the last to know…

by Bella Rum

Now you know how uncool we are. We must be the only people on the planet who own a television and haven’t watched Mad Men. I’ve heard all the chatter about it over the past four years, but we never watched it. After listening to someone rave about it for the umpteenth time, I finally set the DVR to catch it. The first season is running back-to-back episodes now. Since H can’t do anything but lay around, we decided to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course, you already know that Mad Men are high-powered advertising executives. The rest of the cast is fleshed out with fetching secretaries and repressed wives. They recreate a fairly believable version of the sixties and all its social woes and inequities.

I must mention the smoking first. Holy cow! Everyone smokes. All the time. Even the women. I find this interesting because my mother NEVER smoked in public, and she wasn’t what I’d call a “real” smoker. In fact, I’ve seen very few people who smoked the way she did. My father hated smoking (probably because it was her vice and not his) so she didn’t smoke until he went to work. Isn’t that so mid-century? He worked the night shift and she smoked  one cigarette after he left the house. That was it. He knew she smoked. She just didn’t do it around him because he didn’t like it.

She also smoked around friends who smoked, but only when they were actually smoking. It was clearly a social thing for her, and there was no addiction, or – and this is the first time I’ve ever thought of this – maybe it was a passive aggressive way of pricking Dad. Why does that make me smile? I guess because, like many men in the fifties and sixties, he was “The Man” of the house. Golly, this is a revelation as I’m writing it.

Mad Men smoke all the time and talk about cancer as they’re doing it. Of course, “the studies” are new and inconclusive and they choose to whistle past the graveyard. After all, Lucky Strike is one of their biggest clients. They drink, too. At work. Don Draper has a fully stocked bar in his office. I’d have to take a nap.

A child of the fifties and teen of the sixties, I’m intrigued by the sets and wardrobe and hair styles. Even the ring tones of the phones sound exactly as they did back then. I haven’t heard that exact sound since the sixties. Divorce is a rare animal and a pretty divorcée who moves in down the block is looked at with curiosity and wariness. And the way the kids are treated? One guy slapped a child who didn’t belong to him. Oh, my. The wives are repressed and the men are sleeping with the “girls” at the office who hope to snag a catch and are devastated when plans go awry. Pass the Valium, please.

Apparently they didn’t know about suffocation by plastic bags yet.  My favorite scene in the first season is when little Sally and her friend are playing spaceman.