I loved the TV show "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" more than you could possibly put into words.
Between that and listening to "Free to Be, You and Me", Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore showed me that brown eyed girls with gumption could take the world on and make it a better place.
Of course, I always joke that while I dreamed of being Mary, I really am far more Rhoda- with my love of plants, out of control curly hair and the strong possibility that there is something stuck in my teeth.
But dream, I did.
The series started when Mary left her groom- a doctor- standing at the altar. She wasn't ready to get married, she had a life to live.
Hmmm... four cancelled engagements for Mama Bean...
She wanted to make it on her own. I totally get that.
She went to the big city and took a job in an industry which was filled with men. (The fact that she was the ONLY one on the staff that called Lou Grant, Mr. Grant, well, that was because she respected him. At least that's how I'll remember it.)
Hmmm... financial services... first woman hired as a broker in our office in 10 years...
And her apartment.
The first time I had my own place- no roommates-- just mine-- I remember the feeling. And I immediately flashed back to the show.
At the end of the first episode, she's standing there in her apartment, looking around. Something didn't seem quite right. Then she hung up her giant M. She hammered the nail into the wall. Adjusted the letter. Stepped back and smiled.
And there I was in 1996, standing in my apartment, hanging up my L.
Everything in the apartment I had purchased with my own money. Every hanging on the wall I had put into place.
It is still one of my happiest places I've ever lived. I remember how fresh it smelled. How neat it was. How eclectic the décor was because most of it came from places I had traveled throughout the world.
It was mine.
Earlier that summer, I had attended a training class at my broker's corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. Or as I called it Mecca.
I was one of 2 women in our smaller training group. There were about 10 out of the group of 100 in attendance.
Our smaller group went to the IDS tower and we saw the Mary statue. I made all the men have a quiet moment with me (the trainers were awesome and indulged me- because I could turn the world on with my smile). Then I convinced them all to do the Mary Spin and pretend to toss a hat in the air-- like she did at the end of the show titles. Of course they did- I was young and cute then. And when we went inside the tower, we all did the Mary Wave-- a big gregarious full arm hello- as we went up the escalators.
So yes, I was a fan. A huge fan.
"Ordinary People" will always remain on my list of favorite movies. It was the anti-MTM show. A woman spends her life being a wife and mother. A harrowing portrait.
The exact opposite of the inspirational show.
"Ordinary People" was my nightmare. To be dependent and unappreciated. There's more to that movie, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.
This weekend, I witnessed a revival of women's rights movements.
And of course, there were the "feminists are ruining America" tirades.
First of all, if you think women are treated fairly in the United States, you need to travel more or get higher self esteem. We are not.
We are not treated as poorly as other countries, most definitely. Most highly religious countries tend to treat women as property.
But other countries-- they are far beyond us in wage fairness (those 76 cents to the dollar comparisons are ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL-- and trust me, as someone who worked in HR, I can assure you that female engineers were not being paid the same as male engineers 20 years ago-- it's gotten better, but not much), child care options, parental leave (it's not just for women!), violence against women.
Every 7 seconds a woman is beaten in the United States by her partner. From 2001 to 2012, 6,488 US troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. During that exact same time period 11,766 women were killed by their boyfriends or husbands.
Where is the real war?
I am a proud feminist. I will stand up for all women to be safe, treated fairly- at home and at work, and to live the lives they choose- either as a mother, a career tracker or both.
Looking back on the show, Mary had so many different female friends- Rhoda, constantly looking for a husband; Phyllis, constantly complaining about Lars; Georgette, the dingy girl who adored Ted; and Sue Anne Niven, the older sex pot.
But Mary. Mary was who I wanted to be. So together. So real. Always with a new date every weekend. With her friends around her.
She didn't judge or care and I think the show did an amazing job representing all women and their choices.
That's what I grew up watching and that's who I became.
Independent. Strong. Surrounded by friends. With frizzy hair and something in my teeth. A touch of Rhoda.
My husband and family are part of me, but they are not all of me.
My 40s have been spent watching friends' marriages unravel. Mine almost came undone, as well. But for so many of my girlfriends it was because they never had their "Mary Tyler Moore Phase" as I called it. They never had their own stuff, their M on the wall. They were a We before they ever became a Me. And it had caught up to them. They felt lost and often blamed their husbands-- who had no idea.
And I'm not saying everyone should ditch marriage and have a career. I got married. I love being a mother far more than I ever could imagine.
But I would never give up my 20s- my Mary Tyler Moore phase.
It taught me that I could get through anything- on my own. I didn't need a prince to come save me- I could be my own prince.
Some of my friends that got married young are extremely happy- they grew up together. That's fantastic.
I know it wasn't for me, though.
With my birthday just passed, I'm reflective that I most definitely took the best path for me-- with Mary on one shoulder telling me to be strong and Marlo on the other telling me to be kind.
So thank you, Mary, it looks like I'm going to make it after all.