Happy Birthday

 Posted by on September 9, 2010 at 7:18 am  Season 4
Sep 092010

For Don, the conflict of the episode is about intimacy; revealing who he is and sharing that with another human being. For Peggy, the conflict is about who she is expected to be: men’s room or ladies room, career or marriage, what she wants versus what’s expected of her, dinner with Mark or work late.

Speaking of the ladies room, here’s what happens in it:

Megan: How old are you?
Peggy: 26. Today.
Megan: Well you’re doing all right, aren’t you?

Megan is impressed. As a career woman, Peggy’s come pretty far for 26, and Megan, who also has a career, can see that.

Then Trudy comes in. Wham! Slammed with pregnancy right between the eyes!

As they leave the ladies room, Trudy says:

You know, 26 is still very young.

Oh, sure, Trudy meant well. Maybe. (Maybe not, because she’s heard enough about Peggy to assume she’s witty and know it’s her birthday, so maybe Pete goes on about her a little more than Trudy is comfortable with.) But it was a cutting remark; patronizing, “comforting.” Peggy hasn’t gotten anywhere at all, as far as Trudy is concerned, despite her advanced age. Peggy doesn’t have a husband or a fiance or a baby. Trudy is being reassuring.

No wonder Peggy chose the men’s room.


  45 Responses to “Happy Birthday”

  1. Good points! I was unsure about how I felt about Peggy’s remark to Trudy about (paraphrasing) she should be used to kicking from the baby, because of life with Pete. I didn’t think it was witty and I’m not sure Trudy would have felt that way, either. It was IMO, intimate and a touch insulting. It did not ring true for me…I can well imagine Peggy, thinking it, but not verbalizing it. Trudy certainly got her back with her own “knife to the gut” “jab”, on the way out the door to the fight.

  2. Trudy is likely assuming every single gal wants what she has. It’s likely it has never crossed her little shell pink mind that a woman would opt voluntarily for anything else. So, to me at least, she was being reassuring. “You’re still young! There’s still time!”

  3. I’m wondering if Trudy shared Peggy’s witty comment with Pete.

  4. I understood Peggy’s remark about Pete to be the kind of thing a male coworker of Pete’s was likely to say about the situation. But it would be hard to Trudy to accept it as such, because Peggy is a woman. It’s another instance of double standard. What Peggy said fits right in with the way the guys treat her. She can give it back in spades, but it also affects how she reacts to others who are not part of that office vibe. Trudy would expect that Peggy would hold the same values that Trudy herself does – and to some extent, Peggy does, hastening to assure Freddy(ie?) that she does want to be married. But for Peggy, as she says to Don, nothing else seems as important as being at the office.

    Peggy has much more in common with Don than she does with Trudy. The contrast was very clearly drawn in this episode, and you’re very right that the men’s room was a good symbol for it, in direct contrast to the earlier scene in the ladies’ room. It’s possible to think that what took place in the men’s room was far more unpleasant than what took place in the ladies’ room. But it’s also possible to think that Peggy was more comfortable with what was coming out of Don’s mouth than she was with what was coming out of Trudy’s.

  5. Hard *for* Trudy. That’s what happens when I type early in the morning, before I’ve had my coffee.

  6. I never get tired of the look on Pete’s face when he sees Trudy and Peggy together.

  7. BTW, empty your mouth before you click on this link:


  8. #$ Pele: Yes, this is right. From Trudy’s point of view, who doesn’t know Peggy particularly well, she assumes (and she’s not wrong) that other women are interested too in her pregnancy, and she’s really just making small talk in referring to the baby’s kicks. But Peggy makes an unexpected remark comparing these to interacting with Pete. To Trudy, the remark would be not just unexpected but rather presumptuous, maybe even offensive. It certainly threw her off her stride. Why should Peggy, whom she hardly knows, be referring to her husband that way, to her? So she “packages” the comment – sure, Peggy must be a “smart” (or smart-ass), “witty” person known to frequent ad offices – isn’t she one of those “creatives”? Yes, it’s meant to retaliate, ever so slightly, for the offensive remark about her husband, as is her later condescending comment about 26 still being young – young enough to marry and have children. To Peggy, as you point out, her own comment was light-hearted joshing among the guys in the office. Not so to Trudy, who is yet someone else who doesn’t know what to make of Peggy. The exchange was done perfectly, with just the right light touch, unlike any exegesis here which is bound to be overdone in the explanation (sorry for that!).

