Sue Ellen Cooper,
The Red Hat Society:
Fun & Friendship After 50

(Time Warner, 2005)

Let me start this review by stating that I was definitely not the intended audience for The Red Hat Society: Fun & Friendship After 50. To begin with, I have a while before I reach that age. Also, while you cannot tell from the society's name, it does focus on women. Men, like myself, need not apply. That is fine since I do not wear hats all that often. (I'm also not partial to red, come to think about it.)

If you have not heard of the Red Hat Society -- which I had not, until I listened to these three CDs -- it was started in the late '90s by Sue Ellen Cooper. Based upon a poem she had read, she started giving red hats to all her friends as they reached their 50th birthdays. On a whim, this group of young-at-heart women decided to play dress-up one day, wearing purple dresses and their red hats, and head to tea. The Red Hat Society was born. Within a few years, the concept of women having fun as they age spread rather quickly.

This official audiobook of the RHS describes the beginning of their "disorganization" and how to join the fun. The idea is to let the little girl inside back out. For years, many older women have given up a lot in life raising families and doing for others. Now is time to focus back on themselves. Go out. Have fun. Be kooky. If there isn't a local chapter of the RHS, start one.

The Red Hat Society has no rules. They do have several guidelines, however. First has to do with regards to one's outfit. For ladies 50 and over, their hats should be red and their dresses purple. For ladies under 50, hats should be pink and dresses lavender. Sue also extols the virtue of keeping things simple. Do not spend so much time organizing group outings such that the planning takes all the joy out of the outings themselves. She likes to point out that we are "human-beings," not "human-doings." Of course, if you enjoy detailed organization and have the time, more power to you. Do what floats your boat. Just have fun!

Being a member of the RHS seems to have several benefits. Comradeship is perhaps the biggest one. While one's family can be a great support network, friendship is important as well. The women of the RHS are very supportive of each other and celebrate each others' lives at the drop of a hat. (Actually, it is at the wearing of a hat, but that isn't how the saying goes). Sue likes to discuss Red "Hattitudes" throughout her narration. The audiobook has several testimonials (by readers other than Sue) demonstrating how the RHS has impacted lives in a positive fashion.

While I won't be joining the Red Hat Society -- even though there is no steadfast rule against males joining -- I found this book very amusing. Attitude has a lot to do with how people age. Those with sour attitudes tend to have more ailments and lose touch with reasons for living at times. More upbeat folks tend to socialize more and count their blessings. The Red Hat Society could be the way more women experience positive aging. I will close pointing out that as I finished the audiobook I wondered if a man did decide he wanted to join, after all, would he be encouraged to dress in drag? Maybe not. It is just a guideline, after all.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 17 September 2005

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