“Warning” Poem by Jenny Joseph — “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple”

With April being ‘National Poetry Month’ and a focus on spreading awareness and appreciation of poetry, it seems appropriate to share a few favorites along the way.

The “Warning” poem by English poet Jenny Joseph (born May 7, 1932 in Birmingham) is one such poem, because I hear her speaking to each of us, male or female, in an ode to nonconformity, one of my personal favorite rants and topics.   In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek and  fun way, Jenny Joseph conveys a serious message for all, to never take ourselves too seriously or lose the twinkle in our eyes.

Age, after all, truly is only a number.  Contrary to earlier admonitions in my youth to the opposite — “Act your shoe size, not your age!”  It’s a lot more fun.

“Warning” was penned in 1961 at the age of twenty-nine.  Although having published many works in her lifetime and having received numerous awards, Jenny Joseph is best known for this defining poem.  The second line became the inspiration for the founding of the Red Hat Society, the self-described playgroup for women where there is “Fun and Friendship After Fifty.”

“Warning: When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” and Jenny Joseph’s other works are available on Amazon.

“Warning” 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.

Interestingly, Jenny Joseph is apparently not a fan of the color purple in her own wardrobe (“It doesn’t suit me”), even though the two have perhaps become inseparably linked thru her poem.  But for her to now wear purple against her own personal tastes would be to conform to popular expectations, and that’s really what the poem is all about, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.  Always remember, one very small act of kindness can change someone’s whole day or life around.  Be the reason someone smiles today! — Jim (and Red!)

If you enjoyed this post, check out —  “I Will Greet This Day With Love In My Heart” 

“Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet.” – Sarah Louise Delany

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

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  “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”    — Michael Pritchard

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“Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” — Betty Friedan

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27 thoughts on ““Warning” Poem by Jenny Joseph — “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple”

  1. Pingback: When I Grow Old… | Mimm Patterson

  2. Today is international Women’s Day !
    My new motto goes so perfectly with the poem Warning – this is it …
    I’m not fat … I’m trans – slender !

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. I love her poem, it has always made me laugh, as s non confomast when I was young. Now I am old, and I dress like a young woman, which drives my kids crazy because I don’t act my age. But where is the fun in that? Reading her poem, always makes me happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Warning - The Sarcastic Mother

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  7. So fun. I was at Ladies retreat this weekend.
    And the ‘When I’m old I’ll wear purple
    It’s been a favorite for a lot of years.
    And yes I love 💜 more than I used to.
    Don’t wear the hat though.


  8. I have a friend who got a purple bike, helmet and her outfit for Christmas and she posted herself riding down the street with her little dog in the basket. It reminded me of this poem which I’ve been a fan of for years. I bought the book with it but unfortunately I can’t find it. I’m so happy to find it here. Thank-you.


  9. Franklparker–it may not be my place to say this but I will. Other than the pictures attached to the poem there is nothing that says it is female only. So blow some minds and wear purple and a red hat and kick up your heels with the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You for visiting and for your comments, Bess! That gives me an idea to improve the page. Please stay tuned . . . .

      Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year going forward! 🤠 🐻 ❤️


  10. The road is long the hills are steep,
    Life is tough but also sweet,
    but before I make that final leap,
    I have promises to keep
    I have my boarding card and causation
    but not the time or destination

    30 July 2019 Austin Nolan

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. Thanks for visiting with us, Kathleen! I had a feeling you might enjoy this one and appreciate your leaving a comment to let me know you found it. Wishing all the best for you and your family! 🙂


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