Red Bra Babes have fun, celebrate aging

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113276796510304.jpg’, ‘Photo by Marjorie Stradinger’, ‘The Red Bra Babes are as follows, from left to right: Front Row—Karen DeWitt, Barb Daly, Paulette Branca, Roxanne Lewis; Back Row—Joan Dixon, Cathy Puckett, Theresa Shahmat, Elaine Lemen, Debbie Cassioppi, Maureen Padron, Ann Utech, Tina Olson; and Not Pictured—Maggie Carlson, Sandi Marinelli, Tricia Kiddell, Karen Raddle, Debbie Anderson, Margie Bacino, and Barb Powell.’);

The Red Bra Babes didn’t originally intend to create an official group. Last December, Debbie Cassioppi, Roxanne Lewis, Maureen Padron, and Cathy Puckett decided to meet at Rockford’s Kiki B’s to celebrate their December birthdays. As the dinner party evolved, the women chatted about friendship, getting older and qualifying for the Red Hat Society and AARP.

“Kiki B’s was a fun place to hang out,” said Cassioppi. “We started talking and laughing, having a good time, and thought we ought to get together every month. We have so much fun; our kids are grown; we really enjoy each other.”

They decided to meet monthly on the third Thursday, and chatted about a name.

“Red Hat had already been taken,” said Cassioppi, “and for whatever reason, I came up with Red Bra. It just popped into my head. We’re still vibrant women, and red bra was more us. We all came up with Babes. We’re a little bit more…wild would be more like it.”

“You have to be 50 to join,” explained Cassioppi. “But we’re healthy and enjoying ourselves. Red Bra, it’s kind of…sexy. Sexy grandmas. It came down to the fact that we felt good about ourselves, that we looked good for our age, and acted younger than our age.”

“We don’t have anything against the Red Hat Society,” said Padron. “We just decided we wanted to be something different.”

After the December birthday party, Puckett went to Victoria’s Secret in search of a signature red bra item.

“We were looking for something that would identify us,” Puckett said. “They had these red bra sachets made to put into drawers. They were in the shape of a red bra. We bought them and handed them out to the original group.”

That sealed the symbol for them. When new women visit, the group tells them to wear their red bras for the next month’s meeting. Unlike Red Hatters, who prominently display their signature red hats, The Red Bra Babes don their crimson undergarments on third Thursdays in the privacy of their homes, and relish their secret during the workday, reflecting that this will be their night for fun and fellowship.

The Babes have earned quite a reputation with the Kiki B’s staff:

“I created a few drinks just for them,” said Diane Watson, general manager for the restaurant, who shows obvious delight in the group.

“There’s the Cosmo and the Chocolate Covered Cherry,” said Puckett, who described the latter as a shot developed by Watson and Kiki B’s bartender, Terry, “just for us.” Watson told the group they have a big “shebang” planned for December—a surprise for the first anniversary meeting.

Puckett said all 19 members don’t necessarily make it to every meeting, and that some attend more regularly than others.

“We have fun, but we also support each other,” Puckett explained. “I look forward to it—girl talk, friendly atmosphere. It’s so much fun, and an uplift to start the weekend and to end the week. All of us are employed; no one is retired yet. It’s just a way for us to celebrate aging, celebrate friendship, and to have some fun together.”

“When you’re 50, you’re dealing with other issues than you had in your 20s and 30s,” added Cassioppi. “Things have changed. If somebody has a problem—health, kids—we’re there to support. We’re mostly there to listen. We’ve all been there—had similar issues. Right now (life) is all about us. It used to be about our kids, our marriages. Now, it’s our time to have fun, to enjoy ourselves. We’re thinking 50 is the new 40. The baby boomers have a different perception of age.”

The group is not actively recruiting new members from the general public.

“Even though we’ve been meeting for 10 months, we’re still kind of organizing,” said Cassioppi. “We’re still getting new people. It seems like every month or so, we get one or two new people. It’s word of mouth. A lot of the people in the group I didn’t originally know, but now it seems like we’re all like sisters.”

The group’s 19 members include: Karen DeWitt, Barb Daly, Paulette Branca, Roxanne Lewis, Joan Dixon, Cathy Puckett, Theresa Shahmat, Elaine Lemen, Debbie Cassioppi, Maureen Padron, Ann Utech, Tina Olson, Maggie Carlson, Sandi Marinelli, Tricia Kiddell, Karen Raddle, Debbie Anderson, Margie Bacino, and Barb Powell.

From the Nov. 23-29, 2005, issue

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