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The Red Hat SocietyŽ's Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration and Hattitude    by Sue Ellen Cooper order for
Red Hat SocietyŽ's Laugh Lines
by Sue Ellen Cooper
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Five years ago, Sue Ellen Cooper initiated a small group get together, which gained momentum and became The Red Hat Society. Today, the Society proudly acknowledges 35,000 chapters - within each are women with heartwarming stories to tell. Sue Ellen shares these stories with readers, along with poems and supportive words, in her second book, The Red Hat SocietyŽ's Laugh Lines. In an author's note, she writes, 'When a woman joins the Red Hat Society and lowers that red hat onto her head, magic seems to ensue ... the hat is only a symbol of something deeper.'

Cooper's introduction on 'The Incomparable Value of Laughter' begins with quotes, including one from Mark Twain - 'Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.' In Chapter I, entitled 'L.O.L. (Laughing Out Loud At Ourselves)', Cooper begins, 'We Red Hatters take our silliness seriously ... Whether you're a giggler, a chortler, a chuckler, a hand-over-the-mouth titterer ... you are warned to avoid consuming liquids while reading this chapter. (It's only funny when milk comes out of someone else's nose.)' Shared stories include that of Judi - on vacation in Paris, dressed in high-heeled boots and a mink coat, she assumes glances her way are due to her finery until she spots the trail of toilet tissue following her!

Kathy is piling tote bags full of books onto the conveyor belt at the airport, when suddenly her skirt catches, and ends up around her ankles. Lynda enters a meeting room to attend a Shriners' wives luncheon for the first time, to later discover she ate with a bridal party instead. My favorite is Nedra who shares 'what may have been her first senior moment' Returning to a store 'dressing room she sees a woman to her left about to head in her direction'. After several parries to decide who enters the room first, she tells the other woman to go ahead, only to realize that the other person was her own reflection in a mirror!

Cooper includes stories that have traveled the Net, mentions Red Hat Society chapters who have written their own lyrics to established music, e.g. 'Red Hat Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight', to the tune of Buffalo Girls. One such comes from the 'Purple People Meeters', a chapter in South Carolina. A verse of the parody (sung to the tune Purple People Eater) goes, 'Well I saw the lady coming down the block / She had a big red hat and a purple frock / I commenced to shakin' and I said Ooh-eee / it looks like a Purple People Meeter to me.' Red Hatters' recommended books and movies are listed in the final chapter.

This is followed by an Appendix of new chapter names, such as 'The Oxytocin Chicklets' from New Brunswick, Canada. The chapter's Queen Mother explains the inspiration for the name - 'when women gather together, their bodies produce a feel-good hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is essential for our mental and emotional well-being. When the Chicklets are together, the oxytocin is flowing and flowing and flowing!!' Readers are given twelve things to remember - number 12 is 'Life's precious moments don't have value unless they are shared.' - and an LQ ('Laughter Quotient') test.

Sue Ellen Cooper's second book is another hit. She shares stories of marriage, husbands, and grandparenthood, with joy and tears, but most of all with much needed laughter - and she accomplishes it with aplomb. Here's one last very appropriate quote (from J. W. Eagan), 'Never judge a book by its movie.' I enthusiastically recommend The Red Hat SocietyŽ's Laugh Lines to you. Makes a great gift for Mother's Day, but fits any occasion, any age, and for men, too.

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