Not That You Asked: Betty Draper Edition
Since this summer, when Mad Men’s dizzying ascent into the collective consciousness reached Harry Potter-levels of ubiquity, I have taken every possible Mad Men themed internet quiz that Facebook, AMC, or its affiliates could devise. All purported to answer the question of the moment: Which Mad Men am I?
Their findings were unanimous.
I am Betty Draper.
This came as no surprise to me.
Certainly, we have our differences: Betty is a gorgeous blonde wasp who rides horses and finds it difficult to express her emotions; I am a markedly less gorgeous brunette Jew who is afraid of any animal larger than a breadbox or smaller than a human hand (my most severe terror is reserved for elephants and mice, who intriguingly, are supposed to be scared of each other) whose lack of emotional restraint borders on the pathological. Betty was a high fashion model in Italy in the 1950’s; I was once a hair model at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Omaha in 1994. Betty chain-smokes; my compulsive behavior is limited to looking for things to buy on the Internet and consuming tiny pieces of cheese. But we have more in common than might at first meet the eye. We both were married at a young age to successful, ambitious, sometimes mysterious men who work in advertising. We both spend most of our days at home, feeling nostalgic for the road not taken, wondering if this is all there is. We both like clothes, admiration from men, and passing judgment on others. We both drink a lot during the day.
In fact, my identification with Betty Draper is so complete that I recently suggested to my husband that I start a blog about her situation from a modern perspective. “You know,” I said, “Like, Confessions of an Ad-Wife. Betty Draper 2009. What do you think?”
I half-expected him to be overjoyed with the idea of his personal life and career being turned into public fodder in the pursuit of my own fame and fortune, like the supportive, puppyish husband in Julie and Julia whose name I can’t remember. Instead his lips turned an unsightly greyish-yellow, the ominous color of foreboding sputum. “I think,” he said quietly, “that if you did that you might not be an ad wife for very much longer.”
“Oh,” I said, deflated. I should have known. Like Don Draper, Ben (if that is his real identity) greatly values his privacy. “Maybe I should just do that other blog I thought of then, the one where I ask homeless people about their sex lives.”
“I think that would be a better idea,” he said.
So Confession of a Modern Ad-Wife is not forthcoming. However, my empathy for the fictional entity known as Betty Draper remains intense and as such, I feel as though I am uniquely positioned to give her hypothetical advice on how to conduct her fictional life. (If any Mad Men staffers who happen to be reading this would like to pick my brain further, for money, my agent at William Morris stands ready to take your calls.)
(WARNING: The following unsolicited advice contains spoilers. Proceed accordingly.)
Betty. Betty, Betty, Betty. I’m not going to recap your various travails here. I’ll leave that to the experts. But I can give you a few concrete pieces of advice (or plot developments, or whatever) that might exponentially increase your happiness. Ready?
1. Fire Carla. I know we’re all supposed to sympathize with Carla, as she is a downtrodden African-American forced to suffer through the obliviously racist comments of her employers, but seriously, what the hell is with her constant eye-rolls? Lady, the Miss-Evers-act isn’t fooling anybody. It’s none of your damn business which dashing Republican campaign operatives are suspiciously visiting your boss. And Betty, having a stable and loving adult in the house with your children may seem like a good idea, but it’s only widening the gulf between what you can realistically provide and what they are coming to expect. As any good talent agent will tell you, the way to handle your charges is to manage expectations.
2. Move the Fuck into Manhattan. You are miserable in the suburbs. You know it, we know it, even Don knows it. You need to be somewhere with lots of fancy hotel bars and department stores, somewhere where you can get your modeling career going again, maybe, and regularly fend off the advances of lascivious Eurotrash. If Don won’t move, then secretly take on the lease of a cheeky pied a terre with whatever money your father left you, and get some damn privacy for once. To paraphrase famed author and meeskite Virginia Woolf, a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is going to resist sticking her head in the goddamn oven. You’ve got the money. Get the room.
3. Sell the Baby to Trudy Campbell. You have a baby. You didn’t want a baby. Don hates the baby. Trudy wants a baby. Trudy can’t have a baby. Pete doesn’t want a baby if he doesn’t know where it came from. Pete is in love with Don. Everybody’s happy. Also, if you choose instead to make the baby a gift, say, for tax purposes, this is probably acceptable.
4. My friend Michael who called as I was writing this suggested that you might invest in some anger-management classes. I screamed that he didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about and proceeded to quietly bludgeon a hole in the wall with my granite mortar and pestle set from Williams-Sonoma.
5. Have the Fucking Affair. Do you know how desperately you need to do this for yourself? Think about it. Don is very hot; the world agrees. But he is a terrible, terrible husband. I know that suffering in silence is what WASP’s do best (as opposed to Jews, who loudly bitch about how silently they’re suffering) but why not suffer in pleasure? And if Don finds out, big deal. He’s not going to divorce you. He doesn’t have a leg to stand on, and a protracted legal battle might drag some things out into the open that he would prefer to stay buried (Dick Whitman). He might even like it–he sure liked it when those Italians were coming on to you. Worst case scenario, post-affair, you’ll be stuck in a tense deadlock of simmering resentments, which, plus ce change, plus c’est la meme chose. It seems you’ve missed The Feminine Mystique, but it’s ten more years until Fear of Flying comes out, and by then, frankly, the quality of your extramarital prospects may have somewhat dimmed. Have the damn affair.
6. If you have to keep the apricot fainting couch, move it away from the fireplace and against the far window in the living room. That’s just common sense. Not that you asked.
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