Mary Tyler Moore as the lovely but always approachable and real (and funny) Mary Richards…
By Rosalie Tirella
She made having a career look fun! She made the news industry look fun! Being female, single and on your own was an adventure! – not scary, though sometimes lonely. You felt the pathos because Mary Tyler Moore was such a great actor.
You didn’t need a man to make you happy. You could have handsome boyfriends visit you from out of state! You could still keep your career because the Pill was invented 10+ years ago and recently made available to single women who, at least in Mary’s world, knew you couldn’t have it all and didn’t try to have it all. That lie happened in the 1980s, in tandem with the horrific power skirt outfits that were designed to mimick men’s suits, down to the frou frou sash ribbon you wore as your “tie” over your white blouse. Mary Richard’s world was pre-DRESS FOR SUCCESS. You could wear white go go boots and mini skirts to work and throw your tam high into the Minneapolis air! You were an independent woman!
Mary Richards was a success at her job, but she always looked sexy at the office. She didn’t have big boobs or wear low cut sweaters. She just had that gorgeous, willowy body – the body of a former dancer, which Mary Tyler Moore was. Mary Richards could walk-prance her way into your heart. She looked graceful walking from one end of her apartment to the other end in her bathrobe! She made the mundane single woman stuff look glamorous in that beautiful body of hers. Legs long and lean … toe, heel, toe, heel … shoulders slightly curved, arms loosey goosey by her sides …
The beautiful Mary Richards showed American women you didn’t need to act all desperate and creepy and manipulative with men if you were over 35 and still unmarried. You didn’t need to have an agenda. You had YOU! You were the carnival ride! The giant M – for “Mary” – tacked on to Mary Richards’ apartment wall confirmed the fact! And, if you watched the show every week like I did as a kid growing up in Green Island, you got the point: Your happiness stemmed from YOU. If you couldn’t walk alone through a city park during winter and not sparkle like the icicles hanging from the tree branches, then you hadn’t made it after all.
You had your job, with co workers who were like family; back at your apartment, you had your upstairs and downstairs neighbors – gal pals Rhoda and Phyllis – another family to tell your problems to, to share your dreams with, to critique your wardrobe with …
Even in our cramped three decker tenement on Lafayette Street, watching the MTM Show while sitting on the old red vinyl couch my mom brought back to Worcester from her 10-year stint as a housekeeper for the Bishop of Springfield (probably his old office furniture), I felt empowered. I wanted to be Mary Richards. I wanted to “turn the world on with a smile/… take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.”
“WELL, IT’S YOU GIRL! AND YOU SHOULD KNOW IT!”
I hummed along to the Mary Tyler Moore Show opening theme song every week – even though I knew all the words by heart. “R,” for “Rose,” tacked on to a secret place in my heart!
LOVE YOU, MARY! THANKS FOR SHOWING SO MANY OF US THE WAY!