“I’m not alone ‘cause the T.V.’s on, yeah.” -Jimmy Eat World Bleed American
I was born and raised in a very nice home in a very small, very rural town in eastern North Carolina. This setting meant that there was not a whole lot to do so television was kind of a big deal for me. Luckily, I had a few neighborhood kids to play around with, but for the most part television and books were my true BFF’s. The one television show that stood out to me as the defining show of my childhood was the classic situation comedy about four older ladies living it up in Miami, The Golden Girls.
Television is still a close friend of mine. For as long as I can remember the television was on in my home, a tradition I’ve carried with me from my childhood home to many apartments across North Carolina to my newest home in Maryland. My parents would have the tube set to the news before we left for work/school each morning. Then when we arrived home Oprah would bleed into the nightly news which became Extra which became Jeopardy which became the primetime show of the night. For the majority of my childhood I believed that I was going to naturally grow up and live in Chicago because the majority of the television shows I watched were set in Chicago (Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Early Edition, ER, Kenan & Kel, Life Goes On, Married With Children, Two of a Kind… I could go on and on– seriously.) I thought that everyone eventually lived in Chicago because all of my “friends” lived in Chicago.
That’s how I referred to the characters that I watched on television, as my friends. For someone who has never really had many close friends IRL, the characters on t.v. became my pals. I knew them. They were there for me. They knew how to make me laugh, and how to cry. When they weren’t on, I missed them, and if they got canceled, I was inconsolable. I still call the shows I have on the television- sometimes watching, sometimes just having them in the room- as “my friends.” I do this in a joking way today when I’m talking to my husband, but I honestly still believe it. I am rarely in the house when the T.V. isn’t on. Mostly it’s on mute, but if I’m doing something like cooking or cleaning, I will have it on for background noise. More recently, I have been watching television and YouTube on my tablet that I can take with me from room to room, and I have discovered the joy of NPR in recent years as well. But my true best friend always will be television and my truest best friends will always be Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.
A few weeks ago we celebrated a day which was a historic day and I am so fortunate that I was alive to see it. I am also so unfortunate that I am alive in this age and had to see a need for that day. March 8, 2017 was recognized as International Women’s Day. It was great to go online and see so many women (and men) praising the women who have inspired and motivated them. Wanting to recognize some important ladies, I knew right away that I was going to shout it out to the four fearless females who inspired my childhood. I was born in 1985, the same year that NBC birthed The Golden Girls. The show ran until I was seven years old, from 1985-1992. I have always been what people call “an old soul” and I have been told many times that I was “born old.” Always having a handkerchief and a hard candy, I have always related more to older people than my peers. Once as an undergraduate in the university parking lot, I called out to a Ph.D. candidate as “young man.” Totes embarrassing. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I found myself relating more to the four golden girls than I did to Blossom and Six. As the years have passed I have become more and more on the same page as the four Miami ladies.
I remember watching the later seasons with my mother who was a huge fan. Since it was a show about older women, and many of the older women that I knew had suffered a heart attack- or two- due to the deliciousness that is true southern cooking, my young ears thought that the theme song was “and the heart attack…” instead of “and the card attached…” Throughout the years watching the reruns was something that I shared with my mom. My mom recently passed away after being very sick for a very long time. Her illness often made it difficult to be around her. She was in a lot of pain and didn’t know how to express what she was feeling in positive ways. There were times when we would go long stretches without speaking, but the girls always had a way of reconnecting us. The last Mother’s Day that my mom was alive I sent her a card with a caricature of Dorothy that read “I hope our amazing mother/daughter relationship last forever. And if not- Shady Pines, Ma!” The card was on her nightstand when she died, and I like to think maybe she looked at it and thought of me one last time and, was pretty grateful that I never sent her to Shady Pines.
We didn’t have cable in our home, so while we were on vacation at the beach (a place that did have cable, and that in itself was a vacay, unlimited access to cable T.V.- the ultimate staycation!) I flipped past the Lifetime channel and saw a familiar face. It was Rose Nylund! It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade and I became obsessed with catching the reruns. Once we returned home I would go next door to my uncle’s house, a house that did have cable, to watch it. It was like revisiting a childhood friend that had moved away and was now back, and they hadn’t changed At. All. Later that summer my parents signed us up for cable at our house! Lifetime was airing reruns each night from 6-7 and then from 11-12 and I watched both blocks every night.
In 2003 I moved to Greensboro for college and television shows started coming out on DVD by season. Of course, I began collecting The Golden Girls on DVD so I could be with them anytime I wanted to. This DVD binge caused me to learn all the dialogue from so many rewatches. I was once caught in the kitchen by a roommate as I was doing the dialogue so that when I got back to my bedroom with my snack I would be caught up. Try explaining that one….
Sometimes I will take months-long breaks between my watches and it’s always so refreshing to dive back into the world of the girls. Watching them as an adult in graduate school, I first really noticed how progressive the show was, especially for the time that it aired. They were talking about things like gay rights, AIDS, and sex (and elderly women having sex- what? They can do that?!) That’s why I knew that my women who inspired me, were also my friends and so I gave them a shoutout on Instagram and stayed up until around 2 am watching episodes. The episode I recommended to my followers was season 1 episode 19 “Second Motherhood.” This episode has Dorothy and Rose tell a male plumber to beat it so that they can install a new toilet themselves. As I was revisiting my friends I got the idea for a new series on this blog in which I want to rewatch every single episode of the seven-season show and write about what impact it had on me then and now. I’m sure some people will say this is silly, and maybe it is to them, and that’s fine; they don’t have to read any further. However, if you are a friend of the girls, like I am, and are interested in revisiting them with me, then read on. If your heart is true, if you are a pal and a confidant, then let’s travel down the road and back again.