Rita Moreno felt lonely after she moved & made a friend at the supermarket

Family Switch is a holiday movie that just debuted on Netflix starring Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms. It’s basically Freaky Friday, but the whole family switches bodies: mother & daughter, father & son, and in a disturbing wrinkle, toddler & dog. The magical switcheroo seems to be set in motion by Rita Moreno taking a family photo. And that is how we were gifted with Rita talking to People Mag about a recent bout of loneliness (officially a global health issue) that led to an endearing meet-cute at the supermarket:

In an interview with PEOPLE, the actress and singer, who turns 92 on Dec. 11, recalls feeling “so sad” after she recently moved from her house in California’s Berkeley Hills area to a new condominium that she loves.

“It was affecting my appetite,” says Moreno, whose husband of 45 years, Leonard Gordon, passed away in 2010 at age 90.

“My daughter [jewelry designer Fernanda Luisa Gordon] noticed and she said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was wrong,” continues the West Side Story icon. “I really didn’t understand what was happening.”

“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t go on like this.’ I’m in the most beautiful apartment in the world as far as I’m concerned, and this is happening. Why is this happening?” she says.

“I took all my experience in therapy, psychotherapy, and just kind of punched it together and said, ‘What’s wrong? Something’s wrong, and it has to do with you since you moved,’” says Moreno, who stars in the new Netflix movie Family Switch.

It dawned on Moreno that although she has a loving network of friends and family — including her daughter and two grandsons — they’re not all nearby. “So when we make plans to see each other, we have to make plans, they can’t just kind of drop by,” she explains. “I was really lonely.”

“It’s the most fascinating thing to learn about yourself,” adds Moreno, who also realized she didn’t know how to make friends.

“I’ve never had to seek people’s company,” she explains. “You know why? Because people have always come to me.”

“One day I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. I have to meet some people,’” says Moreno. “That particular day when I made that decision, I went to the supermarket to do some shopping, and I ran into a lady who I kept running into, who’s lovely.”

“She had this big smile on her face, and she recognized me, obviously, and we started to talk. I said to her, ‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’” continues Moreno, who said she didn’t even know the woman’s name at the time.

“She said, ‘Lunch with you? Really?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ We went and had lunch,” according to Moreno. “She sat down and she said, ‘Do you always pick people up like this in the market?’”

“I told her the truth. I said, ‘No, but you always have struck me as such a lovely person. Since I’m new here and I don’t know anybody, I thought I’d take a dip.’”

Since then, the two have become pals. “She’s lovely,” says Moreno.

That woman is one of several folks Moreno has befriended. “I also met people from the apartment, the building, who are marvelous,” she says. “I’m so lucky.”

[From People]

The phrasing People went with at the beginning makes it sound like Rita’s loneliness was partially caused by the loss of her husband. May I kindly direct People back to (their own) interview where Rita says she “would rather eat glass” than get married again. Thank you, I just needed to clear that up.

Happy Almost Birthday, Rita! I don’t usually go the astrology route, but everything she says and does here is peak Sagittarius. The bluntness, the self-discovery, the philosophical questioning. Not to mention her casually (and hilariously) saying “I’ve never had to do the seeking before, they’ve always flocked to me!” and “She recognized me, obviously!” Yeah, we Sadges can be like that, for better and worse. I find her so adorable here! “Do you always pick people up like this in the market?” had me howling. I feel like if I tried to make a friend at my local Key Foods, though, it wouldn’t end up in a nice lunch and camaraderie, so much as a mugging. (Is my New York showing?) Hey Netflix, why don’t you make a holiday movie based on Rita’s supermarket story — and cast it age appropriately! That’s a movie I’d like to see.

Photos credit: Colleen Hayes/Netflix, Maurizio D’Avanzo/IPA/INSTARimages, Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/ABACA/INSTARimages.com/Cover Images, Maria Laura Antonelli / AGF Foto / Avalo

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14 Responses to “Rita Moreno felt lonely after she moved & made a friend at the supermarket”

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  1. North of Boston says:

    Fellow Sagittarius here (waves madly)

    She’s amazing, and what a life she’s had and continues to have. And a great reminder that it’s okay for anyone to acknowledge something’s fundamentally wrong in our lives, that there’s no shame in feeling loneliness, and that sometimes seeking connections, taking chances with other people can work out well.

