• Gina G. Scala

My Favorite Life and Work Lessons from Mary Richards

George Michael’s death on Christmas Day was a major hit to my teenage memories in a year that also took music icons David Bowie and Prince but Mary Tyler Moore’s death this week has left me even more nostalgic. When I was a cub reporter, the show was on Nick at Nite and I was hooked after just one episode. Who wouldn’t be? Mary Richards was the quintessential IT girl for thousands who watched the re-runs on a cable channel that used to shut down at midnight.

From the beginning, there was something likeable about Mary Richards and her quirky friends. I didn’t need the strong, independent female role models. I grew up surrounded by strong woman who didn’t always do what was expected of them. My maternal grandmother was 29 when she married in 1941 – bucking the traditions of her older sisters who married as teenagers. My grandfather asked twice before and she said no; he always joked he should have stopped after the second time. They were married for 60 years when he died.

Maybe, that’s why it was so easy for me to relate to Mary Richards. She may have been nearly a decade older than I was at the time but she was starting her life from scratch and working in a male-dominated industry. Totally relatable to my cub reporting days at a small weekly newspaper at the Jersey Shore. Drinking on the job - check. My favorite columnist was an old-school newspaper man who didn’t think woman belonged in the newsroom (he was harmless; in his 90s and answered to a female managing editor) and liked to nip from his flask when he thought none of us were looking. All he really wanted was someone to listen to him; I did and learned a lot.

And I learned a lot from watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Here are some of my favorite lessons:

Grab the bull by its horns

Mary doesn’t wait for life to happen to her; she instigates it by moving to Minneapolis after being jilted by her boyfriend and taking control of her life.

No regrets

When it’s over it’s over. Mary said good-bye to her ex-boyfriend on her terms after an unannounced visit from him. When he tells her to take care of herself, her response is perfect: “I think I just did.”

Failure isn’t fatal

Mary never threw a successful dinner party or after-work event but she didn’t stop trying to get it right. Take that lesson and apply it to the rest of your life.

You’re gonna make it after all

Way back when I used to read Cosmopolitan like it was the Bible, there was an article about women managers who felt like frauds in getting as far as they did. That someday; somehow the world would discover they really shouldn’t be in that position. I never felt that way in any managerial position because the Mary Tyler Moore Show taught me I could make it on my own AND they gave me some tools to do it.

Final Thought

I am forever grateful I had Mary Tyler Moore I to relate to at such an impressionable age. Rest in peace, Mary. Thank for you paving the way and doing it well!