  9. LOL at Pete’s face when Peggy and Trudy were walking out together.

  10. Peggy hasn’t gotten anywhere at all, as far as Trudy is concerned, despite her advanced age.

    Consider the source. To Trudy there is only one way to “go”, only one path: marriage, ownership, children. (You could actually move all of those stops under the single destination of “ownership”, and she’d probably be just fine.)

    I love the way the writers draw Trudy. She’s terrific … until, suddenly, she isn’t. Just like so many people you and I know.

    (Great post, Deb.)

  11. In the ’60s women were told by their doctors that having a baby after 30 increased the odds of having a retarded child (still called “mongoloid”.)

    Increased the odds so, that it was “dangerously” likely.

    (This is a plot point of a Phillip Roth novel, a woman of 30 he dates is desperate to be married, he even finds the obstetric text book with those passages underlined.)

    Women married — and certainly had children — earlier and part of that was the social pressure to do so.

    I had to laugh at Trudy’s line, because the idea of 26 getting too old to marry and have children is laughable now — but I can assure you, was not laughable then.

  12. I hope that Trudy learns about the Peggy pregnancy somehow – Lord I think that would be great. Maybe Pete lost in thought when she’s holding their new born baby and he lets something slip – “I wonder where my son is….” if it’s a girl, for instance.

  13. Trudy was being snotty to Peggy and that says more about Trudy than anything else. She sees Peggy as NOKD because she grew up in Brooklyn, is Catholic rather than Protestant and actually has to work for a living. She was a secretary and Trudy will always see her as one.

    News for Trudy: the median age for a mother at child birth in 1965 was between 20 and 24. IF (this is just an assumption) Pete and Trudy married at age 22 in 1960, after college graduation, then Trudy is pushing 27.

    Pot, kettle, black.

  14. #11, I think doctors in the 1960s put women in as much danger as anything else. When my mother was pregnant with me, she had trouble sleeping. Her doctor sent her home with Valium. My mother, who had a medical background, flushed the pills down the commode.

  15. Initially, I thought Trudy was being catty but in retrospect I think she was telling Peggy, ‘Don’t worry, you still have time.’ So I think she probably did mean well. As Anne B. (#10) and others said, Trudy is focused on the marriage-and-children angle and she may have thought that Peggy was worried.

    That being said, it’s the kind of remark that none of us really appreciate, no matter what our age.

  16. I assumed Trudy knew about Peggy’s birthday because she’d just overheard the conversation with Megan. I think Pete would avoid mentioning Peggy to Trudy at all, as he’s obviously not very good at dissembling.

    I found Trudy’s exclamation “You’re witty” to be awfully patronizing. Talk about treating someone like a specimen while they’re standing next to you, It was probably well meant but yuck!

    There was also an interesting contrast between Trudy going on about loving “blood sports” like her daddy, and Peggy not liking sports because in was on the tv when her father had a violent collapse. I know whom I feel more sympathetic towards now…

  17. #11 freelancewoman – Until at least the late 1960s, I believe, when a single Englishwoman reached the age of 26, they stamped “Spinster” on her passport. I’m not sure exactly when the practice ceased, but it was clear that 26 was an important dividing line.

  18. Yes, doctors in the ’60s — overwhelmingly men, then, advised women to diet (starve their babies!) gave them all kinds of drugs (like thalidomide, Des) that caused abnormalities, etc.

    In the ’50s, Jacqueline Susanne took “diet pills” (amphetamines) during her pregnancy to keep from gaining weight.

    She gave birth to a baby which turned out to be severely autistic, who was soon shunted away to an institution for the rest of his life.

    Whether or not popping amphetamines can cause autism is another question, but taking amphetamines during pregnancy (can’t remember if it was doctor prescribed) certainly not a good thing.

