"You wanted me to be here for your death, how about letting me be here for your life?" —Sophia, The Golden Girls
The sitcom classic The Golden Girls aired on NBC during the height of the sitcom boom from 1985-1992 and featured the hysterical musings of four stellar women: Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Blanche (Rue McClanahan), Rose (Betty White) and Sophia (Estelle Getty). These fictional characters felt like real, complex individuals with their own distinct personalities, providing frequent bouts of hilarity that kept fans entertained for 180 episodes.
While there are many examples of #TV shows that would fall into the discussion of greatest sitcom properties, I would place #TheGoldenGirls in the top-tier realm and personally refer to it as my No. 1 favorite sitcom of all time. Besides the obvious comedic aspects, there were occasional episodes that dealt with the more taboo subjects of the time (and some that are even considered taboo today). From adultery to homosexuality to deportation, The Golden Girls never shied away from focusing on these issues — and one particular episode stands out to me from its fifth season...
The One Where Sophia's Friend Wants Her There When She Commits Suicide
Season 5, Episode 7, titled "Not Another Monday," tackled the issue of suicide and what choice one has when a friend wants you there when they take their life. This episode focused on Sophia's friend, Martha Lamont, a woman who believes that she can no longer stand the pain and loneliness of her physical world, choosing to end her life by her own hand rather than waiting for any more sicknesses to afflict her. In her own words, she doesn't "want to see another Monday."
As Sophia struggles with the ethical and moral obligations of her dear friend's request, the B plot centered around Dorothy, Blanche and Rose caring for a newborn while her parents were away. The episode contains one of the funniest moments of the entire series: the three women attempt to calm the baby down by performing "Mr. Sandman" totally a capella. Watch it below:
(It's no coincidence the writers decided to place the paralleling story lines of birth and death in this one episode, and I love them for it.)
Let me give you some background of my relationship with the show and delve into some personal territory of where I was in my life a few years back.
For A Number Of Years, I Was Lost
In 2010, my dear grandma passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Prior to her final night, we would visit her on a daily basis, and I would always arrive home just in time to catch a syndicated episode of The Golden Girls. It comforted me watching these older women in the prime of their lives; I needed some sort of escape for that half an hour.
My grandma's death hit me hard and continued to stay with me even as I entered university. For the first four years of attempting to get my Bachelor's (I finally graduated in my fifth year), I struggled with virtually every aspect of what was going on in my life:
- The Financial ("Am I able to afford this class?" "God, I don't want to look at my financial statement right now... Maybe if I ignore it, it'll go away?")
- The Course Load ("When were we assigned this?" "Is this syllabus for this class or..?")
- The Future ("Why am I even in school right now?" "Maybe I can take a year or three off and everyone will forget I was enrolled in the first place...")
A myriad of personal problems just hovered over me and made me sympathize with Sisyphus — you know, the Greek figure whose best friend is a boulder for all eternity. I would have honestly done whatever it took to be able to pick up the phone and call my grandmother. Just to hear her voice would calm me down when I needed it the most.
I refused to tell anybody about my struggles; I thought it would be better to keep it in and occasionally have a nice cry in bed at 2 a.m. when my hourly you-aren't-going-anywhere-in-life thoughts popped into my head. While I never specifically had suicidal thoughts, I'd be lying if I said there weren't sporadic instances where I briefly thought, "I mean, what if I just don't wake up tomorrow morning? Like I want to wake up, obviously, but... just what would it be like to not have to deal with this anymore?"
Why This TV Episode Means So Much To Me
When I was home alone one night, I suddenly felt the urge to watch an episode of The Golden Girls. There were probably exams or something going on that had me at the peak of my anxiety.
The episode was "Not Another Monday," and my jaw dropped when I heard Martha ask Sophia to be present during her suicide. She seemed happy and sure of herself that she didn't want to live today. Watching Sophia (who reminded me way too much of my grandma, by the way) reminisce with Martha by pleading for her to "remember life" stung me. Sophia reminded her (and, by extension, me) that "we're not in this life for peace" when Martha reasons that their departed friend Lydia looked so peaceful at her funeral.
Hard-as-nails and badass Sophia Petrillo had tears in her eyes as she attempted to convince Martha that this wasn't her time. An exasperated Martha reveals the loneliness she feels on a constant basis, and — after Sophia's pleas and vow to invite her over to the bustling Golden Girl abode — Martha states, "I don't know what to do."
The following line is what stuck with me then, and continues to stick with me now:
"That's the point, if you're not sure, you can't change your mind tomorrow."
While the entire above sequence makes me tear up, that quote convinced me to keep a laser focus on the finish line regardless of how far away that damn, stupid line seemed to be. "School isn't forever; these struggles I have aren't forever; those who care about me would want me to hold on with everything I have because I will come out of the putrid funk I happen to be in at this moment."
I'm now a university graduate, writing for the incredible beauties at Movie Pilot and gradually dabbling in Toronto real estate (because I just love having clients irritated with me). This is a story and an experience I have courtesy of a TV show from the 1980s. To conclude in the most cheesy way possible: thank you for being a friend!
What TV shows have meant the most to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.