Yesterday, Rue McClanahan died. As if you need to be reminded, she played Blanche Devereaux in the series, The Golden Girls.
I just love this intro, this song. LOVE IT.
Anyway, I was so sorry to hear of McClanahan’s passing. Beyond the fact that this marks the loss of the third Golden Girl, leaving only the hilarious and highly skilled Password player Betty White with us, McClanahan’s passing reminds me that I can be my worst enemy.
Back in 2005 when I was working at the law firm, I went to a picnic lunch in a park along the East River with some colleagues and some summer associates. It didn’t sound like the worst idea ever, until you realized that you would be at a picnic lunch with 10 lawyers sitting around in a circle sounds. It was awkward, and I was feeling particularly awkward that day. While I can picnic with the best of them – just ask the LJ clan – I’m not naturally comfortable sitting on the ground. I prefer a chair. And it’s not just because of the risk of stains and bugs.
Somehow I survived the lunch and, on our walk back to the office, I was walking with someone who I thought had real friend potential. She was sweet and smart and laughed at my jokes. Really, this is all it takes. Anyway, we were chit chatting when we came up to a light on 55th and 1st Ave. In front of us, I saw a woman who had to be in her 60s or so dressed in all black – flowing black top and black pants – with red hair. Something about her caught my eye and had thoroughly distracted me from the conversation. As I was staring at this woman, she turned her head and I gasped a little. But I could say nothing. I didn’t really know these people, and causing a scene by grabbing my future-friend by the arm screaming, “Oh. My. Fucking. G-d. Don’t look! THAT’S RUE McCLANAHAN” didn’t seem like the best way to make a good impression.
For the next several blocks, I kept a close eye (read: tailed) McClanahan until I had no choice but to keep following her or enter our building with the group. My awkwardness and desire to be less freakish than I normally am won out, and I headed into the building the the group. Once in the elevator, I just couldn’t contain it anymore. I said, “Did you see Rue McClanahan? She was walking in front of us.” Right then, two women – the new-found friend and a woman who, if not for other off-putting behaviors had real friendship potential herself, said some variation of “WHAT?! NO! Why didn’t you tell us?!”
One moral of this story is that even freaks like me can find community at a large New York law firm. Another is that The Golden Girls really did influence people of multiple generations. Because when you’re funny, you’re funny. Period.
The moral that I took away was that I am my own worst enemy.
When you live in NYC, you see famous people all the time. And for the most part, it’s not a particularly moving thing because, chances are, that person is your neighbor who you see pretty frequently. So the idea of saying hi to Kate Winslet or Ethan Hawke or some other similarly situated star isn’t super appealing.
But McClanahan was different for me. I desperately wanted to say hello and tell her how much I appreciated her work on The Golden Girls, and on Maude, and on Mama’s Family, and on All in the Family. I wanted to tell her that the show made an impression on me as a kid and showed me that age truly is a state of mind, and that life need not lose it’s vim and vigor simply because you’ve hit your 50s or 60s or 70s or, as Betty White continues to show us, 80s and 90s. I wanted to tell her that my own grandparents were spending their winters in southern Florida when the show was on and beyond, and I got to see first hand that the sweet old grandmother who dotes on grandchildren and bakes cookies is as much a relic as the idea that women are here solely for the care and upbringing of children. Sure, it may be a part of who these folks are, but it’s not the totality of their identity.
Instead of telling McClanahan these things, I stalked her and then slunk into my office building. For reasons that are beyond me, I allowed fear or awkwardness keep me from doing something I so wanted to do.
Perhaps I will say it now: Ms. McClanahan, thank you for helping to show me the importance of friendship. Safe travels.