The Golden Girls 101: Rose Nylund’s Rules to Live By, in 25 Quotes
National Treasure™ Betty White turns 99 years old on January 17, 2021. That near-centenarian age sounds even more epic when you think about how White broke barriers starring as an "elderly" woman on The Golden Girls at the ripe young age of 63.
Betty White’s character, Rose Nylund, was a farmer’s daughter from Minnesota. She may have been naive and clueless at times, but she wasn’t dumb. In honor of Betty’s birthday, here are 25 bits of life advice from the queen of St. Olaf stories herself.
1. Embrace what you have, and be genuinely thrilled about it.
“Boy, if I wasn't going, I'd really be jealous of me.”
It’s an old adage to not take anything for granted, but Rose Nylund swears by it. Well, OK, she doesn’t really swear, but she’s darn grateful for a roof over her head, a nice family, her good health, and even just the simple pleasure of going out to dinner with friends.
2. Love the animals in your life.
“When I was a child, I used to get overexcited and pet the cat too hard.”
Rose adored dogs, cats, minks, mice, pigs, and more on The Golden Girls, and always made sure to do her best to protect them and give them a good cuddle when she could. She understood that humans need animals as much as animals need humans. A chicken even saved her life once.
3. Dance at every opportunity.
“Have you ever heard of something called dirty dancing?”
Whether it was tap-dancing for a show, doing flips in a ballroom, or dirty dancing in the living room with Blanche's hand on her behind, Rose wasn't afraid to let loose and show everyone else what was what.
4. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something.
“I don't understand how a thermos keeps things both hot and cold.”
Really, who does understand how a thermos works? There’s no shame in vocalizing that you can’t grasp a concept—it’s the only way to learn! Rose may have been written off as a ditz, but she arguably was the one who learned the most out of the four girls, simply because she asked the most questions ... even if they were kind of dumb questions.
5. Know when you need to take a break from the world.
“I feel like crawling under the covers and eating Velveeta right out of the box.”
Everyone has a crap day once in a while—even cheerful, optimistic Rose. If you don’t take the time to feel your feelings and sit with your discomfort, you’re never going to truly move on from them. So be gentle with yourself and take a break every now and again, whether you do it by indulging in a hunk of Velveeta or a maple syrup honey brown sugar molasses Rice Krispies log.
6. Find yourself a lover who knows what you like.
“He's sensitive, he's caring. And he thinks I'm neater than hard salami.”
The best part about dating is connecting with a partner who truly gets you. Whether that’s knowing that you’re really into role play, for example, or that you enjoy entertaining yourself with hand puppets, or that you have a taste for cured meats, a lover who knows you well enough to melt your Häagen-Dazs is a wonderful find.
7. Spend more time having sex than bragging about it.
“Well, it's been my experience that people who talk about it a lot don't do it very often.”
Even the most casual fans of The Golden Girls know that Blanche is the resident maneater. So it might be surprising to learn that Rose had 56 boyfriends in high school—and she probably would have had more, had she been allowed to date earlier than senior year. (But don't for a second think that Rose slept with any of those dozens of men ...)
8. You always have to keep trying.
“Being near Charlie was nice. But it was five years before I knew what made your eyes go back in your head.”
Rose’s first truly intimate experience with the male form—other than the visual of "what makes a bull a bull"—was on her wedding night with her beloved husband Charlie. Of course, as most people can attest, it’s not usually the first time that makes your eyes go back into your head. You’ve got to keep at it.
9. Ask your friends for help when you need it.
“I might end up almost going to bed with the caterer again.”
When Rose is invited to a wedding when her boyfriend is out of town, she’s worried about what she might do—because weddings get her hot. It’s impressive to know yourself well, and even more impressive to be able to call upon your friends to help you enforce your boundaries. So, if it’s hard for you to resist flinging off your clothes for the first man to tell you he likes jazz, get your friends to bail you out.
10. Certain instances call for being super blunt.
“Sometimes life just isn’t fair, kiddo.”
Rose always tries to see the good in everyone, and assume the best. But sometimes, perhaps when a small child is holding a beloved teddy bear of yours for ransom, it’s appropriate to rip the bear from her tiny hands and shove her out the door while you tell her what’s what. Sometimes life truly isn’t fair. But other times, when someone gets what’s coming to them, it can be deeply satisfying.
11. You can’t control other people, so don’t try.
“If you hold a bird gently, the bird will stay. But if you squeeze the bird, his eyes will bug out.”
It might not be the most eloquent phrasing, but a bird with bugged-out eyes does reflect how people in your life will feel when you try to control them. So just don’t. Say your piece, but accept that your friends, partners, and family members have to live their own lives and make their own choices. And they should do the same for you, when you make the choice to eat candied herring with Red Hots for the eyes.
12. Celebrate aging, because it generally pairs with wisdom.
“The older you get the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.”
When the girls are wondering aloud what it would be like to raise an infant again, Rose reminds them all that aging in humans is to be celebrated. This goes for not only avoiding the pitfalls of parenting the second time around, but for simple things, like knowing that you like making cheese and you don’t like going to thimble museums.
13. Take care of your elders.
“We not only took care of our old people, we revered them, honored them, put them on a pedestal. 'Course, that's how we got to be the broken hip capital of the Midwest.”