  19. “Yes, we’re kidding. Happy birthday.”

  20. kturk, Trudy doesn’t have a shell-pink mind at all! She’s incredibly smart and calculating. She strategizes with Pete. She works the corporate wife angle by manipulating her own father to help get Pete the Vick’s account, by pretending to be his secretary when making phone calls, by bringing sandwiches. She social climbs among the charitable set in a way designed to create opportunity. She may not question the job her gender assigned to her, but she is strategic and professional in carrying out that job.

  21. Someone on one of the Mad Men forums recently made the astute comment that Joan and Trudy are ambitious in a different kind of way than Trudy–they’re more content to be the woman-behind-the-man, but within that role, they are very calculating and hard-working. It was the main role that was open to women at the time–much more unusual to be a woman with her own career.

  22. I found Trudy’s exclamation “You’re witty” to be awfully patronizing. Talk about treating someone like a specimen while they’re standing next to you, It was probably well meant but yuck!”

    You have to remember, she barely knows Peggy despite the fact that Peggy has worked at the same company as Pete for 5 years. In the past, Peggy and Trudy probably never had a conversation beyond, “Hi, how are you.” So I don’t think Trudy was necessarily being patronizing. They’ve just never talked extensively so she feels like she is discovering things. (And maybe she wants to know her a little better…)

  23. MadChick (#21) – re a woman’s main role at that time. The show “College Bowl” had been playing for a while, and I remember a team of women from one of the colleges – though of course I don’t remember which one – who were smart as whips and racked up quite a win. When asked what they were going to do with their futures, one woman replied something like, “I am going to marry a politician because, after all, that’s the most influential career a woman can expect to have.” I always remembered hearing that, because I didn’t want to marry a politician, but I wanted a career!

  24. Deborah: Eek. Apparently, I have a different notion of what constitutes a “shell pink mind”. This is a family phrase, a “momism” that has nothing to do with intelligence or ability. In my clan, it means someone of an extremely sunny demeanor and “can- do” attitude, plus a dab of dizziness, that while refreshing, can be a little tough to take before your first cup of coffee. Sometimes I write the way I talk, and sometimes I talk like a goon. Sorry!

  25. And anyway, I was defending Trudy and what I saw as a lack of cattiness. So there.

  26. I thought it was interesting that Trudy sounded EXACTLY like Pete when she said “26 is still young” — both her mannerisms and her tone of voice were like Pete’s.

  27. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cantara Christopher, Katherine Evans. Katherine Evans said: workin' birthday peggy olson style (http://bit.ly/9ezZzH) topped off by magnolia & gym class reminiscing w/ @pettups… happy happy night […]

  28. #12 Kim – I don’t think the sex of Peggy’s baby was ever revealed.

    #17 Pele – OMG Stamped spinster on your passport?!? The label spinster seems like a slight, but maybe it wasn’t thought of in that way in England.

    I don’t think Trudy is an innocent sweet-suzie, she’s calculating and conniving. She was spoiled rotten by her doting daddy. She may not have consciously wanted to hurt Peggy with her cutting remarks, it’s just part of her make up.

  29. I find it interesting how many people have interpreted Trudy’s remark as “catty” but not interpreted Peggy’s previous remark about Pete in the same vein. Peggy can be plenty bitchy and frankly, even at the time of viewing this episode, I thought that was an out of line comment. She doesn’t know Trudy and she also knows that Trudy isn’t familiar with her or her brand of humor. To make that comment was a poor call.

    In terms of what Trudy said, she meant it well. There is STILL pressure for women to get married and have kids at a certain age – it may not be early 20s, but heck, most of the people I know are married or are in long term relationships and they’re in their late 20s. It’s intimidating. I think Trudy was trying to be reassuring – “it’s OK, there’s still time.” And let’s not pretend like Peggy HASN’T contemplated marriage or a family. She wants these things, she wants them badly. But she hasn’t found the right guy nor does she want to sacrifice her job.

    I agree with those of you who’ve mentioned Trudy’s smarts (and made the apt comparison to Joan). She is a tough cookie and she’s clearly fairly business-savvy. And as a girl who also loves sports, I enjoyed her comment about “liking blood sport.” You go Trudy!

