The Rootin’ Tootin’ Tootsies of Tucson

The hotcakes are thick and tasty at the Sunny Daze cafe, the coffee hot and sweet, and the flamingos plentiful. I’ve been there twice now, and plan it make it a traditional first breakfast stop on all future trips to Tucson. It is easy access from the airport if you happen to have a layover with time for a quick pop into town.

As the hostess dropped the second of many
hot, complimentary Sunny Puffs (special dough deep-fried and topped with powdered sugar), the long table across from ours started filling up with three, then five, then twenty happy faces — each adorned with bright red hats and lavender shirts. Red hats  festooned in every way – feathers, sequins, flowers, netting. Red hats of every imaginable style –  cowboy, baseball, wide-brimmed Gatsby. Glorious hats, funny hats, irresistibly red red RED hats!

I had encountered the Rootin’ Tootin’ Tootsies of Tucson, and local branch of the international Red Hat Society.

Rootin' Tootin' Tootsies of Tucson lunching at Sunny Daze Cafe.

Rootin’ Tootin’ Tootsies of Tucson lunching at Sunny Daze Cafe.

“The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. 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 together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.”
– Sue Ellen Cooper, Queen Mother

While visiting a friend in Tucson several years ago, Sue Ellen Cooper fell in love with a bright red fedora at a thrift shop. Later, when she read the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, which depicts an older woman in purple clothing with a red hat, she decided to get together with a few others to support each others pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment, and freedom.  Today the Red Hat Society is active in 50 states and 30 countries, and dedicated to reshaping the way women are viewed in today’s culture.

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.
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 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.

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.

Thank you, Jenny Joseph and Sue Ellen Cooper, and thank you to the Rootin’ Tootin’ Tootsies of Tucson for bringing even more sunshine to the Sunny Daze.
Read more about The Red Hat Society

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