02 August 2010

oh, bets.

Life has changed since the days of Betty Draper.

If you don't watch Mad Men, please begin. Sooner rather than later, so that I can have Mad Men-informed conversations with you. If you don't watch it, I can guarantee that at dinner parties (which will not die! because I throw them!) in 20 years, you will miss out on many an allusion. And that is always a pitiful moment.

[For example, the smartest man with whom I've ever had supper (and luckily get to sleep next to every night...), was never allowed any television as a child, and so if anyone says "Oh, that's such a Kelly Kapowski"
or even "yada yada yada",

he's as lost as a small puppy on the Natchez Trace. It is sad.]

Mad Men will be for our grown up generation what Saved By the Bell was for us during our middle school years, and what we thought we were in on with Seinfeld, when really were just babies.

But way, way more important. Mad Men is culturally revolutionary. I said it - here in 2010 - write it down. If I'm wrong, I'll bring you Monday Muffins. Remind me, in 2030.


If you watch Mad Men (and now that I've lectured you, you do, correct?), you will be amused/horrified/interested by Betty Draper's parenting. Many aspects of Betty Draper are interesting, but the parenting is (and no, I don't think it has anything to do with the fact I'm also a parent....) the most noteworthy.

Here is a scene that encapsulates most of Betty Draper's well, Betty Draper-ness.

Please. Take 80 seconds out of your life and watch it.

And laugh out loud.

Anyway, whilst watching Mad Men, if you are an adult, you will undoubtedly compare your station in life to those on the show. If you are a professional guy, you'll look at Don, Pete, Roger and the gang and say "gosh - life isn't really like that" and if you are a professional gal, you'll look at Joan or Peggy and think the same (and be thankful, i hope), and if you are a homemaker, you'll look at Betty and friends (although the friends are rare) and think "Oh My Heavens!"


We fantasize about life being like the 50s and 60s sometimes. We think back to men who kicked ass through a 3 martini lunch. We think of women who either shattered the glass ceiling or made their homes in an incomparably perfect way- and they were always dressed to the nines and ready for a good roll in the hay.

Well, bull butter.

I am not Betty Draper esque, and have no desire to be. This lack of desire comes not from a desire to be "equal" or a desire to be at work or a desire to be respected for my brain. I mean - all of those (especially the first and the last) are things I would not be able to deal with the lack of if I lived a Betty Draper life, but that's not it.

The reason I'm not Betty Draper is because Betty Draper sucks. [Excuse my french. The only suitably descriptive alternative I could come up with was "blows" and please tell me that's better?]

Betty Draper is an abysmal wife, a bordering-on-criminal mother, a fairly awful all around woman, a terrible friend, and a repulsive employer.

Being beautiful, even perfectly like Betty, is nice. It is not something I'd pass up. But it ain't worth jack if your marriage and your children are swirling around the toilet bowl. She is always waiting with dry roast beef and a bourbon? Kiss my tail, Betty. Why don't you try listening?

So, clearly, Betty tends to infuriate me.
I bet....
If I were a bettin' woman....
That there are people - men and women - who covet the Betty Draper put togetherness. The 'hello - thank you so much for calling on me - would you like a cigarette?' smile. The 24 inch waist.

Well, tonight, I was standing in my kitchen. Glass of wine in hand. Stirring vigorously at a very, very yummy meal for the family. And I dared, for a moment, to compare myself to Betty.

The biggest thing that differs me from her - gosh I hate to admit this - is that Paul Forster is not Don Draper.

I was stirring this yummy meal and whilst I was doing this, Paul was quizzing Ada Brooks on Robert E. Lee, feeding sweet Collins, and trying to harangue Eason into picking up toys. Paul came home from a full day of various kinds of work, poured my glass of wine (and gosh, it never occurred to him or to me that I should fix him a drink), and started his work around our house.

I am married to a man who is fully aware what my hair looks like unbrushed, who does not sleep in pajamas, who does, in fact, sleep with me each night. I am married to a man who knows exactly what is going on in each of his children's lives. He says, "How long was each person's nap today?" rather than, "Why didn't you get Carla to take care of that?"

[If you don't know who Carla is, you haven't watched enough Mad Men, and so our relationship is doomed.]

So, for you men out there who secretly covet Betty Draper. And don't pretend you don't exist. Fine, you can have her. But be prepared for the following.

1) Hire daily, full time, just short of live-in help.
2) Give up on your children being attended to intellectually, spritually or emotionally. To be Betty Draper, one must say what she says once a show, "Go watch television."
3) Give up on a wife who cares about what is actually going on with you.

For all you women who secretly envy Bets, well, fine, but

1) Give up on a husband who knows or helps about your life with your family. Why? Because if he knows, then you cannot keep up the facade of perfection.
2) Hire daily, full time, just short of live-in help.
3) Buy a bigger television - the kids will need it.

All this boils down to one principle. We women, who are at home, now have our husbands respecting that position. Which really tends to ruin the whole cigarettes and perfect hair thing.

Dammit. If only we could go back to the good ol' days.


  1. I've been hooked on Mad Men since the beginning of season 2 - we watched the season 1 marathon and have DVRed every ep since. I, like you, used to be horrified by Betty's mothering. And I still agree that it's abysmal. But when you were talking about us - full-time moms - comparing ourselves to our counterparts on the show, I thought about what I realized while watching the show these last few years: we've come a long way, knowing not to drink or smoke or let our kids put plastic dry-cleaning bags on their heads (at least I hope), but the biggest difference is that most of us are doing this by choice. We have arrived in our current positions via a totally different path than Betty Draper.

    We both graduated from a 4 year university, which I know was simply expected of me (and I assume of you, too), but which was the exception rather than the rule 50 years ago. We both worked, and when we chose to stay at home with our children, it was truly a choice - not the ONLY option, like it was for women of most social classes in that era, once they became pregnant. Betty's parenting reflects her lack of choice or options - she doesn't want to be a mom or wife, she feels trapped, and she takes that out on her family. She was a model and living it up in NYC, then she got pregnant inadvertently (which we've also both experienced), but unlike us, she didn't have choices. They got married and moved to the suburbs and had more kids - which might be a perfectly nice choice now, but the point is, we HAVE a choice. I think it's a lot easier to be happy and devote yourself to your family when you're not feeling trapped and miserable every day.

  2. hey, you, i've seen lots of seinfeld, and it was actually george costanza's girlfriend that says yada yada yada.