I watched a couple of episodes of Grace and Frankie when it first came on Netflix. I didn’t like it. After binge-watching Martin Sheen in The West Wing and watching Sam Waterston for years on Law and Order, I couldn’t switch them to these roles as two gay men. But why? They’re actors so did I typecast them as straight? Sexual orientation didn’t come up in roles or was assumed if there was a wife. Here the sexual orientation was the focal point of relationships. So did I need them to act in some way that I perceived was gay? Or maybe it was the 20-year affair and lifetime lie they lived? Or was it that they cheated themselves and their wives out of the life they might have lived? So I only watched a few episodes. Then my friend said the show was funny. Not the first time Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin starred together in a comedy about serious subjects. The two of them with Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 almost 40 years ago. So I decided to binge-watch. After a few episodes, I was buying Martin and Sam in their roles. Better as it went on. But how could these two couples come to understanding? Should it be easier for Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston because they were not only married but best friends? That must be the best kind of marriage. But like losing two people.
In a sitcom, this was the stuff of laughs; but in real life? This betrayal seemed almost too big to handle—marriage, friendship, partners, sexuality, family. When one wife asks if the last 20 years had been a lie, the answer is yes. Yes, it was a lie forced on her. This time around watching, the show was relevant to me. In this story of betrayal and living with lies, it didn’t matter gay or straight; the feelings were the same. Now it seemed oddly funny. And this emergent friendship between two women who hadn’t even liked each other. Priceless. A friendship between two very different women that became as strong as a good marriage. Fights, disagreements, love.
Top it with ageism. Two women trying to find love and romance again when pickings are slim. Making hard choices denying happiness. Trying to start a new company and finding out your product didn’t matter; it was your age holding you back. And then talking about sex over 60, over 70 and any age and then being told to sell it with a lie. No one wants to see two older women. They needed to look younger with breasts. Put a filter on it. A few years ago I mentioned a sexy photo of Helen Mirren in a bathing suit to a young woman. She said, “I don’t want to see that.” Why? Is it fear? At what age does sexy end? Are you afraid to look at the future? And Mirren looked damn good. Better than lots of us.
Months after hating the show, I liked it.