Robert Fulghum may have learned everything he needed to learn in kindergarten, but I learned everything I needed to know by watching The Golden Girls.
Well, maybe not everything. I did learn a lot about being a mother though.
Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia played out their sitcom lives on prime time during my childhood and early teen years. After the series ended in 1992, the Girls and I parted ways until a few years later when I stumbled across them late one night in my college dorm room.
Since that fateful night some 15 years ago, the Girls have been a constant factor in my life—perhaps the most constant one. Men have come and gone. Bad habits were formed and kicked. Styles popped in and out of popular cultural. But, my Girls were always there.
The show has meant different things to me at different points in my life. It has provided me with countless hours of entertainment. It’s been comfort food for my soul. And, most recently, it’s taught me lessons on how to be an adult woman and a mother.
Each of the Girls has her own unique personality, a modern archetype of sorts, which can be used as a model for parenting.
The Cynic. Dorothy is stern and sardonic. She became a mother at a young age and endured a trying marriage that ended in divorce. Life’s twists and turns left a bitter taste in her mouth, making it easy for her to say “I told you so” in her own sarcastic terms.
When you think of an authoritative mother, Dorothy comes to mind. She is the mother who sets strict rules to prevent undesired consequences, the kind who won’t let you pick flowers because she knows you’ll get stung by a bee.
The Child. Rose is innocent, fun-loving and kind. She holds on to a teddy bear that she’s had since she was a child, enjoys ice cream treats made to look like clowns and lines gummy bears up on her bed.
After completing paintings of the winter, spring and summer of her hometown, Saint Olaf, she was asked why she didn’t paint its fall. Her reply? It hadn’t happened yet.
Rose is the mother who can see the world through her child’s eyes.
The Vixen. Blanche’s initials are BED. That, alone, speaks volumes.
She is sexy, sultry, carnal and raw. She goes to great lengths to hide her true age and uses her beauty and sexuality to get whatever she wants whenever she wants it.
None of us would be mothers if we didn’t have a sensual side—that’s what helped us make our babies in the first place! Blanche shows us that we don’t have to abandon our sensuality once we have children.
The Sage. Sophia is a tiny woman full of wisdom and old-world charm. She emigrated from Sicily to New York before eventually winding up in Miami with her daughter, Dorothy, and the rest of the Girls.
As the oldest of the old, and born to a foreign nation, she uses her cultural, historical and personal knowledge to weave intricate yarns to advise and encourage her housemates. She once told a single story that Dorothy, Rose and Blanche each interpreted in different ways to accommodate their individual needs.
Sophia is very much the mother in the saying “mother knows best.” Children, young and old, can turn to her for timeless advice.
Each of the Girls is her own type of mother, though no one, alone, is ideal.
The ideal mother, if there is such a thing, is found in the collective of these four women. She uses precaution to relate to her children and offer advice while also tending to her own needs.
I sometimes forget that three of the four Girls have passed away because I see them on television so often and think of them nearly every day. So, Girls, wherever you are, thanks for the examples you’ve set—and, of course, thank you for being a friend!