Carol Pinalski and Marion Hutchinson with the newest Red Hat Sooke Siren’s calendars.

In the buff – Sooke Red Hatters

The Sooke Red Hat talk candidly about growing old — and posing naked – gracefully

Britt Santowski

Sooke News Mirror

Meeting strangers for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially when one of them wears an in-your-face Bad-Word pin on her cowboy hat.

Which the wearer later explained, stands for Babe In Total Control of Herself.

The Queen, Marion Hutchinson, and her Queen Executive Officer, Carol Pinalski (and owner of the Bad-Word pin), sat down in a local cafe to discuss the merits of aging — and posing naked.

To begin with, to be a Red Hat Sooke Siren, the criteria is pretty straight forward: you must be a woman, over 50, willing to wear a red hat, and love having fun.

Those under 50 are welcome to join, but must wear a pink hat until the monumental semi-centurion birthday arrives. At which point, you Red-u-ate.

Membership, which is currently at 31 members, is open. When they hit 40, which they do periodically, membership closes and a wait list is established.

One thing the Red Hats emphatically do NOT do is fundraisers.

“We did that all our lives, the kids and sports and whatever. We don’t want to do that anymore,” said Pinalski. And then, she explained this big exception. “But this just ended up … we started out doing it as fun and then this is what happened, they sold so well.”

The concept of the calendar was first conceived by Agnes Harper after watching the movie, Calendar Girls.

Once conceived, the calendars established momentum of their own, and were published from 2006 to 2008. These three calendars collectively raised over $16,000, all of which was donated to Sooke’s senior centre. Since then, models have been stepping up, stripping down and strutting their stuff for another calendar.

“The last calendar we did was in 2008,” adds Hutchinson, “and since then we’ve had a lot of ladies … join our chapter who are well, ‘I want to be in the calendar.’”

The time had come, the time was now.

Hot off the press — with tasteful, bright and beautiful photography done by Angie Bailey, and delectably scant clothing designed by Sue Truman — the Red Hat’s Sooke Siren’s calendar is now available.

The Red Hat Society started serendipitously when, according to RedHatSociety.com, back in 2001, the Exhalted Queen Mother (EQM) Sue Ellen Cooper “impulsively bought a bright red fedora at a thrift shop, for no other reason than that it was cheap and, she thought, quite dashing. A year or two later she read the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph, which depicts an older woman in purple clothing with a red hat. Sue Ellen felt an immediate kinship with Ms. Joseph.” So she wore her hat with pride, and bought another one for one friend. And then another. And then another.”

The Sooke chapter started up in 2004, hosting their first meeting in the end of May.

Fast forward 10 years, and in 2014 the Sooke Sirens will be hosting a Red Hat convention of their own, proudly boasting the hidden gems in Sooke to a bunch of self-centred and laughing semi-centurion-plus ladies, wearing eloquent red hats and purple dresses. And, if they strictly adhere to the poem “Warning,” you may encounter one or two learning how to spit.

This year’s calendar is a limited edition. They sell for $20 each, and you can order them online or on location at People’s Drug Mart, the Sooke Museum, Buffy’s Cold Beer and Wine store, and the Sooke Seniors’ Drop-In Centre. To sell this calendar from your location, send an email to redhatsookesirens@gmail.com.

To order the calendar online, send an email to redhatsookesirens@yahoo.com.

For more information, visit www.sooke.org/redhats

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