I always tell people that the first time I encountered The Golden Girls was in the TV guide portion of the Friday Plain Dealer. That’s just wild to even think about. I was maybe ten or eleven looking for something fun to watch. How was I supposed to know that golden implied elderly, and not blonde girls playing in a treehouse? The Olsen twins ruled the Earth at that time so that was my frame of reference.
I can’t tell you why I kept watching when I saw that it was clearly not the show I expected. I don’t know how many episodes I finished before I was hooked, or what joke stopped me from changing the channel.
What I do know is today I can watch every single episode, know every joke being delivered, and still laugh harder than the laugh track.
The Golden Girls has been with me through a lot. For more than 15 years. I really appreciate it on the super sad days when I think I’ve forgotten how to laugh. But I love it more on the regular days when someone’s talking about life and I’m reminded of how I learned what life was about in the first place.
I learned that life can get better even in old age. That men may come and go, but friends last forever. I learned that growing old is hard, but not that different when you’re fifty than when you’re fifteen. I learned that death happens again and again, but it should only be a reminder to make the most of the time you have left. And in the last episode, I learned that no matter how bad life can screwed you over, you can find true love.
Some of my friends may not realize what a profound impact The Golden Girls has had on my life. Many share Golden Girls mugs, sweatshirts, and more on my Facebook page – once, someone actually bought me a shirt instead of pushing me to spend my own money – but few know how deeply it has shaped my personality.
I hope I haven’t told you this before, but once a friend of mine in high school told me I was mean. I was super sad, because I never intend to be mean, but I realize that I grew up watching love expressed in asshole ways. There’s one episode where Dorothy Zbonark tells her mother, Sophia Petrillo, she feels bad hearing about how long and painful it was giving birth to her. In a healthy, loving relationship, the parent would’ve taken the hint and stopped, but Sophia is a button pusher.
Dorothy: Ma, you’re really hurting my feelings.
Sophia: Not as much as you hurt my uni.
The audience laughed, I laughed, so I thought this was normal and treated my friends the same way, out of love, of course. My high school friend said he finally came to understand me, but I sometimes wish I could wear a sign saying “Sophia Petrillo is my spirit animal.”
Today, looking back, I don’t regret watching a single episode. I’m just glad The Golden Girls was such a wonderfully diverse show. There was hardly a subject they were scared to touch: teen pregnancy, artificial insemination, gay artists, people you wish would ‘drop dead,’ exes you went back to, illegal immigrants, orphans…need I go on? I say all this to say that there’s something wonderful to learn and share in every episode. This is how it begins…