If I ever have to explain “cognitive dissonance” to my children, I will do it by telling them about my desire to one day be a Golden Girl. Yes, I am referring to The Golden Girls of television fame, one of whom was Betty White, my idol and inspiration.
This dream of mine is a problem because it effectively eliminates my husband Jim from the picture, either via death or divorce, and the fact is I’m pretty uncomfortable with having that as a goal. It’s not my goal. My first dream in life, actually since 1985 (coincidentally the year The Golden Girls premiered), is to be very elderly with Jim, sitting in rocking chairs near the ocean while he mostly tries to ignore me but occasionally says things like “No, you’d make a terrible hockey coach, that’s a stupid question.” That’s my real dream. I guess what I’m saying is that if that one falls through, THEN I want to be a Golden Girl. Only then.
If nothing else, this post will be a good way to see if the aforementioned husband actually reads my blog. Dear Jim: blink twice if you are mad at me now. I already have visions in my mind of you blinking twice. You never did have any imagination.
Anyway. The Golden Girls is often playing on the TV in the community room of my dad’s nursing home, which is what really led me to think about this in the first place. I like to get my dad to the community room because I think it’s good for him. On the way there we might pass a tiny old lady with a walker or an elderly gent in a wheelchair and my dad will smile at them and pat them on the shoulder and say, “You look good!” or “Nice to see you!” He doesn’t know it and I’m certain he doesn’t mean to be, but I do believe my dad is good for the morale around that place. Much like The Golden Girls.
Did you know that Estelle Getty was actually younger than Bea Arthur and Betty White? That would be like someone hiring Shailene Woodley to play my mom in the Epic Retirement Comedy of 2031. But Estelle Getty totally killed it as Sophia. All those ladies did. They all won Emmys, did you know that? Also, Rue McClanahan was originally supposed to play Rose, and Betty White would have been Blanche. I’m sure it would have been fine either way, but if you ask me this was the single most inspired casting switcheroo in all of show business history.
If I actually do become one of The Golden Girls, I’d most love to be Betty White’s Rose, for obvious reasons, or maybe Blanche. Those two just seem to have the most fun. In reality I suspect I’d more likely be Dorothy. Possibly Sophia. Which I guess would be just as fun, because at least I’d get to live with Rose and Blanche. Also, if I were Dorothy I’d get some of the funniest lines. Here’s an example:
Blanche: Can you believe it! After four long years, my baby girl is finally coming to see me. I’m so happy I could cry.
Rose: But Blanche, you are crying.
Dorothy: [I’m pretty sure she rolls her eyes here] Admit it, Rose, you worked for Allied Intelligence during World War II.
Dorothy: Fine. Play it cagey.
Play it cagey! I’m just saying, that is some good script-writing, right there. Sadly most of the patients on my dad’s unit can no longer appreciate the subtle humor of the show. Still, I think it’s a positive influence, because it’s lighthearted and cheery and stars people who are well over 30. You have to admit, that show had a good vibe. Do people even say “good vibe” anymore? Probably not. God. Maybe I’m already in my Golden Girl era and just don’t know it.
My dad always seems particularly interested when Betty White comes on the screen, perhaps because it reminds him of The Match Game, circa 1975 or so. Back then you pretty much had to watch whatever was on and truth be told, The Match Game was pretty funny. I like when my dad has memories. Once, we were watching some 1950’s black-and-white show which in one scene featured a busy street with gigantic Ford Skyliners and Chevrolet Bel Airs all over the place. My dad said, “Hey, that’s Homestead!” It was not Homestead, at least not as far as I know. But my dad always seems so happy to recognize something, to actually be taken back in time instead of living in the forever present. “How about that,” I said. “Homestead looked good!” It’s enough to break your heart, it really is.
Maybe that’s the thing about The Golden Girls – maybe it takes me back to a time when I was younger and not in charge of anything, when my dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s and would laugh when Rose said, “Can I ask a dumb question?” and Dorothy said, “Better than anyone I know.” Back when I wasn’t signing papers on my dad’s behalf saying that yes, it’s okay for the podiatrist to cut his toenails.
That’s kind of gross, even to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have written it. Too late now, just try not to think about it. And back to The Golden Girls, I don’t think that “taking me back to a simpler time” is the show’s appeal at all. No, The Golden Girls was not about nostalgia. To me, it was about living where you are and going with it, even if you’ve had a stroke and your retirement home burned down, even if others may say you’re too old for a racy negligee, even if you’re way taller than your roommates and somewhat crabby about it. Even if, I guess, you’re not in St. Olaf anymore.
Note to my friends: I do have a few of you in mind, as co-stars in my (alternate) dream life. I’m thinking of starting the auditions in around 15 years, so you might want to start catching up on your reruns now. Also, don’t text and drive because in order for this to work, we all need to be alive. And thank you for being a friend.