Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mad Men and Madder Women

I'm a little bit behind the curve with some things: I've (thankfully) never heard a Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber song; I've never felt the urge to pierce anything on my body; and before Sunday night, I'd never watched Mad Men. Despite being told numerous times that I should. I figured it was kind of like flossing-- everyone says you should do it, but when it comes down to it, if you brush as much as you're supposed to, it's not really necessary.

Well, here I am, bowing and scraping and saying "mea culpa"s and "You were right." That is one hell of a good show. It's smart, and fast-paced, and not too far-fetched while at the same time not being totally predictable. It is, in fact, a very human show-- it showcases the workplace, the home life, families, relationships, how men act with other men, how women act with other women, how men and women act together, and men and women behaving badly, either together, or apart.

In other words, it's truthful and realistic.

When I was in Florence, I realized, for maybe the third time, but the most painful and hurtful time, that the guy I had left behind at home was still seeing the girl he had slept with while we were together. I felt vindictive, and devil-may-care-and-take-the-hindmost, and like there wasn't some glass ceiling for him that seemingly wasn't allowed to me, who had just hit it, and why the hell was that?

It was my friend's 21st birthday, and after lots of sangria, we ended up at a club, with two Australian guys who were in town for the week around Easter. They were great. One of them was cute, and reserved, and funny in that smart way that's more about plays on words and maybe hints at humor than of sheer smacking wit. I was hell-bent on ending that night with him to settle my invisible score; to understand what makes you go from one person to the next; to have more secrets to tack on to my list so that inevitably, when all was revealed in the in digressions on the home front, I would have one more ace up my sleeve, one more circumstance to smack in his face and say, "This is what neglect and looking elsewhere so carelessly and blatantly will get you."

It was, and still is, very petty and childish. "Evening the score" is not exactly the answer to equations like this. But regardless, that night, just as I was about to make my move, my friend Kara appeared at my elbow. "Someone stole my wallet," she said, and just like that, the spell was broken. The Aussie walked me home that night, but in the moments between my insecurity and having to grow up and help someone else's crisis, I realized that my own sleeping around wouldn't solve anything. It wouldn't make me feel better. It wouldn't teach my Lothario anything. And while the Aussie may have gotten a good night of fun out of the deal, he'd be gone the next week, anyway, probably to never be seen again.

So what, then, was it all about? Human beings are remarkably complex. Just as the characters on Mad Men are never truly translucent in their actions, but rather opaque, so are real people. You can see action-- you can watch someone jump ship, bail like a seasoned sailor, and pour themselves from one cup of their life to another for fear of becoming solid or stagnant. You can watch someone slip away from you, or lash out. You can watch someone burn bridges and go down in flames. And you can watch yourself do things you're not proud of, just because you're human, and you can't help it. But the logic behind the actions? That still remains in the dark, unknown even to your own heart.

Seems like we haven't changed that much since the '50s, after all.


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