowers in other people gardens - and maybe learn to spit."