Becoming Donna Reed

Season 1: Episode 8 – Change Partners and Dance


The episode opens with Mary washing dishes and gazing forlornly into space. Donna comes in and asks her what’s wrong. Mary is not ready confide. Jeff comes in and behaves like a typical little brother and Mary explodes. She says she wishes there were no boys.

Mary and Donna have a heart-to-heart. The prom is coming up and George, the boy Mary likes, hasn’t asked her. Mary is feeling unattractive and spinsterly. Donna gives her advice on getting a man, “Build up his ego so he’ll want to do things for you.” They arrange a plan to get George to the house and then Donna will create a romantic setting for them.

The next day Mary is at the library where George works. It is near closing time and she goes to the check-out desk with a massive pile of books. She feints helplessness as how to get the books home. George offers to carry them home for her.

They arrive home and Donna greets them at the door. She praises George for helping Mary home and then Donna and Mary fawn over George. Donna goes off to make lemonade and she tells Mary to turn on the hi-fi. Donna comes back with the lemonade and suggests that George and Mary dance. George confesses he cannot dance and that last time he went to a dance his friends made fun of him. Donna tells him that Mary can teach him to dance and they tentatively begin dancing. George steps hard on Mary’s foot and she needs to rest. George says he’ll never learn to dance, but Donna takes the reigns and teaches him. He makes remarkable progress. Alex comes home and George departs. Then he returns and asks Mary to prom. Mary and Donna are victorious.

A few days later, Mary is at the library again and she overhears George being teased by his friends about his lady. He said she was charming and a good listener. They mock him mercilessly, but he is gallant. Mary assumes he is talking about her. Then he comes around the corner and sees her. He apologizes that his friends were making fun of her mother. Mary is not amused. George asks to come by later and Mary says fine.

She goes home and hopes to confront Donna but George arrives early. He is dressed in a suit and carrying a box of candy. He thanks Donna for all her support and gives the candy to her. Mary tells him she will not being going with him to the dance and she vents anger at Donna. She goes upstairs. George leaves and Donna goes to Mary. Mary feels like she can’t compete with Donna who always looks perfect and acts perfectly. Donna tries to deny this but Alex comes in and leads her away and tells Mary to have a good cry.

Alex and Donna talk. She acknowledges that George does appear to have a crush on her. She gets an idea how to undo it and arranges to have George come to the house the next day.

When George arrives Donna is in old clothes, her hair is disheveled, and she is in a foul mood. She snaps at George and calls Mary selfish. George defends Mary and calls her, “The sweetest girl I know.” Mary overhears all this. It is clear that George’s infatuation with Donna is over. Mary comes down and agrees to be George’s date to prom.

George comes to pick up Mary and, though Donna is back to her radiant self, he only has eyes for her. They leave for the dance. Alex turns to Donna and they have their own dance as the episode draws to an end.


Charm is like a lightbulb, sometimes you need to turn it off and conserve energy.


Oh Donna, your charm is too powerful and sometimes you are the proverbial bull in the china shop. Fragile objects, like teenage boys, can not survive a brush with your feminine wiles. Just because you CAN bend all creatures of the male persuasion to your will does not mean you SHOULD.

Now, I cannot claim that I possess one-eighth of Donna’s charm so I don’t think I really need to worry about poor, helpless males falling at my feet. However, this episode touches on something that has been bothering me for sometime – behavior and context. As our society has become more progressive and more liberal, things I am usually a supporter of, we seem to have lost sight of context.

We  have adopted a “this is the way I talk, act, dress and I am going to talk, act, dress this way wherever I am” attitude. While I fully support being proud of who you are, I think there are times when we need to turn down the volume on our self-expression amplifier and  become background music. We can’t always be center stage. In recent years I have experienced cringe-worthy behavior at bridal showers, funerals, and weddings. I have also been baffled by incidences at concerts, theater events, and museums. I mean really, why would you wear a long white dress to someone else’s wedding? Isn’t it common knowledge that the bride is the one in the white dress that day?

It is probably the old-fashioned Yankee in me but there are some traditional rules of etiquette that I hold dear. For instance, I still like to dress for the theater. If you are paying $80 or more to go to a show, why not make it a special night? I am not necessarily suggesting donning a ball gown, though I’m not ruling it out either, but how about a pair of nice pants and a blouse or sweater. It kills me when I am in an ornate theater and people come in looking like they just finished chopping wood. It breaks the spell. Don’t get me started on baseball caps. I think I’d like wear Mary’s prom dress next time the occasion allows.

I am trying to learn my new city. There is clearly a more laid-back aesthetic here than I am used to. I am afraid that right now I am the one out of context. I suspect I appear to be the uptight easterner. Donna needed to learn when to turn down the charm, I am having to learn when to turn down the formality, both in my attire and in my behavior.

Plan of Action

I still believe that there are certain standards of dress and behavior for certain situations, but I will try not judge others who appear and act otherwise. I seem to be in the minority anyway. But I do reserve the right to judge harshly anyone who wears a wedding -like dress to someone else’s wedding. That’s just tacky.