  30. I think that Trudy was actually trying to be nice. Some people seem to interpret the mere fact that she is alluding to societal diktats as mean (even though she has not created them), but I don’t think that she meant what she said in a mean way – or rather there was no indication that she meant ill. I agree with #29 that Peggy’s remark about Pete as a baby who kicks was far more egregiously catty (though I do not hold that much against Peggy, given her history with Pete).

    I am afraid that many viewers are more in sympathy with Peggy than with Trudy simply because, despite our so-called enlightened ways, they still think that Trudy is the winner in the contest, and because (to their credit) they like to root for the underdog.

  31. @ #29. Yes. That’s how I see it too. As far as I can see, everyone else just ignored my previous comment (#8). Maybe I wasn’t clear.

  32. @ 22 Madchick: I agree entirely that Trudy’s comments were well meant and entirely appropriate to her slightly mannered country club way of communicating. I still think it’s patronizing, though, despite her intentions. I may be wrong here, but the other way around I can’t imagine Peggy being in the position or comfortable with saying something like that to the wife of a partner (forgetting the Pete history for a moment!). She might say something like: “that’s funny”instead. But I feel like I’m really stretching a point here now…

  33. “Spinster” was used as a technical term for a never-married woman in the UK for a long time, and didn’t have as much of a negative connotation there as it did in the States. It was usually used in Church of England engagement and wedding announcements, where the couple would be listed as “John Smith, bachelor of the parish, and Mary Jones, spinster of the parish,” even if they were both twenty years old. That distinguished them from “Joe Blow, widower of the parish, and Jane Doe, widow of the parish,” who might be the same age but who had been married before.

  34. Peggy’s baby was a boy. If you look back at the Wheel, the nurse says “Don’t you want to hold him?”

  35. @ #30 – I think viewers are in sympathy with Peggy because they know her better. Peggy is a fascinating character who’s trying to ascend without any real precedent for it and in the face of the giant obstacle of sexism and we’re rooting for her to do it. Having said that, I think we sometimes have a tendency to downplay her (and even Don and Roger’s – the amount of sympathy these guys get in spite of their gross behavior always amazes me) faults or mistakes. People are more willing to believe that Peggy’s first comment wasn’t malicious than they are of Trudy’s later comment. One thing I wanted to add, just to piggyback again off what others have said re: Joan and Trudy – there are more ways to be successful in life than JUST Peggy’s way. I want a career, but being a housewife doesn’t mean you’ve “settled” or can’t be a productive citizen. I don’t mean to say that anybody here has said this directly or really thinks this, but I feel like the Peggy vs. Trudy thing has become a “Trudy doesn’t get Peggy, but Peggy is better off” kind of thing. One path isn’t better than the other; they’re different and to each her own. We know that Peggy is unsatisfied with her life as it is. And while I can admire her devotion to her job, I personally did not want her to stay in that office with Don, somebody who had just treated her horribly. It obviously led to some great moments but Peggy has picked up a little TOO much from Don behavior-wise (and/or he has brought out some of her bad qualities such as compartmentalization) and I don’t think it’s healthy. Trudy, as others have pointed out, is smart (hell, she would be a CEO in today’s world most probably) and has business savvy. She’s a large part of why Pete is where he is now. I think she deserves kudos.

    Anyways, if you think objectively about this scene and put yourself in Trudy’s shoes, Peggy’s comment was off base (sorry #31 for not acknowledging that you had written a lot of what I had written earlier). If I were Trudy, I’d be a little weirded out by that comment. In our minds, Trudy’s comment at the end was harsh but if you’re annoyed with that comment, I think you should be similarly annoyed by Peggy’s comment.

    I do wonder what, if anything, Pete has told Trudy about Peggy – we know they talk a lot about office stuff, so I assume he’s said something. The writers seem to have put Pete-Peggy-Trudy back on the front burner after the gap of season 3, which I’m happy about because I think this is a great storyline. I will say that this was one of my favorite scenes the whole episode, punctuated by Pete’s hilarious look of panic/wistfulness when he saw them both emerge from the bathroom. Win.

