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Lessons From A Sitcom Star

When I read the obituary for Mary Tyler Moore, I was inspired to revisit her early TV shows. She was delightful as Laura Petrie, the wife of Dick Van Dyke. Unlike earlier "housewives" like June Cleaver and Donna Read, she had a real partnership with her husband. Even though she had been a dancer and now stayed at home with their son, she wasn't wearing dresses and frilly aprons or being taken lightly. In fact, she wore capris and gave back as good as she got when they were bantering. Rob (Van Dyke's screen name) truly seemed to value her thoughts and opinions and there was a lot of love between them.

Four years after that sitcom ended, the Mary Tyler Moore show first aired in 1970. This was a stretch from the stay-at-home wives that had been portrayed even just five years before. The main character was recovering from the break-up of a serious relationship and decided to move away from home and start anew in Minneapolis. As a true sign of the times, she defied all the old stereotypes. She was:

  • single

  • in her 30's

  • left home for a city she didn't know

  • working as an associate producer of a TV news show

  • living on her own in a studio apartment

She ran into a lot of barriers. I remember one show where she found out she was making less money and not promoted because she was a woman. These were all issues then and, sadly, still true in some sectors. Watching this sweet young woman stand up for her rights felt radical and she was an inspiration for many.

As a child of the 60's, I remember bra-burning and marching for causes. I got the impression that women were supposed to be angry, ready for a fight, and against the world. I also got the message that instead of being proud and even delighted to be women, we should strive to be almost gender neutral.

The Mary Tyler Moore show helped me see that a woman could embrace her soft side and still be strong. From what I read about MTM in the various articles written since her death January 25th, the person she showed us on TV was very close to who she really was. This week's Pleasure Peek was a quote from her.

"Take chances, make mistakes.

That's how you grow.

Pain nourishes your courage.

You have to fail in order to practice being brave."

The words from the theme song for her show by Sonny Curtis were so fitting. To this day, they still have a powerful message.

"Who can turn the world on with her smile?

Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

Well, it's you girl and you should know it.

With each gland and every little movement you show it.

Love is all around, no need to waste it.

You have have a town, why don't you take it?

You're gonna make it after all!

How will you make it on your own?

This world is awfully big, girl this time you're all alone.

But it's time you started living.

It's time you let someone else do some giving.

Love is all around, no need to waste it.

You can never tell, why don't you take it.

YOU're gonna make it after all!"


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

is a sassy Queen-ager whose mission is to co-create a happier, healthier life with and for others.

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