I'm a humorist.
I'm a girl.
Because these things are true, the importance of someone like Mary Tyler Moore in my life cannot be overstated.
She didn't plan to become an icon, but lucky for me and many others, she did. This allowed her to be present for many important years of our lives: times when we were learning what it meant to be a girl; times when we were wondering if it was OK to be funny while being female; times when we were worried about being single; or times when we were wondering if we could do all of this and somehow maintain our dignity. What about when we needed a role model to see when it was OK to *not* be dignified? Yeah, she was there for that, too.
My favorite memory when I think of Mary Tyler Moore is a time when I was watching an awards show telecast in Nineteen-seventy...I dunno. Television hey-day, if you will. She was up for an award and Carol Burnett was nominated in the same category. They announced a tie. Carol was announced as a winner, gave a short thank you and then opened the envelope to see who the other person was.
It was Mary.
Carol Burnett looked up from that envelope and just said "Mare," as she looked down into the audience and gestured for Mary Tyler Moore to come up and get her award. That's what she called her, and that's all she even needed to say--everybody knew who she was talking about and knew that where went Carol, there was Mary. Perhaps they competed, but at the same time, she were joined, supportive, and appreciative of each other. It was all in good fun.
Together, they taught me a lot about the importance of supporting other women, and, by extension, anyone out there doing something that someone in their demographic doesn't normally try to tackle. In a world where Mary Tyler Moore was criticized and censored for wearing pants instead of a skirt on a TV show, she managed to still be smart, funny, and modern. Working within pre-set boundaries of a male dominated business, she excelled.
This is what I grew up to.
When she became Mary Richards on TV, she went from being a TV wife to a woman making it on her own. There was no divorce story line, no, "her husband died, so here she is all by herself." She was single, but it wasn't presented as some tragedy. It was so freeing and refreshing. There were story lines with men in them, but the real meat of the show was not her as a spouse or girlfriend, but her as a career person with her friends and her co-workers. They didn't criticize the idea of having a spouse or boyfriend, it was just secondary to having her own life as she chose to live it.
By the time I was in my own broadcasting career, it was well established that women did not require a male counterpart to be OK in this world, and part of that was due to Mary having the courage to do that on TV. Funny, intelligent women paved the way, and allowed me to push boundaries of my own. It's a debt I can never repay.
Tonight, I'll lift a glass to that woman, and all the women she helped by being her. Our female icons are perhaps more important now than ever--great examples of what we can do if we roll up our sleeves and work intelligently within our own situations, however limiting they may seem.
Safe travels, MTM, and thank you.