The Passing Of Mary Tyler Moore And What She Meant To The Boomer Generation

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The death of actress Mary Tyler Moore last week caused a national outcry of disbelief and sadness. We should expect more passings of the TV and film icons we once loved years ago, as many are now in their 80s and 90s.

It was especially heartbreaking to many when Moore died and not only because she was beautiful, charming and watched every week by millions, but because she was the symbol of a new era of women. Women could be single, have a career, friends, live alone and be happy.  Life was based on their own abilities and talents and not merely as a partner to a man. 

She was one of the first actresses on TV to break this new ground in 1970 and became a role model for many young girls and women.  I know myself as a preteen at the time, when I saw the opening song of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (“You’re Going To Make It After All”) – I wanted to be JUST like Mary Richards. A decade later, instead of going to Minneapolis, I went to Atlanta.

When her death was announced, it was also a reminder to all of the passage of time.

The article below discusses Laura Petrie and the Mary Richards that we saw on TV and the real life Mary Tyler Moore and her legacy.    

                                                    

By Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Laurie Petrie was a young TV wife played by Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show and I was captivated by the character’s grace, humor and endless ability to get herself out of trouble. She was also strong-willed and charming, qualities that were a winning combination for young girls with few realistic role models on television in the mid-1960s.

When Moore re-emerged as WJM TV news producer Mary Richards in 1970 on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it was against a backdrop of rapid societal shifts. The show began the same year that four students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State, Apollo 13 demonstrated both the fallibility and ingenuity of the space program and the Beatles disbanded, breaking the hearts of music lovers everywhere. In the midst of these tumultuous events, Mary Richards brought Laura Petrie’s charm and gentle humor to her role as a single working woman and all-around confidant. It was TV escapism with a modern twist, offering a glimpse of work opportunities for American women, amidst the restraints of pay equality  and gender role stereotypes.

 

The Marvelous Mary Richards

We watched Mary navigate boorish comments with an aplomb that few of us boomer women could ever pull off in real life. We also watched her navigate an ocean of bad dates with the good humor that comes from knowing she had created a family at WJM and at home of people that had her back.

We studied her outfits like we would prepare for a test, marveling at her impeccable wardrobe on an under-market salary.

And we admired her role as mediator in the relationship between her amusingly caustic landlord, Phyllis, and her best friend and fellow tenant, Rhoda. Mary always stayed above the fray, whether at work or at home. She was the trusted friend who did not betray, the optimist who saw the best in everyone and that rare tolerant and kind colleague who never made people feel bad about themselves.

 

The True Legacy of Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Richards has been hailed as a feminist role model because she was a single working woman in her 30s who took birth control (at least by the third season) and was not obsessed with finding a spouse. But Mary Tyler Moore’s legacy will be much greater than the emerging feminism of her character.

Her real life was marked by remarkable grit and resilience. Moore’s life story includes alcoholic and distant parents, three marriages and her own battles with alcohol and illness.

She was first married at 18 and divorced six years later. Her second marriage to TV executive Grant Ticker was failing even while she was playing the beloved Mary Richards on one of his shows. Three years after the series ended, her son Richie — who for years fought his own battles with drugs and alcohol — was killed when his gun misfired.

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in her 30s, Moore hid her insulin dependence from the public for years. Over time, however, she became a tireless advocate for the fight against juvenile diabetes and fought the effects of the illness until her death. Moore sought treatment  for her alcoholism under orders from the doctor treating her diabetes and wrote about this struggle candidly in her memoir.

In the past decades, Mary Tyler Moore cemented her legacy in ways that will keep the beauty and grace of Laura Petrie and Mary Richards forever in our hearts. More importantly, she did so by allowing us a greater understanding of the remarkable woman who was behind the iconic characters.

Moore did not live the storybook existence of the comedy writer’s wife or the single career woman. Rather, she lived a life of challenge, pain, tenacity and achievement. And she accomplished this with a real-world smile that did, indeed, turn the world on and make us feel that we can make it after all.

 

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of  Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+, active and single adults.

SILVER CONNECTIONS WEBSITE:

www.silverconnections.org

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Dealing With Depression and Loneliness

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Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but for some, loneliness comes far too often.

Feeling lonely can plague many people — including those who are older, people who are isolated, and those with depression— with symptoms such as sadness, isolation, and withdrawal. Loneliness can strike a person who lives alone or someone who lives in a house filled with people. “Loneliness is subjective,” says Louise Hawkley, PhD, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. “You can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely.”

