By Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Author of Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted
Modern shows feature plenty of young women haplessly trying to navigate dating life. But when you look back at TV’s first truly independent single girls in the city, The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern, one thing is clear: These ‘70s ladies took far less crap than the Hannahs and Mindys and Jesses of our time. If you really want to master your dating domain, you need do nothing more than ask, “What would Mary and Rhoda do?” Here, a few answers.
Be the beautiful, funny, smart heroine you’ve always wanted to be. These women, and the female writers who helped shape their characters, looked to the big-screen dames of the ’30s for inspiration: the wise-cracking Carole Lombards and Jean Arthurs who didn’t apologize for their humor, intelligence, wit, or sexuality. They figured the men who couldn’t handle it were not the men for them. If you know there’s always another episode with another suitor waiting in your future, possibly the right suitor, you’re better off waiting than settling for less.
Express yourself through your own personal style—and don’t worry about what potential dates might think. Mary and Rhoda were the Carrie Bradshaws of their time; women across the country wanted to dress just like them. Why? Because each of them seemed to have a sense of style that came directly from her character’s soul: Mary with her pantsuits and feminine work dresses, Rhoda with her headscarves and flowy tops. Never once did either give the impression she was dressing for her dates; each dressed for herself. And, of course, for her fans. Any date who wouldn’t like your headscarf (or your own equivalent) is not the one for you.
Don’t tolerate sexists. Mary and Rhoda always spoke up when the men around them said something unseemly, and their love lives never suffered for it. Self-respect, and respect for your fellow women, is sexy.
Take control of your sexuality. If Mary Richards could take the pill in the ’70s, as she mentions once in a famous episode, you can certainly get some form of birth control, if necessary, in our modern era of subsidized contraception and plentiful condoms. Good girls take necessary precautions!
Stay out all night if you want, rules be damned. Mary did, and never spilled the details about what she and her date did all night, even to Rhoda. Take things at your own speed, and answer to no one about it.
Photo courtesy of CBS
Jennifer Armstrong has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC. She teaches for Gotham Writers Workshop and at writers’ conferences. Get updates by following her on Twitter and liking her Facebook page. You can also get writing tips from Jennifer’s free upcoming seminar “How to Write (Smart) About Pop Culture.” Get more information by visiting her personal website and the official website for Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.
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