In the early 2000’s, Red Hat Society groups—social clubs for women 50 and over—seemed to be everywhere. The concept was inspired by opening lines from a poem “Warning” by British poet 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.”
Almost everywhere you went, you saw groups of “Red Hatters” laughing and talking, eating, sightseeing, and at events. Two Nashville friends Diane and JoVonne weren’t quite fifty, but they decided it would be fun to organize a group. I was invited to join by Emily, a friend I met at Belmont Church, where most of the group had met. We chose the name “Red Zingers” for ourselves, and began what continues as a loving and lasting community for us all.
Everyone had to wear a red hat and something purple to our monthly meetings. Those who weren’t quite 50 had to wear pink hats until their official “Reduation” ceremonies! Even the “hat haters” played along—just looking a bit ridiculous as a group made it seem like fun! When we went to restaurants or events together, people usually smiled at the fun we were having. It made getting older seem freeing in some ways—we could risk being more unconventional, and we could be silly together.
On a Friday or Saturday evening, we rotated between our homes or other locations. The hostess offered beverages and a main dish, and everyone else brought something to contribute to the menu. After a delicious meal, we might play board games, card games or charades. Our outings have ranged from dinner at restaurants, an Irish pub, a women’s roller derby, plays at TPAC, the Larry Keeton Theatre and the Murfreesboro Center for the Arts, the NashTrash tour, the Downton Abbey exhibit at Cheekwood, the downtown art crawl, tea room lunches and much more!
Several years ago, we decided to rebrand ourselves as the “Mad Hatters” and forego the red hats and purple. Our monthly formats sometimes are themed activities—a 60’s dinner party and music, Christmas parties with the hilarious Dirty Santa gift exchanges, poetry nights, a luau, movie nights and a spa night. The pandemic pushed us to Zoom meetings for over a year. We skipped a few months on Zoom because it just wasn’t the same—but stayed in touch with email newsletters and a Christmas booklet everyone contributed to, calls and emails. Now that everyone is vaccinated, a Hawaiian style luau at Mary’s is planned for May 1!
Over the years, we lost our friend Emily after her brave battle against cancer. She came to our Christmas party just a few months before she died and we went as a group to her funeral. Together we’ve shared life events like illness, surgery, deaths of family members or a spouse, weddings of children, births of grandchildren, divorce, job changes and moves, and retirement. Several group members have taken some wonderful trips together—to destinations like Paris, Italy, Hawaii, and Utah. Some are still members at Belmont Church and others get together more frequently. I usually only see most of them at our meetings.
We’ve been together at least 17 years— almost 200 gatherings! We have become a community of women who enjoy, love, and encourage each other—Mary, Diane, Betsy, JoVonne, Marsha, Kathy, Suzanne, Jannifer, Diana, Christy, Jackie and Sally.