Faithful Departed — Rue McClanahan
(1934 - 2010)
After college I had to have my own apartment. Like so many other young women, I saw this independence as an exhilarating and gratifying rite of passage. But it could also be very lonely. I found that at the end of the day, I would put on the television just to have some other voices in the apartment. I really liked to fall asleep with the television on and at the end of the day Lifetime — “the network for women” — was always showing just the right thing to entertain and calm me: The Golden Girls.
The Golden Girls originally aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992. I remember my grandmothers watching it when they came to visit my home, but I wasn’t a fan until it was in reruns. Each of the four older female stars, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, has her own unique personality. Bea Arthur was Dorothy the divorced substitute teacher, Betty White the naïve farm girl, Estelle Getty the wise and spicy Sicilian; but the one I loved the most and wanted to emulate was the devil-may-care Blanche, played by Rue McClanahan.
Yes, there are other, not very flattering adjectives that could be used to describe the character of Blanche, but I’d like to think of her as independent and comfortable in her own skin, with her own needs and desires.
In my early twenties, I wanted to be independent and comfortable in my own skin. That’s the image I projected, or at least I hoped so. But what twentysomething is really that self-possessed? In reality, I was searching for those Blanche-Iike qualities and I tried on many personas, friends, men and interests.
I knew I wanted a creative career and I wanted to earn well for it. I wanted a husband and I wanted a child. Often, in super-cool, hipster creative circles, the desire for a husband and child is seen as antiquated; and in those circles that support the idea of a spouse and child, work and career are still seen as a complicated issue for women. Thankfully, I had Blanche as my guide, encouraging me to follow my instincts and go for all of the things that I wanted.
Now that I’m in my early thirties, I do feel comfortable in my skin. (Or at least I think so!) I’m still attending poetry readings and art galleries, but now I have my 5-week-old in her sling.