  36. I have been thinking a lot about your previous posts about Peggy and autism. Peggy’s reaction and expectations for her birthday dinner seem to fall in line with what you were explaining. Peggy expected her dinner to be just the two of them together, sitting at dinner over candlelight. She seemed to have in her mind this set expectation, and she was able to justify to herself staying later to work with Don. Since her boyfriend (I am blanking on the name right now) would be the only one affected, she didn’t think as much about it.

    Her boyfriend also mentions that Peggy said that she has never had a surprise before. Perhaps she may have had a surprise before, but it was so bad of an experience that her family never tried to do it again. According to your earlier descriptions, a surprise would mean something that is outside of the norm and would not be a pleasant experience for someone in that situation. Peggy even says it herself (paraphrasing): “That’s not what birthdays are. Birthdays are two people having a candlelit dinner.” In her mind, this is what it should have been, not a surprise gathering with her family.

    Having learned about this, Peggy becomes belligerent and lashes out at her boyfriend, making it his fault (in her mind) why it ended badly. Add to that Peggy’s personality to not leave anything unsaid, especially if there is some allusion in the conversation, she is ready to say or have said what is hanging in the air.

    I tried explaining your autism post to my husband, but I didn’t have the page handy at the time. He just said that’s not what autistic people are, but after reading your post, that’s all I can see with Peggy’s reactions to the surprise. Do you think you can take an extra look into this and see if you saw/see the same thing?

    (PS first-time commenter, long-time reader/lurker. I just felt the need to post this since I didn’t see any writing by you on this topic this week.)

    • Welcome, Alan! We have many writers; I didn’t write the autism pieces, Meowser did. However, the kind of autism Meowser is talking about, Asperger’s, is often not obvious.

  37. Out of curiosity (I assume this post won’t be published), why is my original message still not posted? It says “under moderation” (I can still see it, but I assume nobody else can). I don’t believe I said anything disrespectful of anybody else; I just made some points about how most people view Peggy so I don’t quite get why my post is being censored even though something else has been posted in the interim.

    • BD, moderation is automatic throughout the day. Sometimes no one is available to check the moderation queue. We all have day jobs. Patience is a virtue.

  38. BD, it takes a while sometimes, for things to get out of the spam queue.

  39. Speaking only for myself re Asperger’s because my sister has it: changes in routine upset her, though now that she is on meds that level out her moods and reduce frustration, it’s not so bad. But she doesn’t do well with surprises, even nice ones. Dining out is a social situation, which can be a challenge to those trying to decipher how they are expected to behave. So if Peggy does have some sort of mild Aspergers, yes, Mark’s change of plans are upsetting. So are Don’s. Hence the back and forth, do-I-stay-or-do-I-go at the elevator. Coat on, coat off.

    Apropos of absoutely nothing, I once had a psychology teacher who was also Mistress of Novices for a small order of nuns and part of her job was to evaluate applicants for fitness to serve. One day she observed a postulant who couldn’t decide whether or not to go up a staircase – I believe she was a washout, lol.

  40. Peggy’s ASD:
    Don calls her into his office, in full dudgeon about the lack of progress of the Vicks ad. He starts and Peggy says–not in correction, she just wants to SHARE–that the company’s name is actually VICK, not VICKS.

    I mean, that’s it, game over.
    Peggy’s got it, her model’s got it . . . or the person writing her’s got it–and may not realize it.

  41. Steve, technically, that could be OCD without the Aspie part; OCD is a feature of Asperger’s. But honestly, you’re right, if my son did that, I’d give him the “Stop being an Aspie for Just. One. Minute.” look.

  42. @20 Deborah Lipp- I agree with you on this. Trudy was raised to be the perfect wife and corporate helpmate. She was not expected to work, but to do everything within her power to help her husband climb the corporate ladder.

  43. I assume Trudy is going to have a girl (and get only half the money from her dad), so that there will be room for Pete to wonder where his son might be. Unlike #12 I don’t expect Trudy to find out anytime soon though. That’s just not the way it usually goes on this show.

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