“Picture it” Minnesota, 2016. A mother shares with her daughter a tradition of friends, feelings and food! This May will mark the 24th year since The Golden Girls closed the book on the four roommates that proved to be more family than anything else and yet my preteen daughter and I still gather around the TV to watch the decades old show.
What is it about this show that is so endearing to us? I know for me, at least part of it, is it reminds me of times I spent with my grandmother. She was a culmination of the four women, embodied as one. She most physically resembled Rose, (mainly they shared a similar shade of blonde) but they both had an upbeat demeanor and a positive outlook on life. She had Blanche’s southern charm and hospitality, not to mention a great love of the men in her life! She was a wonderful listener and very compassionate, like Dorothy and had Sophia’s wisdom. I remember during the times we stayed with her, I’d lay on the floor propped up on a giant pillow and grandma would sit next to me, rubbing my back and laugh along with me at the antics on screen.
Of course that’s not the only reason I love these women. My daughter loves watching them too. What it is that keeps her attention, watching a full episode after episode of a sitcom revolving around 4 “old” women?
I knew she didn’t understand all of the jokes nor could she relate to the issues they faced yet we watched these women overcome every obstacle and become better for it.
Here are some ways their family brought me closer to mine:
“Hello, hello, hello!” Dorothy announces as she walks out onto the lanai for the first time this episode. “Blanche, I need you to give me a manicure, Rose I need you to lend me your pearls and ma, I need you to stay off my back!” Dorothy is a woman who knows what she’s wants and how to get it. She’s the take charge type she is independent in a way that doesn’t isolate. Plus, she talks back to her mother, defending herself before there’s even been a chance to attack! What child doesn’t want to tell her mother to butt out?
A big component to the shows’ success was the alliance between Dorothy and Blanche as they picked on or made fun of Rose. Occasionally, one of them would hit her with a rolled up newspaper as punishment for another ridiculous St. Olaf story. Tempers (not to mention nostrils) would flare momentarily, but you always knew they cared.
Aside from the ribbing and verbal jousting, they occasionally had live animals! Dogs, a chicken (that played a piano!), a duck, a couple of ferrets they tried breeding… My favorite was the pig, Baby, who came to live with the girls after a cousin of Rose’s passed away. There was also a visual feast with fun costumes! Remember the time Dorothy and Sophia dressed up as Sonny and Cher? Or when Blanche and Dorothy went to the aerobics class- in sequins? What about the time the four starred the children’s production of “Chicken Little”? They’re couldn’t have been a more perfect Chicken Little than Rose Nylund.
There was something for everyone. They tackled the tough topics. They addressed issues then that are still prevalent today and I have no doubt that if they were still around, they’d be weighing in on pansexuality, sex trafficking and the heroin epidemic. Even though my daughter may not understand everything that’s being said or the gravity of the situations, she still gets a kick out of the expressions on the women’s faces when Sophia offers up a one liner or Blanche says something racy to make Dorothy go “Woah”!
Another thing The Girls have modeled for us was the need to splurge or indulge once in a while. Blanche’s new car or (almost) breasts. A shopping spree to fill the hole Rose left when she moved out (temporarily, of course) and the cheesecake. I’m not suggesting anyone go out and gorge themselves, (it’s noted that the women were estimated as having eaten approximately 700 cheesecakes during the show’s run) but it can be a good comfort to go along with the usual late-night problem keeping everyone awake. These were four independent women who were lucky enough to have found each other and formed a strong support network, without the dependence of a man or the codependence of each other.
The most important lesson I learned from the show was touched on throughout the series but really hit home for me with their final episode. When Dorothy is on her way to the church to marry Lucas and is kidnapped by her ex-husband Stan. There’s a sentimental moment where the two tell each other they love each other and will always be a part of each other’s lives. Then he takes her to the church to marry another man and I learned you can truly love someone, deeply and thoroughly and still choose to say goodbye.