    • Merrrie says:

      I thought it was so interesting during the press tour for “80 for Brady” that during a Q&A about the incredible cast of women’s awards (interviewer would say “Raise your hand if you have an Emmy” and whoever did would raise their hand), that it was never recognized that Rita is the only EGOT winner of the bunch (and. first Hispanic woman to do so). The others talked abut what they were missing, in sweet and joking ways, and she sat there quietly. So classy.

      I could never be Rita because I’d be going, “Me! Me! Me! I’m the EGOT of the group!” However, I have talked to total strangers reading books I like in public and invited them to join my book club, so maybe there’s hope … 🙂

  2. K says:

    @Kismet that is a Netflix movie I would love! It is really hard for some of us to make friends after school age.

  3. Jillian says:

    Another Sagittarius here! Rita is so charming and delightful, big Sag energy here. How do you make friends? Go up to someone who seems nice and ask them to be friends, done! That cracks me up, I do the same thing 🙂

  4. Reddogs says:

    This article made me feel really happy— the power of human connection at all ages is so important. I hope we are so lucky to meet someone in the supermarket when we need connection.

  5. Elizabeth Kerri Mahon says:

    That would be a lovely holiday movie.

    • lisa says:

      they can just keep adding people this way until they have a full table of lovely strangers/new friends. id watch it.

      and if Rita every picked me up in the supermarket id prob die of happiness

  6. RMS says:

    Fellow Rita here and I love this! Growing up, I watched my mother (RIP) talk to everybody everywhere and it would embarrass me to no end that she was so friendly and open. Of course, her funeral was attended by a massive assortment of folks from the town – cashiers and waitresses and people whose lives she touched on a daily basis who appreciated her smile and kindness and greeting. Fast forward to me now and I am EXACTLY LIKE HER! I am fundamentally incapable of walking into any room and not attempting to extend recognition and warmth towards at least one person in there. OMG, we are ALL in desperate need of a good listening to; we ALL seek to be seen and acknowledged. My heart breaks for the loneliness out there because, truly, we are all connected in some way and we are too proud, too shy, too embarrassed-by-our-chatty-mothers to break through and reach others.

    • Rea says:

      Hear, hear!
      That is so true there is a great issue all over the world regarding the connections we make. While technology has allowed the communication to be easier there are less connections people make with others it has stunted the way people befriend others and created a new challenge to how to communicate in person.

  7. Amee says:

    Of course I love Rita. She and Jane Fonda should do something together since they look alike in pictures at this point.

  8. Feather says:

    I can relate to the loneliness feeling. I would bet a lot of us felt that during the COVID lockdown.
    I for sure felt it. Though I had my husband and young son at home, I still craved more connections. Not being able to go to actual work (even now, we are full-time working from home) and not able to talk to anyone really brought a very depressing episode in my life.

    I am glad things are over, though, I still wfh, I go to the gym, I have made hiking buddies, and have upped my socialization a bunch. I now actually realize how alone our older retired folks must feel at all the time.

  9. Blithe says:

    This story reminds me of living in NYC. I’m naturally shy, but when I lived in New York, I was always meeting people in stores and at bus stops. Some of them even began to feel like regular encounters— although we never progressed to lunch or coffee. I really loved that — having chatty neighborly relationships. Good for Moreno — for creating “lucky” opportunities and relationships for herself!

  10. Bean says:

    My friend was her neighbor and I can see her old house from my house (she still owns it, she’s renting it out to a Golden State Warrior). She moved into a complex in Lafayette so she could walk everywhere. Very smart to do when you no longer want to drive. I shop at that Whole Foods, maybe she will pick me up! I got all giggly inside when I met her at my friend’s house.

  11. Ivan says:

    What a great story! Im a big Rita fan and this really was a great read! Thank you Kismet!