Jenny Joseph’s “Warning” — updated for the 21st century

Ever since my 20s, I’ve been a huge fan of Jenny Joseph’s poem, “Warning” — the one that goes, “when I am an old woman I shall wear purple.”

Now that I am actually an old lady (well, my 21-year-old self would have thought 53 old, anyway!). I’ve realised the ideas in the poem are just a tad outdated.

So, here’s a bit of a revamp for ladies of a certain age living in the first quarter of the 21st century (with extra large type to accommodate failing eyesight). I’ve included the original version first, for reference.

“Warning” by Jenny Joseph (original)

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.

“Warning” by Carla Fandango

Now I am an old woman I shall update my Facebook profile
With a pic from 20 years ago, which doesn’t look like me.
And I shall spend my pension on broadband fees and a new laptop,
And a subscription to Netflix, and say we’ve no money for Rennies.
I shall Google “what to do when I’m tired”,
And order poo samples online and turn on all notifications,
And run amok among the aisles of Amazon,
And make up for the analogue experience of my youth.
I shall stay in, with my reading glasses and my laptop,
And write ridiculous comments on other people’s profiles,
And learn to hack unscrupulous corporations.
I’ll write terrible blog posts and post anonymous death threats,
And eat three bars of Dairy Milk in one go,
And regret it during a Zoom call with the grandchildren the following week.
I’ll hoard Facebook friends and digital devices and bandwidth and email newsletters I never signed up for.
Back then we had to go outside of our front doors
And do our shopping offline, and stick two fingers up at political correctness
And set a bad example for the children.
We had to actually get up to answer the phone and change the TV channel!
Maybe I ought to go to that high school reunion?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
To see that now I am old I have updated my Facebook profile.

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