Warning, a poem written by the late Jenny Joseph is not only an ode to anti-conformity, but it is also the praise of the strength that many women have but do not show due to the social restraints put on them by a conformist society. Joseph’s words remind me of all of the words my grandmother raised me on. Could it be that both women were born during the same year and same era that they had a lot of the same ideals? Perhaps Grandma had read Joseph’s poetry and that inspired her way of living, but I do not think that is a true statement. Beyond both women’s poetry, they both had a strength that resonated through their lives.
Warning reminds me how to continue to live my life in the manner that I had been taught to live. I will always remember Grandma telling me to not worry so much about what others thought, and because of that, I have found myself embracing anti-conformity throughout my entire life. Furthermore, I have passed that lifestyle down to my children as well.
I am not saying shun the rules of society all together, for chaos is never the answer to anything. I am, however, saying do not allow society to dictate who you are supposed to be. Do not only think outside of the box, but be so dynamic in your thinking that you break the box wide open. Do not only dance to the beat of a different drummer, but continue to dance when the drummers have gone silent. Our choices are ours alone, and we should live each and every single day as if there is no other. Take risks and truly be yourself. Have fun and enjoy life. It is when we allow others to define us that we find our complete and utter misery. So, to Jenny and Grandma, I will continue to run my stick along the public railings, and I may stop long enough to create a new beat on my own drum. I will not wait until I am an old woman.
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 the 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 practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.