Mind if I Smoke?

I am currently enjoying a summer fling.

No, I have not abandoned my hubby — our life-long fling is still in effect.  Instead I have discovered a television show that is so compelling I find myself unable to stop thinking about it after each episode concludes.

This is not normal for me.  I do not watch TV (except Bravo, and shamefully, Oprah. But we’ve already addressed that).  Whenever a new series debuts on TV and the Emmys start rolling in, the only thing I’m rolling is my eyes.  I just can’t commit to the melodramas and endless plotlines.  Case in point:  I’ve never watched “Lost.”  I realize that admission alone just cost me ten readers.

The show that sucked me in?  Mad Men.  There are no words.

Wait, yes there are:  stylish, witty, dramatic, classic, well-written, visually stimulating.  Oh, and alcohol-soaked.  The drinking on this show is unparalleled.

Plus helllllooooooooooo, even the President loves it.  Which immediately begs the question: does the President like Old Fashioneds?

Don Draper certainly does.  And why not when you can drink in the middle of the day at the office?  Boy, that was a brutal client meeting…who needs some whiskey?

All I have to say is why did this become taboo?  There are no drink carts in my workplace.

Another beyond fabulous thing about Mad Men is the style.  The second-skin dresses and the ultra-wide bell skirts.  Take a look at two of the show’s best characters, Joan and Betty:

Need I say more?

To watch the women on this show is both horrifying and a total fantasy.  They are constantly discarded and humiliated by the men they encounter who see them as nothing more than well-proportioned mannequins.  On the other hand, these women live like queens.  They get fancy Manhattan condos from their working husbands, houses in the country for summers, and they have nothing to do all day but look gorgeous and make sure dinner is prepared by the time the hubby walks in the door.

Forgive me, but that sounds like a walk in the park.

The one thing I cannot get over is the sheer number of cigarettes consumed at all hours of the day.  Cigarettes in bed!  Cigarettes while pregnant!  Cigarettes in airplanes!  No one on this show can complete a thought without lighting up.  Living in Seattle, a city where no one can smoke indoors anywhere, it’s the strangest thing in the world to watch.

Quick!  Count the number of ciggies in this picture!

Given all of this 1960’s behavior, I thought I should go straight to the source to verify its validity.

My maternal grandparents confirmed that this show is not stretching the truth.  For one, both my grandparents smoked for most of their lives.  By the time I was born they had quit, but that ended a 50-year habit.  I like to picture my grandma as Betty Draper, stirring dinner on the stove while trying not to get any ash in the soup.

My paternal grandparents were abstainers; they never smoked.  However, my grandma did identify with the 1960’s regard for safety — her kids sat in the backseat of the car without a seat belt, and no one thought twice about it.

The funny thing about watching Don and Betty interact is that despite being married for 11 years, they are incredibly formal with each other.  She brings him a martini after work, she makes him two-course dinner with candlelight, and he compliments her.  There are a thousand things that remain unspoken, so the non-communication isn’t appealing, but the old-fashioned glamour is.  In today’s world, most women don’t play second fiddle to their husbands, nor wear a dress every day for him, nor do they cook every meal for him.  Normally all of that makes me cringe, but watching it play out forces me to realize there is something charming and desirable about going back to that, if only occasionally.

Case in point:  the other day I thought I’d play Betty Draper just for fun, since I got home before Mike did.  I started cooking dinner and when he walked in the door I brought him a beer.  At first he looked shocked, then suspicious, like it was a trick his clever wife was playing.  But then, when he looked really happy without any Don Draper chauvinism, I realized that doing this didn’t make me feel like a pathetic Betty Draper, I just felt like a kinder Abby Reph.

Amen, Mad Men!

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