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Thank You for the Friendship: 10 Life Lessons We Learned From TV’s Golden Girls
With the passing of our final Golden Girl, Betty White, the time is right to reflect on the life lessons about health vitality, and friendship that these amazing women (and their writers) have given us. Thank you for the friendship ladies! Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, and the much-beloved Betty White are no longer with us, but their characters had a lot to teach us about wellness in life. Here are just a few of those lessons.
Who are the Golden Girls, Anyway?
On Sept. 14, 1985, over 35 years ago, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia entered our living rooms as our brand-new pals and confidants. We would spend the next seven seasons traveling down the road and back again with our new friends. These four women were entering the middle ages of life, and like many of us, still are all these years later, figuring out how to navigate the sometimes tricky years after the children are grown.
This phase of life takes us on a learning adventure; who are we in our fifties and beyond? How do we care for ourselves after so many years of caring for others? What happens when we are suddenly our first priority? And how do we let go of those we have held onto so tightly for so many years? Like many of us, the Golden Girls are also learning to navigate life without a spouse.
One thing’s for sure; if you can’t find something in common with at least one of these beautiful women, you may not have watched enough episodes. So, if you need to, go ahead and binge-watch! In the meantime, you might learn something new here that will make your binging even more enjoyable!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #1
Don’t Forget Your Roots
No matter who ya are, ya came from somewhere. We all know that Blanche came from Atlanta, Georgia, Rose from St. Olaf, Minnesota, Dorothy from New York, and Sophia from Sicily, Italy. Their roots are as apparent as their personalities. In other words, you become a walking, talking ad for where you come from, and these ladies are perfect examples of that.
Our ladies show us that you better be proud of where you came from because you can’t easily erase it. And when you move to a new town for a new life, whether for a job, an adventure, or retirement, embrace it! Let it be a piece of who you are moving forward. But don’t ever forget your roots!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #2
Cherish Your Family – Even if it’s a Mess
All four of our Golden Girls had dysfunction in their families. Don’t we all!? The idea that any family is perfect is just an illusion. But the lesson we learn from our girlfriends is that even though we have messy family situations, we still love our family! Many of my favorite episodes depict these women dealing with their siblings or grown children. And always, by the end of 22 minutes, they remember how much they cherish their loved ones, warts and all.
Your family makes you who you are, whether by nature, nurture, or a combination of both. I get my anxiety from my mom and my stubbornness from my dad, and I feel a deep sense of competition with my only brother, and not always in a fun and healthy way.
But I also have my mom’s genuine and deep care for others and her cooking skills. I get my outgoing personality from my dad and his ability to make friends with everyone. He also passed on my love of all things crafty and hobby-related to me. My relationship with my brother isn’t all about competition. As I grow older, I crave a deeper relationship with him that surpasses any level of competition. These traits are all gifts of my family. Like the Golden Girls, I love them and know they love me even when the going gets tough.
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #3
Make Your Own Family of Friends
The four dynamic women of the Golden Girls have learned an important lesson about family. They know that it’s essential to surround yourself with people who always have your back at this middle age of life. These people hold a crucial role in addition to your parents, kids, and grandkids. The women deal with many family issues with their parents, children, and grandchildren, but they have learned a more powerful lesson to share. We get to choose our own family at this time of life. The girls chose their own wonderful friends in each other as stand-ins for when the times get tough.
The truth is, dealing with your adult kids and elderly parents can be hard! I never expected it to be this tricky maneuvering through letting the kids go to make their own decisions and choices. At the same time, I worry about my parents as they make their own choices in their later years. The thing is, I have little say in any of the decisions the people I love make. Because of this (and the fact that I love to have control and have very little of it), I have learned how critical it is to have some very close friends surrounding me that offer unconditional support when the going gets tough. They are my FRamily. Friends + Family = FRamily
Friends + Family = FRamily
Family can be about support, acceptance, and understanding as much as it can be about canned birthday wishes and biology. What a gift to see through humor the importance of choosing people who get to be part of your everyday life. Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia are all there for each other. They are FRamily. Even if they don’t always agree, they work through the tough stuff and ultimately support one another. Remember season three, episode eleven, entitled “Three on a Couch?” The girls see a psychiatrist to work out their issues when they find themselves bickering more than is good for them. That’s the kind of friendship we could all use, the kind that pulls out all the stops to remain close.
