Gay Men and ‘Golden Girls’ Addiction: A Mental Health Plague on Our Community and the Severest of Severe Afflictions

golden girls

(EB, this is for you:)

On this April 1, we celebrate Spring and celebrate that legal marriage equality is the law of the land, and gay men all over America celebrate, with ceremonies that include Elvis impersonators and chauffeurs to our weddings that turn out to be our exes at the wheel. 

All the more pity, then, that our community is so currently plagued by the severest of severe maladies:  Gay men with an addiction to watching re-runs of the classic NBC sitcom, “The Golden Girls,” which ran for 7 seasons (1985-1992) during the height of the NBC Sitcom Golden Age, which included “The Cosby Show”, created by and starring that legendary male feminist and women’s rights activist, Bill Cosby.

So what exactly is “Golden Girls Addiction” (GGA)?  Take this simple test to find out:  If you have ever seen “The Golden Girls”, you might be a Golden Girls Addict (GGA).  If you have ever laughed at a sardonic quip by Bea Arthur as “Dorothy Zbornak”, or wanted to have a copy of the calendar, “The Men of Blanche’s Boudoir” posssessed by the robustly-libidoed “Blanche Devereaux” (Rue McClanahan), you might be a GGA.  If you admit that you’ve ever chortled at a line by that trauma-survivor of the Great Shady Pines Fire, “Sophia Petrillo” (Estelle Getty), you might also need to admit that your life has become powerless to your primitive urges to frequent and repetitive episode-viewing that is the malady we call GGA. 

Golden Girls Addiction was originally coined by really really smart, credentialed psychotherapist (well, not really, but he had a beard, just like Freud, so that’s close enough) Patrick Starnes, CJBD (Cracker Jack Box Degree).  Starnes, a heterosexual who watched the competing networks’ programming every Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. instead of “The Golden Girls”, devoted his professional life to delivering gay men from this severe, life-destroying affliction.  He developed the STMAGMAGGATA, The Starnes Model Against Gay Men’s Golden Girls Addiction Treatment Absolution, known colloquially as “stigmata”, which is a training certification he offers nation-wide regularly as a continuing education opportunity for psychotherapists, which leads to the Men Gay Golden Girls Addiction Treatment Therapist certification, (MGGGATT, also known as “maggot”) certification for dedicated professionals who share Starnes’ commitment to delivering gay men from their affliction. 

How does GGA develop?  Gay bullying is perpetrated by peers, parents, teachers, community leaders, and world leaders.  All the more reason, then, that GGA develops after witnessing the Golden Girls feature guest-stars that are peers (Debbie Reynolds, Howard Duff, Nancy Walker, Mickey Rooney, to name a few), parents (such as Rose’s party-animal mother and Blanche’s country-star-wannabe Big Daddy), community leaders (Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono), and world leaders (such as George Bush, Sr., depicted as a hand thrusting through the front door of the house currently owned by Blanche Devereaux (who is, by the way, the sister of Clayton, Virginia and Charmaine Hollingsworth, and widow of George Devereaux and their children Biff, Skippy, Rebecca, Doug, and Matthew, who lived at 6151 Richmond Street, Miami, across the street from Harry Weston and his daughters Barbara and Carol and their dog, Dreyfus) (excess trivia knowledge is a tell-tale sign of the severest form of GGA; you need to get yourself to a GGA (Golden Girls Anonymous) meeting faster than Blanche hits the bedroom after a Saturday night date).

While many minorities suffer oppression, from disenfranchisement to outright discrimination to persecution, few minorities experience the relational repression during their formative years as the gay male community. What effect does this have on gay men?  This can result in insufficient emotional regulation and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.  Who among us hasn’t had our more-popular sister visit and manipulate our friends?  Who hasn’t had a sister come to visit and demand that we donate a kidney to her?  Who hasn’t had a same-sex college friend come to visit and fall in love with one of our same-sex roommates?   Who hasn’t thrown a party, invited everyone we knew, and saw the biggest gift was from you?  Therefore, gay men with GGA replay traumatic childhood experiences while viewing Dorothy snapping, “Shut up, Rose”, or Rose indulging in pathological echolalia and Tourette’s Syndrome-like exclamations that characteristically begin statements with “Back in Saint Olaf…”.  Gay men observing these behavioral patterns among idealized inspirational peer person-objects in fabulously-colored Norma Kamali originals ignites a deep-seated addictive process in gay men, appealing to their “inner bitch” in what becomes an uncontrollable cycle of DVR-ing, Netflix-ing, and Hulu-ing that makes our lives unmanageable. 

Starnes, semi-retiring and writing over six books on the phenomenon of GGA and its treatment, inspired five full-time GGA Recovery Clinics near West Hollywood, California, alone, and in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in New York City, the Castro in San Francisco, Buckhead in Atlanta, and South Beach, Miami, whose location features the unique and patented 61-day or 51-day recovery program (so named for 6151 Richmond Street) to establish gay men as being “clean and sober” of GGA in what is called the ENSTP (“Empty Nest Spinoff Titration Program”).  Starnes also inspired the Partners of Addicts to Golden Girls Outpatient Treatments Specialists (or “PAGGOTS”), whose aim is to support those severely-traumatized men who are the partners of GGA and who wake up screaming, “No!  No! I do NOT thank you for being a friend!” after being subjected to the repeated re-runs they have been forced to watch by their GGA partners who beg them to “see the Mother’s Day episode just one more time!”

One of the roots of GGA is an inability to cope with trauma and shame, feelings that gay men struggle with as a community more so than their non-gay-male counterparts. However, gay men’s GGA is no different from straight GGA, which is frequently experienced by middle-aged, slightly overweight, heterosexual women who, not unlike their gay male GGA peers, are frequent viewers of “Lifetime” original movies and bought advanced tickets to “50 Shades of Grey” on moviefone.com and tried to convince their skeptical significant others that it would be “inspiring” for their love lives.  The limits of GGA know no bounds, and the destruction that repeated viewing can bring is lifelong and worldwide, provoking nocturnal cravings for cheesecake. 

GGA among gay men can present with impenetrable (ahem) denial on the part of the gay Golden Girls Addict, who often equates compulsive viewing with personal empowerment, a self-avowed lifestyle choice (ahem) that reflects other hard-won gay rights like the right to imitate another sitcom heroine prone to cause addictive viewing, “Julia Sugarbaker” (the late Dixie Carter) of “Designing Women”, and compulsively chanting along in synchronization to the “night the lights went out in Georgia” speech, causing ear-splitting trauma to their partners, as well. 

But hope is available.  GGA treatment via highly-trained (no, really, we mean it) professionals or 12-step support (also known by the acronym, GGA), can appear as a moralistic judgment against gay male freedoms rather than what it really is: a carefully-moderated guidance to greater freedom and choice in television viewing consumption and the true individual expression of functional and fulfilling gay male values, helping gay men in television syndication markets around the world to shun the isolation of the GGA life, turning off the TV long enough to pursue infinitely more important life goals, such as self-exploration, self-inquiry, and having the courage to pursue interpersonal connections by asking of the well-being of gay male peers on the profound, community-building, gay male fraternal bonding smartphone app, Grindr:  “Sup?”

[Wishing all a happy April 1 — you know — April Fools Day!…]

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