Like the rest of the world, I was crestfallen to learn of Betty White’s passing on December 31. Not just because she was a funny and kind spitfire of a woman and the epitome of what it means to age well. Sure, it was those things too. She was a kind a beautiful soul and the world is better off because she was in it. But her passing also triggered something else in me, because she was the last living link to The Golden Girls.
I’m not unique in my devoted fandom of The Golden Girls. Sure, I’ve seen every episode multiple times and could tell you what the next line is before it’s said. But who couldn’t? No, this is something more than that.
I first started watching The Golden Girls when I was about eight years old. Not exactly the typical TV viewing for an eight-year-old, but my grandma watched every Saturday night and since she was often at our house on the weekends, I watched too. It was “our thing.”
My grandma was without a doubt a Sophia, feisty and outspoken and unwilling to take any crap from anyone. I, on the other hand, was a mix between Rose and Dorothy, though deep down I kind of wanted to be a Blanche. The older I get, though, I realize that I’m a mix of all of them. Which is the beauty of the show, really. The Girls were all of us, and we were all of them.
There are plenty of life lessons and parenting lessons in the show’s seven seasons on the air, but for me, the biggest message was the importance of making someone else feel important.
Whenever my grandma called out, “Chrissy, you gonna watch the Girls with me?” I felt seen and important. She brought me into her world. (And no, you can’t call me Chrissy. No one can, except for my grandma and she’s been dead for 15 years.)
Kids really just want to be included. They want to be acknowledged, to be welcomed in, to be part of our world. We can do that by playing LEGOs and reading books with them, sure. But let’s be real, it doesn’t mean only doing “kid stuff,” as long as it’s “our stuff.”
In watching the show with my grandma – and re-watching it over and over again as an adult – I’m constantly reminded of a few things, such as:
People will forget what you said and did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.
My grandma was a saucy old broad who often said rude things and could have used a refresher course in manners from time to time (I told you she was a Sophia, through and through), but without a doubt, every time we watched The Golden Girls together, she made me feel wanted, welcome and important. And that is a powerful thing for a child. Heck, for anyone. Anytime I watch the show, I am reminded of that feeling.
Families can be messy – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful.
Every one of the Girls had a complex and messy family, with plenty of skeletons in the closet and heaps of regret. But what family doesn’t? They didn’t shy away from it though; they put on their boots and waded through the muck of family drama with more than a modicum of grace.
Families aren’t about biology, but about love and acceptance.
Not only did they know, understand and accept that families are messy, but they also knew that family transcends biology and is who you make it. That also means accepting your child’s – or parent’s – choices. When Rose’s daughter thought it was too soon for Rose to be dating Miles, her daughter eventually needed to realize that it wasn’t for her to decide.
The importance of setting boundaries.
Sure, we might love our families and we might need to accept their choices, but we can love and accept their choices with boundaries. When Blanche’s niece comes to visit but ends up spending most of her time with pilots and doctors and that Miami Vice-wannabe, coming in at all hours of the night and disappearing for days, Blanche sets parameters on how they will spend their time together (along with a lesson in self-worth too).
Own who you are and accept yourself, too.
The Girls may have been stereotypes of their character – whether it was the sexy one, the smart one, the innocent one, or the feisty one – each of them knew who they were and they made no apologies for it. Just like we need to accept our kids for who they are, we also need to accept ourselves. But they were also constantly trying to be better versions of themselves too – even if Blanche’s efforts to repair the strained relationship with her children were rocky at best.
Food equals bonding.
Literally every problem was solved with cheesecake and a good ol’ fashioned heart-to-heart around the tiny kitchen table. And maybe one of Rose’s St. Olaf stories or Sophia’s “Picture it” life lessons.
You’re never too old to feel sexy AF.
Sexy is a feeling, not an appearance. Blanched oozed sex appeal when she wore a form-fitting red dress that flaunted her cleavage, but so did Rose when she went away on a cruise with her new boyfriend or when she shimmied on the dance floor. Sexiness doesn’t require botox and sweating it out at the gym every day; it can mean wrinkles and gray roots. It’s all about how we feel about those things.
Life doesn’t stop at middle age.
Over the course of the show’s seven-year run, the Golden Girls acted in community theatre productions, started their own business, participated in a telethon, planned and hosted a bazillion parties, helped in a police stakeout, met the President, diffused a hostage situation, cooked a bazillion meals, volunteered at soup kitchens and hospitals, and dealt with countless sh*t storms of epic proportions. Thus proving that life doesn’t stop at middle age – it gets even better.
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