A few years ago, my friends and I invented a party game. The rules are as follows:
• Pick any actress who starred in a 1970 or 1980 sitcom and at least one Lifetime movie. She will be your persona.
• Then, select an actress from the same time period you’d like to be your girlfriend.
The game was created one evening when we had nothing else to talk about.
This tends to happen when you’ve been friends for a long time, and you’ve entered your middle years. You’ve said everything that needs to be said years ago. You can’t even gossip about anyone anymore, because everyone is middle-aged, and settled into stable and dull relationships.
So, one night—while drinking, of course—we invented the game, and the whole party perked up.
I quickly chose to be Valerie Bertinelli before anyone else could grab her. I’m proud to say that I remember every major plot turn of the seminal sitcom classic One Day at a Time, and I share a vague resemblance to Bertinelli.
My friends picked such classic B-actresses as Diana Canova (Soap), Lindsey Wagner (Bionic Woman), and Valerie Harper (Rhoda).
When one friend refused to play the game, we threatened to make her Mindy Cohen from Facts of Life, and she quickly chose Loretta Swift (M.A.S.H.).
Now, here’s the fun part: selecting a girlfriend. This is where our true personalities really emerge.
Take my friend, Greta, for example. She usually chooses Linda Evans (Dynasty), or some other prime-time soap hussy, who would be good for sex, but not much else.
These are actresses who always play the victim in Lifetime movies. Their daughters sleep with their boyfriends. Their husbands leave them for younger women.
This perfectly reflects Greta’s romantic choices in real life.
My friend, Stacy, on the other hand, goes for tough, saucy ladies—like Heather Locklear—who slip poison into their rivals’ drinks, and eat up lovers as if they were animal crackers.
The first time I was asked to choose a TV love interest, I asked the following question: “Are we picking wives or girlfriends?” After all, there’s a big difference. My romantic life has seesawed between the two—six months with a passionate nutcase, followed by two years with a nurturing woman who possesses a low libido and a talent for folding my laundry.
For a girlfriend, I’d choose Shelly Long (Cheers), who possessed the chilly pretentiousness and mental instability that I look for in a short-term fling.
And I’d select Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) as a wife, because anyone who could put up with Darren #1 certainly would be delighted to be married to me.
“It’s true,” Greta said. “No one woman possesses everything. They are either girlfriends or wives.”
This fact thoroughly depressed us, until I had a stunning realization: Such a woman did exist! And she met all the qualifications: sexy and stable, smart and nurturing. And the only woman in history to look fetching in a shag haircut.
“Suzanne Pleshette!” I proclaimed. “The perfect woman.”
We all agreed, and immediately began squabbling over which of us got Pleshette as our fantasy lover.
When Pleshette died on January 19, 2008, we were bereft, and each of us laid claim to widowhood.
Pleshette gave us hope that somewhere, there’s another Emily Hartley—a woman who laughs at our jokes, cooks great dinners, gives us hell when we deserve it, and appreciates the power of fine lingerie.
Hey! I wrote a book. You can buy my novel Dateland on Amazon.com.