Another great read: The Complete Guide to Podcasts for Women Over 50: Who, What, and Why
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #4
Boundaries Like the Terminator, Delivery of Mr. Rogers
When people push our buttons and try to stretch our limits, we can learn a super important lesson about health vitality, and friendship from our Golden Girlfriends. Remember “Nice and Easy” (episode seventeen from the first season), when Blanche’s niece, Lucy, comes for a visit? Rather than spending time with Aunt Blanche, Lucy chooses to spend time with various men, including a pilot, a doctor, and a cop straight from the Miami Vice era. Blanche sees a dangerous and troubling pattern, puts her foot down gently and lovingly, and using the right words, sets a new boundary around how they will finish their visit.
The lesson here from Blanche’s perspective is to set your boundary and hold to it. Setting a boundary doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, boundaries are in the best interest of yourself and others. Blanche knew that Lucy was on the wrong track for multiple reasons, and she set a new boundary for Lucy’s best interest. She gives Lucy another lesson about knowing your value, which brings us to number five.
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #5
Know Your Own Value
After Blanche spells out the importance of knowing your own self-worth to Lucy, she has an opportunity to practice it just a couple of episodes later. In season one, episode nineteen, entitled “Second Motherhood,” Blanche is all set to marry her latest flame when she realizes that what he needs is a mother for his children. Blanche does some soul-searching to decide what is most important to her, and being a glorified nanny to someone’s kids isn’t it.
Don’t get me wrong. If Blanche was dying to parent those children, and that would feed her soul, then more power to her. But the fact that she could discern what she wanted for her own needs and that this marriage wasn’t it, is a lesson for us all. It would have been easy to move forward and do what everyone expected, but instead, she recognized her value. Good for you, Blanche! Thank you for normalizing putting your own needs first. You were truly ahead of your time!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #6
Age is Just a Number
Back in the ’80s, our culture thought of women over fifty as much older than what we think they are now. So even though we viewed the Golden Girls as “older,” they did anything except ACT older. Within seven seasons of good, cheeky fun, the women found new jobs, hosted parties, became part of a police stakeout, considered adopting a child, volunteered in a telethon, competed in a dance competition, started new businesses, traveled far and wide, and had numbers of other adventures!
The lesson here? Age is just a number. You’re never too old for a new adventure, and life sure doesn’t stop at age 50 or even 60. And thanks to Sophia, even 80 or 90. So now that you may be approaching the middle part of your life, you can put your efforts into all the things you love instead of slowing down and sitting in a rocking chair watching the years pass. There is no time like the present to choose a new adventure!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #7
Sexy is as Sexy Does
One of the best lessons we can learn about health vitality from our girls is that you’re never too old to feel sexy! And Blanche wasn’t the only one to teach us that lesson, although she was the most obvious one. Over the years, we watched the women maneuver through various romantic relationships with men, and, thanks to Stanley, and even ex-husbands.
A woman can feel sexy at any age, and it’s not all about what you wear. It’s about being who you are and having confidence. Feeling great about yourself sends a powerful and sexy message! Blanche felt her sexiest when dressed sexy. Rose was her sexy best when she got her boogie down out on the dance floor and when she remembered the love of her life, Charley. Dorothy oozed sex appeal when wearing her signature draping gowns and having intelligent and deep conversations.
Throughout the seasons, the women took turns attracting various men and the same man in some cases. Season three, episode thirteen, entitled “The Artist,” introduces Hungarian artist Lazlo. He takes turns seducing Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy into posing nude for his next project. They are all very different, yet sexy enough to find themselves posing nude for a handsome stranger.
