Living My Life Like It’s Golden (Girls)

Jason A. Michael

I saw a t-shirt recently that read, “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this old before.” Just past 50, the slogan hit home. It was funny, but accurate. How the hell did I get this old, and how am I supposed to act?

For inspiration, I look to “The Golden Girls.” I was 13 when the show first aired in 1985. I remember those early episodes. I loved them from the very beginning, and I started recording the show on our new VCR. Video cassette recorders were something brand new on the market. My parents paid over $400 for it at the time, if you can imagine.

Barely pubescent when the show first came on and barely legal drinking age by the time the series ended after seven seasons, a lot of the jokes flew right over my young and hopelessly naïve head. Actually, even to this day, I will still watch the show and occasionally finally get a joke after all these years. I didn’t know who Fess Parker was for decades. Now, I do.

At the age of 18, I left all I had known behind. Three days after I graduated from high school, I hitched a U-Haul to the back of my red 1987 Mercury Topaz filled with all my meager belongings and overflowing with all my dreams and hopes for a new, better life.

In Miami, GG was still on the air and also in syndication at the same time. Set in Miami, my new hometown, the fictitious address of 6151 Richmond Street became a second home to me. I had no family in Miami, and watching the Girls gave me comfort. Like spending time with my favorite aunties.

At the time, no one could have ever predicted that the show would become such a phenomenon. Nearly 40 years after it hit NBC’s Saturday night lineup, you can still catch episodes on various cable networks. Today, with all the beloved ladies of the show having gone on to Hollywood Heaven, the merchandising of the show is a bigger enterprise than ever. 

For me, it started with t-shirts. I must have 15 different GG tees and they always produce a nice response when I wear them out. I also have five different pairs of GG socks. But it’s more than just apparel. I have GG coffee cups and glasses in the kitchen as well as a GG lunchbox. (I’ll never use it, but it looks lovely on display.) 

My beloved friends know that I love the Girls, and so on my birthday and at Christmas, they inundate me with GG merchandise. I have a GG shower curtain, a GG wall clock, a GG wall calendar, a GG 1,000-piece puzzle, GG Chia Pets and some random stuff that I appreciate but will never use, including two complete sets of Funko POPs figurines, a GG checkers set and a GG change purse. I’m forgetting some stuff here. But I trust you get the point.

Truthfully, I don’t really watch the Girls much anymore. I don’t have to. I know every episode — and have them all on DVD — forward and backwards. All the lines. All the jokes. And yet, when I do catch an episode on TV or feel the nostalgic need to pop one in the DVD player, I still laugh at the jokes. Sometimes even at the ones I still don’t understand. 

It’s their delivery. Sometimes just a look from Sophia or Dorothy, my favorites if I had to choose, is enough to crack me up. And speaking of favorites, my favorite episode is “Yes, We Have no Havanas,” the season four opener with Fidel Santiago, a suave Cubano who somehow ends up dating Blanche and Sophia simultaneously. In the episode, Fidel brings Sophia home to find Blanche in one of her countless negligees. After a little spat between the two girls, Blanche takes her exit, announcing she is going to take a bath and fill the tub with just enough water to cover her “perky bosoms.” To which Sophia replies deadpan, “You’re only going to sit in an inch of water?” I still can’t watch it without laughing, and I must have seen it 100 times. 

I often wonder if while they lived, the real-life Girls — Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White — grew tired of their GG popularity. For them, the show was seven years out of careers that lasted, on average, 50 years or more a piece. I remember watching a reunion show. They attempted to talk about their favorite and funniest episodes, but they couldn’t seem to remember much. 

To them, I suppose, it was just a job. Bea announced her intention to leave the show while it was still drawing great viewership. Rumor (and Page Six) has it that she and Betty didn’t get along. It breaks my heart to consider that the show was just a gig for the ladies. A good gig. But just one of many, many roles they played.

I choose to acknowledge none of that. The ladies touched my heart and tickled my funny bone more times than I could ever count. I choose to believe they loved each other, that the show was as special to them as it was to me and millions of viewers across the globe. The thought might be as fantastical as that time Blanche and Rose were caught dressed as nuns and explained it away by saying they were collecting lingerie for “needy, sexy people,” but that’s OK. 

I still thank all four of the Girls for being a friend to me, as the theme song goes, in such a special way. They’ve cheered me when I’ve been down, comforted me when I’ve been lonely and have seen me through heartbreak. In some ways, they’ve been more of a constant in my life than many of the real people in it. 

It might seem silly to you, dear readers, how much I love the show. Perhaps it is. But the Girls have enriched my life. They may all be gone, they might not have even liked each other in real life, but they were not just friends to me. They were family. And I hold them firmly in my gay little heart.


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