04 Oct What are you waiting for?
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.
And maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
by Jenny Joseph
I don’t know when the poem was written but the compilation of poems was published in 1987. I have always loved this poem. One of my grandmother’s friends wore purple–and she was so delightful and free-spirited. I thought she was magical. When I asked for purple my mother told me it was a tacky color (circa 1962-ish)
There have always been ideas about what older people should and shouldn’t do. And plenty of people who will tell you if you’re not following the rules for “old” people.
Why do we listen? Why do far too many of us still hold on to all those “oughts” and “shoulds”?
My new tagline is going to be Aging Unapologetically. It feels just right and even saying it makes me feel a little awesome. I started by recovering my sofa in a fuchsia color and adding purple accents to my home. And, I’m continuing–the new black hightop Converse sneakers. Being open about my age and my desire to remain sexually active. Daring to appear without makeup in public (well that’s not new). Taking trips alone and being quite content with my own company.
I’m changing things. Letting go of things that I can’t be bothered with–people too. Why hold on to irritants, people, or things that makes us feel small? It feels good. I’m sharing photos of myself a bit more with a “this is 64” hashtag–because I’m not ashamed of my age. I want to inspire other women who just need a slight nudge. I’m willing to be scrutinized visually. Yes, there are wrinkles and stray hairs and age spots and gorgeous eye crinkles that appear when I smile. I love how I look right now–and that’s the only person who matters. And I love how I feel as I move through the world.
Why did I wait so long to find myself? To fall in love with me?
Why do we give up bits and pieces of ourselves for decades, in order to be pleasing, or desired, or not rock the boat?
Women have the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives. And many of us are doing so–spurred on by the politics of today and by a growing awareness of what we’ve had to give up to feel accepted. I don’t think there’s a manual, yet, for aging unapologetically. But I’m working on it.
don’t wait. start now.
Today. Swear in the streets. Wear mismatched clothes if it makes you happy. Buy the purple dress, or undies or paint the door purple. Speak up for what you want. Make a list of all your desires. Go ahead and shock them. It feels good, I promise.
Photo by Maren Thomas Photograph