So don’t worry about the smile lines you’ve gathered and the bits of naturally-colored grey hair you’ve earned; sexy is as sexy as you feel. Really rock your confident, sexy self, and see what happens!
Another great read: 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Long Term Therapy
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #8
Accept Yourself and others right where they are!
It is said that people will forget what you said and did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Accepting others where they are and for who they are is a gift, and our golden girlfriends did it many times over the years.
Episode 23 from season one, entitled “Blind Ambitions”, brings us Rose’s blind sister and some lessons about being okay with who you are and working through a serious life challenge. “A Little Romance,” Episode thirteen from season one, has Rose dating a Little Person and seeing the other three women accepting him for the dynamic and handsome man he is, despite his small stature. Episode eleven from season six, entitled “Stand by Your Man”, gives us a look at Blanche learning to date a man in a wheelchair. It turns out he’s no different than a man not in a wheelchair.
And don’t forget when Blanche dates a blind man in “Blind Date”, season four, episode twelve. Blanche is initially concerned that her new beau will not be attracted to her if he cannot see her outward beauty but soon realizes, with the help of her friends, that her feminine wiles work just as well on him as any sighted man.
Of course, there are too many examples of Sophia dishing out love to all of the girls, especially her “Pussycat,” Dorothy, over seven seasons of fun. No matter what we’re dealing with in life, we are all human with flaws and difficulties. Accepting others right where they’re at for no reason other than pure love and kindness is the way to a kinder, gentler society. Once again, thanks, girls! We appreciate the lesson!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #9
Not Afraid to Deal with the Big Stuff
Wowza! If you want all the inspirational lessons on health vitality and friendship, you have to wrap your brain around all the crazy issues these women dealt with in their seven seasons of fun.
Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and even Sophia set the bar high for acceptance in the ’80s when our culture was beginning to understand the LGBTQIA+ community. Blanche’s brother came out on the show, Dorothy’s brother was a cross-dresser, Dorothy’s friend Jean, after the death of her husband, develops romantic feelings for Rose.
The show addressed many social and political issues over the years, including guns, nuclear war, immigration, and improper care of our elderly. Topics such as drug addiction and gambling made their way into episodes. The Golden Girls even addressed such ‘80s dated issues as interracial marriage and dating and marriage with a significant age gap between partners.
The girls also dealt with health care issues including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), heart disease, artificial insemination, HIV, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, assisted suicide, hearing loss, and various medical procedures and hospital stays.
If you want to see any of these issues dealt with in a loving way between friends, you better start binge-watching because it would be nearly impossible to cite seasons and episodes here of the many social, cultural, and political issues the women handled. Trust me when I say they dealt with the big stuff with grace and humor, and often cheesecake, which brings us to number ten!
Thank you for the Friendship! Life Lesson #10
Cheesecake Helps Solve Anything
The best-kept secret of women everywhere is that cheesecake does make everything better! It doesn’t matter if you get your cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory or you make your own, eating a really amazing piece of cheesecake is sure to make everything better! The ladies of the Golden Girls know that no problem remains unsolved when you enjoy a slice of cheesecake at midnight around the table with your best friends. Classically, at this time, the girls would share their concerns and their wisdom with one another.
As they would gather to eat, we would often hear a “Picture it, Sicily 1922” moment from Sophia or “Back in St. Olaf” from Rose. After some comic mischief surrounding those stories and the girls polished off the cheesecake, the problem would look much more manageable.
Side note: Everyone loves cheesecake and a solution to a problem. Wait! Not everyone likes cheesecake. Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy, didn’t care for it and would never eat it while on set, but she still knew the importance of bonding together over a slice when times got tough. So if eating cheesecake isn’t your thing, pick a different thing – maybe chocolate cake, bread pudding, or a different dessert, gather it with some friends, and make it work for you!
Wrapping it up
When you need a look into the pressing issues of the ‘80s, most of which are still applicable today, take some time to let the Golden Girls guide you.