Throughout all the phases of my life, there’s always been a Golden Girl to guide me along the way.
Saturday night was my favorite night of the week because I was allowed to watch as much television as I wanted. My favorite was The Golden Girls; four friends who all lived together, had fun together, helped each other, and ate lots of snacks. Sure, they went out on dates with men, but at the end of the day, they met back up with their friends around the table in their cheesecake-centric kitchen. It didn’t matter that the four friends were a bunch of old ladies… they were living a fun, glamorous, independent lifestyle that I envied and admired. I loved them all… scrappy Sophia, sexy Blanche, smart Dorothy, and my favorite, sweet, slow Rose. I immediately recognized Rose as being the out of step friend; she never quite “got it,” was hopelessly naive, and her friends were often frustrated with her long, weird stories and her inability to recognize a joke. I, too, was prone to telling long, weird stories that got lots of sidelong glances and often felt left out and laughed at. I knew I wasn’t as nice or as sweet as Rose, but I related to her and was jealous of the fact that her friends may have teased her, but they still loved her and wanted her with them at the table.
SOPHIA: An Interlude
One of the first pieces of trivia I ever learned was that Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, the oldest Golden Girl, was actually the youngest of the four Golden Girl actresses and relied on makeup, wigs, and acting chops to play an octogenarian. I loved this fact, and started collecting, remembering, and relaying other pieces of trivia whenever I could. It was an easy way to keep a conversation going during awkward pauses; it turns out most people also enjoy trivia, and knowing lots of trivial facts is a good party trick for someone who doesn’t like parties. I became a Trivia Person, something that continues to this day, and I owe it all to Estelle Getty as Sophia.
The summer after my first year of college, I was finally living the dream, living with three close friends in our own house. We were sitting around our kitchen table, playing Trivial Pursuit; after I won [see the Interlude above], we stayed at the table snacking and talking. As I’m sure you know, it turns out that LOTS of people watched the Golden Girls on Saturday night in 1985; ten years later, we discussed which Golden Girl we were within our own circle of friends. Alice was Rose because she was the nicest and she had a semi-serious boyfriend. (Rose was the only Golden Girl with a long-term boyfriend; the trivia lover in me knows his name was Miles.) Maddy was Sophia because she was the oldest (by a year), the most worldly and experienced, and the most likely to give us all impatient lectures to try and set us straight. Paloma turned to us and announced “Well, I really want to be Blanche!” I was disappointed. “I want to be Blanche!” I insisted. “I’ve slept with WAY more people than you have!” I wanted to be the sexy, pretty Golden Girl who owns the damn condo and steals every scene. Everyone laughed. “Karen, how could you be anyone but Dorothy?!” This from Alice, the supposed nice one! I was livid. “Dorothy?! Dorothy is the worst! She’s so MASCULINE and she’s divorced but she still sleeps with her awful ex-husband [Stan, in case you’re a trivia lover too], and she’s always unhappy and cranky!” My friends stared at me, nodding. “Yeah, but she’s also the smartest and funniest… that’s you!” purred Paloma, still vying for Blanche. I rolled my eyes. “See, that’s a classic Dorothy eyeroll,” Maddy pointed out, always the enforcer. “You want to be Blanche, but you’re Dorothy. Don’t deny your Dorothyness!” I had another snack to cheer myself up.
I was at home on my couch, which was about to also become my boyfriend’s couch, as we were moving in together. I hadn’t lived with anyone since my divorce five years before, and I’d gotten used to living on my own and answering only to myself, but I was willing to give this a shot. During a packing/cleaning break, we talked on the phone and I relayed the results of an online quiz I’d just taken: Which Golden Girl Are You?
“I’m Dorothy, of course! I’m always Dorothy. Ugh, Dorothy is so… unlovable!”
“Not true. Everybody loves Dorothy. Remember the episode where Blanche takes Dorothy to her favorite bar to help her meet a man, and Dorothy ends up being more popular than Blanche after she does a little cabaret act?”
“Ha, yes! I love that episode! Dorothy finally gets her moment to shine at the Rusty Anchor!”
“Dorothy is actually as sexy and amazing as Blanche, but she doesn’t try so hard all the time.”
“I know, I know. Fine, I’m Dorothy. I can finally admit it. I am Dorothy. Dorothy is me. Why do you know so much about the Golden Girls?”
“What do you think I did every Saturday night in 1985?”