So I’m watching “The Golden Girls.”
Not because I love it (although the giant shoulder pads, wicker-filled living room and obsession with pastels do make me miss the ‘80s), but because my mom’s house only has basic cable, and the only thing that seems remotely interesting is a “Golden Girls” marathon.
I am delighting in their comforting old-fogeyness: Rose’s dopey St. Olaf charm, Dorothy’s long-suffering bemusement, Blanche’s sex-starved Southern belle. And then there’s Sophia, made up to look like a “Cocoon” groupie in her old-lady dresses and white poodle wig (even though IMDB informs us she was 1 year, 2 months and 12 days younger than her “daughter,” Dorothy).
I remember thinking how ancient they seemed to me when I was a smart-alecky 20-something. “Old people sure are wacky,” I would think back then, sitting there in my stylish Hyper-Color T-shirt and Day-Glo-Green bike shorts while sipping a Crystal Pepsi. “What’s with all those jokes about Ex-Lax, hot flashes and over-the-hill Romeos?”
And then it occurs to me. Now that I’m looking through the bifocals-assisted lens of a “mature” woman, the Golden Girls look pretty good. Their designer pantsuits are perfectly tailored. Their perfectly coiffed silver mullets gleam beneath an impenetrable exoskeleton of Aqua Net. Their powdered skin looks remarkably flawless and smooth, even in the days before anyone knew about Botox.
The Golden Girls are looking hotter than me, and I am not sure how I feel about it.
I click back to IMDB to find out the age of the Golden Girls during the series. From what I can find, Rue McClanahan, who portrayed the kittenishly coy Blanche, was a mere 51 when the series kicked off in 1985. I am 54. I am now at an age in which 1980s TV executives decided my only choices are to retire, move into a Miami ranch house with a couple of my elderly gal pals and devote my days to filling my purse with buffet food, dating Spanish-American War veterans and eating cheesecake.
So even though the 1980s don’t seem that long ago, especially in the larger scheme of things, it’s obvious our perception of aging has shifted significantly. Older adults are no longer expected to shop at Myrtle’s House of Beige for their frumpy house dresses and thick-soled shoes. Many work past retirement, or even start whole new careers in their 50s and 60s. They’ve been to Woodstock. They color and cut their hair into fashionable ‘dos. They travel, run marathons and make out with their silver-fox husbands — at least, according to Cialis commercials.
They are more Grace and Frankie than George and Gracie (again, a joke that you need to be at least 50 to understand).
I think of my sister, Mabel, retired at 57 and spending her days renovating condos. She is currently taking care of my mom. In the last week, between nursing duties with mom, she has cleaned out three deep freezers, completely cleaned and reorganized Mom’s kitchen, shampooed carpets, defrosted and cleaned two refrigerators and gotten rid of every dust bunny and cobweb in the house.
My oldest sister, Verbena, is an Energizer Bunny who runs a nursing home — not an easy job in the days of COVID. My other sister, Bertha, moved into a new house last spring, and had unpacked everything and arranged art on the walls within a week.
The “Golden Girls” of today would look considerably different. They’re busy, adventurous, engaged, possibly retired but far from retiring.
Meet the “Go-Go Girls.”
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.