Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thank you for being a friend

Rue McClanahan died today, at the age of 76.

For the three people in the world who don't know, Rue played Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls, possibly the best sitcom ever to air on American television, and certainly one of the most formative shows of my childhood and college years.

I can remember, first, watching Designing Women (RIP, Dixie Carter) and The Golden Girls with my parents, sitting on the bed watching the TV in their bedroom (it was a big deal to get your own personal bedroom TV, and I always felt so grown-up and fancy when I got to watch theirs). Later, when I got to college, I discovered what was practically a Golden Girls cult -- every night at 11:00pm, the halls would just empty, and you could hear the opening strains of the theme song from every room on the floor. My roommates and I LOVED that show, as did practically everyone else in my graduating class, to the extent that one of our class skits (...don't ask) was performed in full costume to that theme song. Some of my happiest college memories are crowding around my little 13-inch TV with my friends and hallmates, all in our pajamas, singing along and getting so excited when we got the long version of the song (which you can tell is coming if you get the initial shot in the credits of the plane touching down against the setting Miami sun).

But, as I'm sure everyone on the Internet will be posting in some form today, the Girls mean more to me than just happy college memories. That show taught me -- and a generation of women -- that ladies of a certain age can be just as spunky, sexy, intelligent, and exhilarating as any young thing just turning 21. I think a large part of my being comfortable hitting my thirties was due to the lessons the Girls instilled in me -- that the older you get, the more fun you know how to have.

Besides, where would pop culture be now without the Girls? I think we can all agree that Betty White is a national treasure, and there's no overstating the debt Sex and the City owes to the show.  If you strip it down past the Manolos and the fabulous bars and the glamour, at its heart SATC deals with four women facing the prospect of passing the age at which women are culturally considered beautiful (and relevant), and embracing both their fabulous lives and the primacy -- and necessity -- of their friendships with other women. Samantha, in particular, owes her existence, in large part, to Blanche Devereaux's fearless, fierce confidence in her own beauty, self-worth, and desirability.

So goodbye, Rue McClanahan, and thank you for sharing Blanche with us. Thank you for teaching me that being beautiful depends on believing in yourself first, and that life gets better the longer we live it -- especially if it's shared.

Thank you for being a friend.

(picture source 1, source 2

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