Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein
Woman with a brilliant mind

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gertrude and the Red Hat Society

If you can do it then why do it? --Gertrude Stein

I've seen those ladies around town just once in awhile. Not lately. It seems to be a fad that has passed. Or maybe they got tired of people judging them and they learned to keep it on the down-low.

If Gertrude had ever gone to a meeting of the Red Hat Society, she would have enjoyed it, I'm sure. It's all about women over fifty celebrating the age they've achieved. It gives them recognition for having contributed to society. Even though now it's the young people who think they are "it," older women know what "it" is really doesn't amount to much, because getting older isn't voluntary and neither is being younger. So the red hatted ladies find new friendships and fun. It makes them happy.

At her second meeting, Gertrude would have had another enjoyable time, and then she would have said, "Okay. Next time let's not wear those hats, okay?" Then red hat lady would have said, "Why? Red hats are kicky and fun. And we deserve to throw aside fashion and wear a jaunty red hat." Then Gertrude would say, "Yes, and yet we don't have to wear them. We are already distinctive and we have fun in all kinds of clothes." Then the red hat lady might say, "But this is a fun red hat. When we wear it, we have fun."

Then Gertrude would drift away from the Red Hat society and meet someone at the local bookstore for tea and a movie.

How do you talk about such a subjective experience as "fun?" Some women in an exercise class I attend are going snowshoeing tomorrow. I've done that before. My dad took us when we were kids. Among the fun of hiking through the fresh, cool landscape there is also the exhaustion, the runny nose, the trudging, the damp cold and all the preparation. I guess going out in the outdoors is manly, in a way. Adventurous and nature-loving, the way everyone is supposed to be.

I've never been a joiner. It's a cinch to me that I'm not capable of enjoying the sheltering identity of something like that. But I don't want to put down the Red Hat Society. Like Mark Twain, I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member.

Getrude Stein, our maven, our trusted expert, said this:

I don't envisage collectivism. There is no such animal, it is always individualism, sometimes the rest vote and sometimes they do not, and if they do they do and if they do not they do not.

Wikipedia says the word 'maven' is from the Hebrew and is related to the term Binah, which means wisdom. Gertrude and I both had our time of studying the Kabbalah and we love those arcane details as we follow threads and trails of thought that lead perhaps to nowhere. In a group, you can't do that. You've got to put on your hat and get on the bus.

Guest Gertrude of the day: Dolly Parton, who created herself and brought music of her own kind into American life.

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