When I was nine years old, my favorite color was green. The walls of my bedroom were painted light green like a lime Necco wafer. I had requested green carpet. Bright green like a golf course. But I ended up with a shag rug peppered with different shades of green.
I had two posters. One was a blacklight poster featuring a psychedelic version of Mickey Mouse. What can I say? It was 1976.
On the back of my bedroom door was a Laverne and Shirley poster. The picture was from the opening of the iconic television show. Shirley was pedaling away on an old bike, and Laverne was sitting on the seat, her arms spread wide as if she might perhaps take flight.
Laverne and Shirley was my favorite television show back then.
I saw pieces of myself in Laverne DeFazio. She was a tomboy like me. Never underestimate the power of seeing pieces of yourself in a TV show, a movie, a book.
Laverne could hang with guys. If you were picking teams for a baseball game, she would be your first or second pick for sure. Same for bowling.
Laverne was funny and loyal, especially when it came to Shirley, her best friend and roommate. She had a hard edge to her but a softness inside.
She was boy crazy in a loud, demonstrative way in much the same way that I was because I thought that’s how girls were supposed to be. Voh-dee-oh-doh-doh and all of that.
I often lament the fact that there was no Ellen on TV when I was growing up.
But there was a Laverne who gave hope to girls like me. A milk and Pepsi chugging tomboy who wasn’t afraid to be herself.
Rest in peace, Penny Marshall. You made the world a better place for girls like me.