Although depression doesn’t always lead to loneliness, feeling lonely is often a predictor of depression one year or even two years later, and it certainly leads to sadness, Dr. Hawkley says. Freeing yourself of feelings like being isolated by depression is part of the healing process.

How to Fight Depression and Loneliness

Feelings of loneliness don’t have to be constant to call for action, but you will need to give yourself a push to get back into the thick of life and re-engage with others to start feeling better. These strategies for fighting depression and loneliness can help:

  • Make a plan.There are two basic types of loneliness. Acute loneliness results from losing a loved one or moving to a new place, for example. In these situations, chances are you know at some level that you’ll have to go through a period of adjustment to get through this feeling of loneliness. The other type of loneliness is the chronic subjective type, which strikes despite your existing relationships. Both require a plan of action. One strategy is making a point to meet people who have similar interests, Hawkley says.
  • Do something — anything. In depression treatment there’s a theory called behavioral activation, which is a clinical way of saying, “Just do it.” If you’re feeling lonely and want to change it, any small step you take — even striking up a casual, friendly conversation with the barista at your corner café — is a good move.
  • Explore your faith. There are only a few strategies that are proven to successfully protect against loneliness, and this is one of them. “People who have a personal relationship with their God or a higher power tend to do well,” Hawkley notes. There are a lot of factors at work here, one of them being that faith communities provide many opportunities for positive social encounters. You don’t have to have a close friend in the community to get the benefit, Hawkley says — just feeling that you belong in the group is enough. In addition, faith can help you accept the things in life you can’t control.
  • Bond with a dog.“Pets, especially dogs, are protective against loneliness,” Hawkley says. There are many reasons why this strategy works: Dogs get you out and about, they’re naturally social creatures, and you’ll have a living being to care about. If you’re not in a position to own a dog, find ways to help care for other people’s dogs or volunteer to help dogs at a shelter that need loving attention. Other pets, such as cats and fish, can also help ease loneliness.
  • Have realistic standards.“Loneliness is a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have,” Hawkley says. Part of the solution may be to accept that you can have fun and light conversation with a variety of people, and that it’s okay if they don’t become lifelong confidantes. Also, reflect on whether you have any unrealistic standards that are making it hard to connect with others and stop feeling lonely, such as expecting too much from a new friendship too quickly or relying on another person too much.
  • Think beyond yourself. Depression can make you feel very self-focused, meaning that everything is all about you. But remind yourself that if you ask a co-worker to join you for lunch and the person can’t make it, you shouldn’t automatically assume that he or she has rejected you. The person might have a previous lunch date or too much work to leave his or her desk.
  • Reach out to a lonely person. Whether you’re feeling lonely now or just know how it feels, you may get an emotional boost from befriending someone else who’s lonely. Some people may view loneliness as contagious, and therefore lonely people often become even more isolated. “We believe there is a responsibility in the community to reach out to people who are suffering,” Hawkley says. In doing so, you can help others and yourself, too. Examples include volunteering for an organization that helps elderly people or visiting a neighbor who’s lost a spouse.
  • Call, don’t post. Social networks are fun and can provide an essential social outlet for some people, but Hawkley says research suggests that, on average, people do best if more of their relationships happen face-to-face or over the phone. Use a pal’s post as an excuse to call and talk about it instead of posting a comment back.
  • Make time for relationships. Everyone is busy, but relationships won’t wait until you’ve finished your PhD, raised your kids, snagged the next big promotion, or moved to your ideal city. Build them now. “No one on their death bed wishes they’d worked a few more hours,” Hawkley says.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or relative. Get some feedback and ideas, as well as a sympathetic ear, from a family member or friend with whom you trust your thoughts and feelings. This person could have some ideas about groups you might want to join to meet positive people.
  • Explore therapy.I f you just can’t shake profound feelings of loneliness, isolation, and other symptoms of depression, you might want to talk to a mental health professional. Look for a professional with a cognitive behavioral background, an approach that’s been shown to help with depression and loneliness.

“Social relationships are fundamental to our thriving,” Hawkley says. The fact that loneliness feels so uncomfortable is a reminder to pay attention to and nurture these relationships that can further your happiness.

By Madeline R. Vann, MPH    Everyday Health

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Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+, active and single adults.

SILVER CONNECTIONS WEBSITE:

www.silverconnections.org