Appreciating your own aging goes hand in hand with appreciating the aging of others. After all, at the very least, taking care of elders is an investment in your own future. Rose knows that Sophia, with her years of wisdom, has a lot to offer—even if a lot of it is just get-rich-quick schemes delivered with a side of snark.
14. You can have empathy for people who are different from you.
“I don't understand these kinds of feelings. But if I did understand, if I were, you know, like you, I'd be very flattered and proud that you thought of me that way.”
When Dorothy’s friend (who happens to be a woman) admits to Rose that she’s falling in love with her, Rose doesn’t freak out. She gives her a gentle rejection delivered with honesty, openness, and empathy. Unfamiliarity is no excuse for not being kind.
15. Don’t be afraid to take charge once in a while.
“All right, everybody, now shut the hell up!”
It’s unexpected when a typically demure individual breaks character and blows a fuse, but you know it’s probably for a good reason. Rose is a prime example of someone who stays calm and cool through most things—but when she’s tired of how things are going, she steps up. It could result in her helping to save you from a desert island, or telling a neighbor to drop dead (who then does)—either way, really.
16. It's important to keep an eye on your finances.
“I think I need a new menu. Mine seems to be full of mistakes. For example, it says a small glass of tomato juice is $6.”
Whether it’s sticker shock at seeing juice on a Manhattan hotel menu, encouraging her roommate not to bankrupt her hometown, or starting a second career as a consumer reporter, Rose Nylund understands the power of money.
17. Learn to let your kids live their own lives.
“Humans are the only ones who think it's their duty to care for children their entire lives. We're also the only species who use corn holders that look like corn on the cob when we eat corn on the cob.”
If your daughter wants to sleep with her yutz ex-husband, you can certainly tell her how you feel about it—but you can’t stop her from doing it. At some point, your kids have to grow up and learn how to stick their corn-on-the-cob-shaped corn holders into their own corn on the cob themselves.
18. Step up and settle your grievances.
“You can let two angry mackerel fight it out in a purse, but don't ever plan on carrying that purse to a formal affair.”
Rose’s Scandinavian saying might lose something in the translation, but she knows that you don’t let bad feelings stew. You step up to the plate, sit down, handle your problems, and move on. It’s human nature to want to make up, even if—like Sophia and her sister—you’ve held a grudge for 30 years over a drunken Christmas party misunderstanding.
19. Savor the small moments, and try not to rush.
“I'm probably the most patient person you know. Go ahead. Try to think of somebody else. I'll wait.”
The constant St. Olaf tales of churning butter and homemade snickerdoodles make it clear that Rose cherishes her happy childhood memories, but also show that she knows how to slow down and savor the little things. She also knows how to enjoy a nice souffle at dinner as she waits for a date who can’t get it up.
20. Flirting can be quite fun.
“Wanna see some Polaroids of me in my tennis skirt?”
Rose wasn’t afraid to show a little leg or wear an outfit to highlight how she had the fullest bosom of all of her friends. (She wasn’t shy about shaking her assets on the dance floor, either, as seen in the video above.) So never be afraid to flirt a little.
21. Revel in a thrilling adventure every now and then.
“Oh, there is nothing like skydiving. I mean, soaring through the air, the freedom of it, the whole idea of plummeting toward a pasture and watching a cow get bigger and bigger.”
You don’t have to go skydiving to insert some adventure in your life. Rose, for example, has been known to eat raw cookie dough and run through the sprinklers without a bathing cap. The point is to nudge yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while, even if it might result in a stomachache or a broken leg.
22. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and start fresh.
“It won't be long before I meet nice people and make some new friends. I have a real good feeling about that.”
After her kids moved out and her husband died, Rose took a chance and moved halfway across the country from Minnesota to Miami without knowing another soul. Flash forward a few years later, and she met the greatest friends of her life—Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia—by answering an ad for a roommate. If you don’t take a chance, nothing happens in life. Go for it.
23. You can be proud of your accomplishments but still stay humble.
“I’m not one to blow my own vertubenflugen.”
Rose is pleased with herself for (among other things) her culinary achievements in updating obscure Scandinavian food for the 1980s, but she’s not going to be a super braggart about it. No one wants to hear about your Geneukenfleuken cake or bowling win as much as you personally do—so cherish it yourself, and keep the trophy in your bedroom.
24. Don’t knock where you’re not from.
“Maybe we don't have French boutiques and valet parking and facelifts for Christmas vacation, but we have friends and family and a sense of community and caring, and that's pretty special.”
The Midwest, where Rose is from, gets a bad rap—particularly from folks who hail from places thought of as more “worldly and sophisticated.” It’s a pretty standard lesson to not knock something until you’ve tried it, and even then you can appreciate that it might be someone’s else’s idea of a good time. People are different and are from different places. Get over it!
25. Forgive and forget. Life is super short.
“I can't stay mad at my best friends. After all, we've eaten over 500 cheesecakes together.”
Sure, your best friends will make you angry sometimes. But why hold onto the negative? By focusing on the positive, you’ll stretch out time to make it feel even longer than this wild life we’re given. Be sure to thank your friends for being your friends every chance you get.