Will She Wear Purple?

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Most of you know the poem that begins, “When I am old, I shall wear purple.”  The poem’s title is “Warning,” and it was written in 1961 by British poet Jenny Joseph.

In 1961, wearing purple was a much bigger deal.  I had a great-aunt, who made pronouncements.  Her name was Ann, but since “Aunt Ann” was hard to say, we called her “Auntie.”

One of Auntie’s pronoucements was:  WE DON’T WEAR PURPLE.

Another one was :  WE DON’T WEAR PRINTS.

I loved Auntie dearly and named my first daughter Katherine Anne after her, but you can see me above, wearing purple and a print.  I think getting older is all about breaking rules, even a beloved great-aunt’s, and it’s all about knowing which rules are okay to break.

Anyone want to offer up some recently broken rules?

Now about the title of Jenny Joseph’s Poem:  “Warning.”   Is ours the only family where the expression “warning” is sometimes used in reference to the future?

I’m just warning you that when I’m sixty-five, I’m not going to…

I’m just warning you that as soon as I retire, I’m thinking of…

I’m just warning you that if I’m a grandmother, I plan to…

I’m just warning you that someday, I might decide to…

I’m just warning you that when I have my own kids, I won’t ever…

I don’t think it’s bad to warn someone of an action or attitude to come, but what I think the person is really doing is stating  a yearning for a change he or she would like to make right now.   Speak up oh family, and I will speak up too.  Let’s be purple-wearing brave!

Jenny Joseph ends her poem:

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

What about you?  What warnings could you put into practice right now?

Jenny Joseph’s photo is from  an article in the Stroud News and Journal.

Here’s the rest of the poem, with a link to a bio of Jenny. You can hear her reading Warning” in this video.

The photo of me was taken at Thanksgiving on Kath’s porch in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Join the discussion!  Leave a comment.  To do so, click on “Comments” below.  Thanks!

18 responses »

  1. Your ‘purple & print’ look great together – nothing wrong with breaking that rule! I love this poem, and my mother loves it even more. She has become more confident and carefree as she has aged, and I’m sure this poem spurs her on.

    Thank you for sharing this, from Pam.

    • Thanks about the purple and print! Fun about your mom. I wonder when she first read the poem? I was surprised it came out in 1961–I would have guessed much later.

  2. A similar catchphrase for men is “Danger, Will Robinson!” said by the Robot on TV’s Lost in Space. I say for men because I’ve never met a women that watched that show or that is familiar with the phrase anymore than I would know the poem Warning. “Danger, Will Robinson!” is still used today to warn men about stupid stuff they are about to do and are clueless about — often involving women. It’s also a part of engineering and hacker culture.

    Barb looks good in purple. I’m not sure she’s given me any warnings yet about our years to come, certainly not any that have caused me to think “Danger, Will Robinson!”

  3. I always admired people who do not dress “frumpy” as they aged. And I warned my family that I would try not wear old lady clothes and look too grandmotherly when I leave the house. So, I clear out my closet every now and then and try to keep up with the new styles. My sister says I buy pants like Ziva wears on NCIS, so I guess I am in the loop when it comes to dressing “young”.

  4. i do think we should be bold in our maturing years!! we need to surprise friends and family with outfits, decisions and attitudes. i am not a rule breaker but that doesn’t mean we can’t reinterpret rules! what do we have to loose!!

    • Yep, it’s fun contemplating breaking them–maybe even more fun than the actually breaking. Not sure. Must experiment more!

  5. Hey world: I’m just warning you that my hair is grey and will remain so. I’ve embraced it. Just get used to it. My makeup is through concealing, its now enhancing. Yes! I have lines, but I’ve laughed alot and am therefore entitled to the keepsake souverniers.

  6. “But, maybe I ought to practice a little now.”

    I think THAT sums up this age, the 50ish years. They are all about practicing. That’s why we are designed to go through this process; the 50ish year old invisible woman. Without missing a beat, we strip off all those restricting “lessons” we learned all those years ago. What freedom, and how wise we are to practice now.

    And it feels SO GOOD!

    btw… you look fabulous in your purple and prints. Wait. More than fabulous. You look happy!

  7. Why weren’t women supposed to wear prints in those days ? I’m assuming it was a class-based thing? Because looking at vintage pictures from the 30s, 40s and 50s, there are always women wearing prints.

    • Yes, you’re right. Women did wear prints, although I’m thinking on the small side? My aunt was medium high brow. She was also a very tiny woman, so maybe she felt like prints overtook her. We have fun with it though because my mom will say something like, “That dress is pretty on you.” And I’ll say, “I know it’s a print. Auntie (what we called her) wouldn’t be happy.”

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