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The poem by Jenny Joseph "Warning" that begins, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn't suit me..." has been a favorite of women of a certain age for decades. A number of years ago it inspired Sue Ellen Cooper, who has written a book entitled The Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship after Fifty, to found the Red Hat Society. (Cooper calls herself the "Queen Mother.") The organization's only mission is to provide an opportunity for women over 50 to get together and have fun. On their web site (www.redhatsociety.org) they say, "We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life and, since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto." .

At last, thanks to the efforts of Monica Jawski, longtime Port Washington resident, we now have our own chapter of the Red Hat Society. About 30 women of all ages (over 50) and all walks of life showed up at the Port Washington library on a recent Saturday morning for the "kickoff" meeting. Red hats, from wide-brimmed straw to baseball caps, were in abundance. All the women had two things in common: they were all energetic, high achievers, and, after years of giving to others, were ready to have fun. One individual asked, "How old do you have to be before you say the h--- with it?" Another said, "It is time for women to assert themselves and get more fun out of life." Many said that they were motivated by the desire to make new friends. Most of those who attended were from Port Washington, but some came from Roslyn, Manhasset, New Hyde Park, Westbury, and Mineola. A high level of energy filled the room and even spilled outside, causing some library patrons to wonder what was going on.

When Port News asked Jawski what inspired her to start this up, she said, "I saw red hats all over - Florida, Illinois, California, New York. I went on the Internet and read about the Red Hat Society. Then I thought about it, and said, 'Just do it!'" She ran a one-paragraph notice in the Port Washington News during the summer, and got a "tremendous response." The response has been so great that Jawski said she may have to cut off registration at a certain point. (But she added that there is someone else who may be willing to form another chapter.)

The Red Hat Society is primarily in the United States and Canada, but has chapters in a few other countries. It has no regulations, no mandatory dues, no by-laws, and no formal structure. The only requirement is to wear a red hat and have fun. The society, which calls itself a "disorganization," says on its web site, "Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next." The national groups sponsors conventions; there was one in New York City in July. They publish a magazine, the Red Hat Society LifeStyle Magazine, which includes profiles of remarkable members, as well as articles about getaways, fashion and beauty, food and dining, and more.

The Port Washington chapter's first event was a dinner at Finn MacCool's. Future events are entirely up to the membership. Some of the suggestions that have been made so far are lunch at the DeSeversky Center, a Hudson River cruise, walking tours of New York City, theater or concerts on Long Island or New York City, antiquing, a tea ceremony at the Japanese Garden in Oyster Bay, visits to museums, and games like bridge, Scrabble, mah-jongg or scrabble.

For more information or to join, call Monica Jawski at 944-9526 or e-mail her at majx3900@att.net.

Picture caption Red Hat Society Port Washington chapter founder Monica Jawski (right) with Maureen Robinson (left) and Vicki Lester (center).


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