Empowerment

In 1970, when the Mary Tyler Moore show came on the air, I had just finished college and moved back home. How I wanted to move into Mary’s compact apartment! What I wanted even more was her audacity to live her life without bowing to the judgments of others. Her life had everything that mine did not. Mary Richards was grown up. I was still acting like a little girl, despite the fact that I was 21. I was staring at the lives of adults instead of creating my own life.

I followed the show whenever I could throughout the seventies. I got a teaching job, and a better teaching job. Mary moved out of her studio into an apartment with a bedroom, and when she did, I realized I already had a bedroom. I didn’t think so then, but I realize now that I also had a better job. By the time the show went off the air, I was teaching five high school classes, directing the school’s drama productions, and performing with Improvisation, Inc. in San Francisco. Mary was now a producer, working for Lou Grant (Edward Asner), who had given himself the title of Executive Producer. Lou was divorced, but Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod), Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) were the same as always. Ted married Georgette (Georgia Bright), but the TV characters mostly remained static. I was thrilled to be the one moving forward and creating new goals.

A couple weeks ago, I started wondering if Mary Tyler Moore was still alive. I Googled her, but found no recent pictures or new articles. Then on January 25 a headline streamed across the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. “Mary Tyler Moore dead at 80.” I began wondering whether she was alive about the same time she was put on a respirator. There are synchronicities in the world that I don’t understand. I never met Mary, but maybe we had a connection that went deeper than I realized. Maybe she affected me more than I knew.

That day’s news reports said that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was advanced for its time. By today’s standards it is tame and optimistic. The clips I saw on my flat screen were blurry. They came from the pre-digital era when TV stations signed off the air from midnight to 6 am.

Mary Tyler Moore was like a best friend. Single women and girls invited her into their living rooms on Saturday night — back in the seventies when most families only had one TV. Mary turned the world on with her smile, and she helped us empower ourselves.