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Rhoda (Finally) Reveals That She Was The Mary

To be clear, I love Mary Richards. Even though I’m about to share some hard

truths, nothing can take that simple fact away. I’ll start with how we met, even

though it’s now the stuff of legend. Here I was, a Jewish girl from the Bronx

looking for excitement in the big bad metropolis of Minneapolis (if I’m honest,

and we know I’m always honest, I woke up in Phyllis’s doorway after a

particularly interesting LSD trip with one of my legendarily bad dates and

thought “what the hell,” but that’s a story for another day), looking to make my

mark in the cutthroat world of window dressing. In one of life’s incredible

synchronicities, Mary moved in downstairs just a few months later, bringing

together two fish-out-of-water, both of us finding our way through the swinging

seventies. We laughed, double-dated many losers, shared a lot of salads, and

even picked out new tires together. But over the years, it’s become abundantly clear that the truth of our relationship and our roles have been significantly distorted, and finally, the time has come for me to set the record straight.

The truth is, it was Mary who was the hot mess. Oh sure, she was a snappy dresser and a size zero who never had a hair out of place, but that’s where the glamour ended. Her relentless commitment to cheeriness was one of her major downfalls. “Mary,” I’d say, “No man wants to be married to little Mary sunshine. You need an edge! For once, ask for what YOU want!” And she would bow her

head and agree miserably. It carried over to her work at the WJM Newsroom too. As impressive as her associate producer title was for a woman back then, she could have risen a lot faster had she ever been able to refer to her boss by his name, Lou, instead of whining out “MISTER GRANT” whenever she wanted to be taken seriously. Poor Mary, she just couldn’t shake her two martinis, put on a

happy face, suppress every need and feeling upbringing. I tried to get her to go to therapy, but she would just smile and wave her elegant hand back and forth and say, “Oh, Rhoda,” while she tossed her tiny salad for one and pulled her sad little piece of chicken out of the toaster oven for dinner.

People think that because I always complimented Mary and told her how much I envied her wardrobe and easy surface attractiveness, that I was jealous. The reality is that I was desperately trying to elevate her self-esteem. Mary used to borrow my fabulous caftans and headscarves when she went out to

the singles bars. I used to send her my cast-offs; you know, the suitable-looking advertising executive types with the dark hair and chiseled features that she always went for even though they were so dull they made me cry. They would date her for a while, but inevitably, the uptight way she carried herself would push them away. She loved my free-flowing spirit and style and how I styled her, but she never quite worked up the courage to go against the sweater sets and mini dresses that defined her youth. It was hard to watch her look at me longingly when I would mooch coffee and breakfast in her apartment a few times a week before we’d go to work when I’d model the latest red polyester pants and peasant blouse that was all the rage in the Twin Cities. At the same time, she would adjust her Peter Pan collar and simple necklace before we both headed off to the salt mines. Once, when I entered a beauty contest at Hempel’s Department store, she was so envious that I could see it in her eyes, but God

loved her, she never said a word and even managed to congratulate me through her tears when I won.

She loved my mother and my entire family, actually since her parents were so buttoned down. I think she found the yelling, fighting, and criticism refreshing, and she used to beg me to let her celebrate all the Jewish holidays with me. It’s a little-known fact, but Chanukkah was her all-time favorite holiday. Mary could put away a dozen latkes with sour cream and brisket like it was nothing, washing it down with a healthy belt of Manischewitz instead of her usual scotch. She loved all things Jewish and thought seriously about converting, but she was concerned that it would upset her parents (classic anti-semites, in my opinion), and she was a real daddy’s girl.

In the end, as much as I loved her, I felt she needed to explore her own identity instead of always latching on to me. It was exhausting to be the voice of reason, always buoying her spirits and trying to convince her that she really could turn the world on with her smile behind closed doors. When I got the

opportunity to move back to New York and design Macy’s Christmas window, I jumped at the chance. In my business, Macy’s is the top of the food chain, and I had my feelers out for a long time, knowing that my unique style developed after four years in the midwest would ultimately get me back to the Big Apple.

I met Joe five minutes after I got to New York, and I knew instantly that he was THE ONE. A lot has been made of how dramatic our wedding day was, but what people don’t know was that the reason I was late was that Mary had a total breakdown, and I, of course, like always, had to talk her off the ledge,

promising her that the day would come where she too would find her Prince Charming. I wasn’t upset with her, but that moment did make me realize that I had made the right decision to put some distance between us. It’s only now that Joe and I have retired and moved to Boca Raton that I’m ready to let the world know that I, Rhoda Morgenstern Gerard, was the actual “Mary” in the relationship. In 1977, I quit Macy’s and started my line of wildly popular scarves, made famous when Diane Keaton wore one to the Oscars. My success afforded us an apartment on the upper west side and this place, right on the golf

course here in South Florida. Thursdays, they do a fabulous steak night at the clubhouse, incidentally. Mary comes down every season for a week or so, and we laugh and shop, just like old times. Even though she never found the right guy, she turned out to be a great kid. As heartbreaking as it was to leave her in the snow on that cold day when we parted in front of Phyllis’s old Victorian, it was all for the best. Ultimately, I knew she’d eventually make it on her own.



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