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February 2, 2017

There’s Something About Mary…

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Damn she was funny. I can remember a bunch of us guys gathering in the basement dorm to watch the series. It had a couch, several chairs and the television set.


The couch was used when one of the guys were "busy" and the other roommate had to find a place to sleep. Everybody was in love with her, hoping to find a girl just like Mary. It was the heyday of some of the best television ever written. All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show were the top rated shows. All of us left after The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Carol Burnett was not a program for young college males. Besides, we went out looking for – or picking up – our dates, somebody we hoped was just like Mary.


According to the media last week, she broke many taboos on television. A single girl going to the big city, a mention of a person being gay and the idea of a working girl could "make it on their own." But we didn't care about such things. The girls we were with were expected to find a job, husband or not. They were mainly teachers, but I guess we should have realized the implications of why we really loved her. She was a class act, and everybody knew we would never find a girl like Mary.


Rhoda, the lady who lived upstairs from Mary, was the girl we knew we would end up with. She had a big mouth along with a big heart and told everybody what she thought. Most of us, in that dorm basement, broke down and laughed whenever she appeared against the icon. I didn't know she was Jewish, and neither did anyone else as the thought never occurred to us. Ted Baxter was a professor we all had, while Sue Ann Nivens was the local slut and Cloris Leachman was the dorm mother who stood over the girls we dated. All together the show combined a rich tapestry of characters that have never been repeated and which college males could identify.


Of course, the best episode I remember seeing was "Chuckles Bites the Dust." I had been in the Peace Corps and returned with a broken leg, arm and a few ribs. I watched the show while recuperating at my parent’s townhouse in Ocean City. It was hilarious and I became reacquainted with Mary after a three year absence. The same feelings returned. I wanted a girl just like Mary.


Time passed, a marriage, children, jobs and Mary slipped into my past with the exception of an occasional rerun that I would catch a glimpse of on television. Then she blanked out completely until her death was announced last week. The memories flooded back as I sit here in Borneo.


I have my Mary now, in the form of a Malay girl from across the river. She is like her in many ways and I do love her dearly. It took a long a time, but I finally realized my dream from a dorm basement of so long ago.


...Life is good. . . . .


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