Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Rhoda Morgenstern

Oh, you guys.

I have got to admit, and I have lamented it in the past, but growing older is really, really hard, because the people you have grown up with start getting, well, even more grown up. I know it is a natural part of life, but illness and inevitable death, is something that our society struggles to cope with. Even when you do not necessarily know someone personally, it can be a really tough realization that you may lose someone.

Even the threat of losing someone can be really, really tough, as well. Last week, news broke that Valerie Harper has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Harper played Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and its hilarious spin-off Rhoda, and even in that awesome reunion TV movie Mary and Rhoda. Harper is Rhoda, and so am I. And so might you be. For so many women, Rhoda stood as an example of strength and hilarity in the big, big business world, and the even bigger world of being a single lady, far before there was a cool song about it. Her fashion sense, her wit, her devotion to her best friend, her love of food–I mean, Miss Rhoda was the original., and all subsequent funny television characters since then have her to thank. All of you Liz Lemon fans, and Mindy, and Jess Day girls? If you don’t know Rhoda, you should get to know her. I am lucky that my mother had the sense to raise me in front of a television. I can never thank her, or Lucy, Mary, or Rhoda, enough.

Thank you, Miss Valerie Harper. I stand beside you, right here beside you. It ain’t over until it’s over. With strength and dignity, I know you will carry on.


1. How to be bold!

There was always a running joke about Rhoda being single (my kinda girl!), but she also had this fantastic way of treating men like they were not entirely necessary in her life. When she meets Joe, her soon-to-be-television spouse, after he notices her accent, she just asks him out. It was like, no big deal if he said yes or no, she still had her pride, and her perfect humility. 

I mean, she just asks him out! What a gal!

2. If nothing else, food will always love you back.
Even in the opening title of her show Rhoda, Rhoda hints at the relationship she has with food:

The first thing I remember liking that liked me back was food.”

I mean, the girl has a point. Food loves me, too. Especially my hips.

3. “Sidekicks” can be just as awesome as leading ladies.

As aforementioned, Rhoda was the “best friend” to Mary on The Mary Tyler Moore Show for years until her spin-off premiered. There are times, however (like with Lucy and Ethel) where the “best friend” role is just as vital as the protagonist role. Rhoda offered a much needed spice to Mary, as well as support, and humor. Don’t count the sidekick out. Where would Batman be without Robin? Where would Bart be without Milhouse? Where would Mary be without Rhoda?

(Though to death, I love Mary Tyler Moore.)

4. And how to be sassy.
Estelle: You’re still unmarried? I’ve been married twice.
Rhoda: She liked it so much the first time! 

Nothing stops Rhoda from sassing, because nothing should ever stop a lady from sassing.

5. Dating is for jerks, anyway.
Alright, if you guys know me at all, or pay attention to anything I say, you know that I hate dating. Like, I really hate it. Like, I really, really hate it. It is not because I am insecure, or not confident, or a hermit or anything, I just cannot stand the structure of it at all. I cannot stand the ask-me-for-my-number, followed by the take-me-out-for-a-drink, followed by the potentially-great-conversation, but probably more like talk-to-a-wall conversation…followed by that terrible “are-we-going-to-kiss-or-not?” moment…ughhhhh, dating is horrible.

And Rhoda so sums up how I always feel about it all.

Mary: You know how it is when you’re dating somebody–
Rhoda: No.

6. How to be dramatic.
Because even when everything is going swimmingly in your life, you never know when life will turn on a dime. 

“You’re having a lousy streak. I happen to be having a terrific streak. Soon the world will be back to normal. Tomorrow, you will meet a crown head of Europe and marry. I will have a fat attack, eat three thousand peanut butter cups, and die.”

But to be real, if I got to choose my way out of this life, three thousand peanut butter cups would likely be involved.

7. Fashion is what you make it.
Man, I cannot even talk about how awesome Rhoda’s sense of style is, I am just going to have to show you.

Who wouldn’t want to dress exactly like this unique, head-scarf-loving beauty?

8. Marriage is…kind of boring.
After the first two seasons of Rhoda, the producers apparently had a hard time writing story lines for a happily married Rhoda Morgenstern. Since Rhoda was such the funny “single girl” throughout The Mary Tyler Moore Show, there was little to talk about when she was married and happy to ol’ Joe. So what did they do? Separated Rhoda and Joe, though much controversy ensued because of it.

And they never got back together, in fact. The show went on without Joe! And you know what? The show will always go on with a strong female character. Men are just like bonus points.

My life motto. Thank you, Rhoda.

9. How to be a best friend.
Mary and Rhoda invented best friendship. They perfectly balance each other: Rhoda’s sass, and Mary’s polite nature. Rhoda led with her heart and her gut…both of those always led her to Mary.

Their banter, their open love for one another, their adventures that lasted years and years. Their support, their style, their protectiveness toward one another, and above all, their relatability, are all the reasons these two define what it means to be best friends.

While I was writing this at the coffee shop I work in, two women sat behind me discussing a situation with a man. One of the women, sweeter and softer spoken (the Mary) was defending her reasoning for flying down south to visit a man this weekend. The best friend, brash and abrasive, but her tone full of love (the Rhoda), berated her best friend for an hour about letting herself–yet again–fall victim to a man’s mistreatment.

I couldn’t help myself. I turned around, introduced myself, and told them they sounded like Annie and Lily in the beginning of the movie Bridesmaids. The ladies ended up telling me the whole story of this man. We laughed, I got a little choked up, and I was so inspired by these women, these best friends, in their 40s struggling with the same dating stuff that I struggle with. Though discouraging that apparently I have nothing to look forward to in the dating world, I cannot help but notice the serendipity in this situation, as I sat and wrote on Mary and Rhoda, I managed to meet a real life Mary and Rhoda.

Best friends, there is nothin’ like them.

10. “If you feel good, feel good. But if you feel sad, come on, just let it go.”
You guys, I gotta let it go.

I feel a little sad knowing that Harper, our Rhoda, is struggling with a cancer that may just end her life.

Miss Harper, for whatever it is possibly worth, know how much you taught us, inspired us, encouraged us. Know how we adore you.

You taught me, in fact, everything I need to know.

Featured image via sodahead.com, “Bold” image via emeraldcity48, all other images via my laptop from a long time ago.