(Warning: I’ve seen the episode only once, at the finale party, with a couple of drinks in me, so please forgive any misquotes.)
I had this boyfriend. Years before we met, he dated a woman whom I reminded him of. Both of us smart, abrasive, funny, complicated. And then he broke up with her and married his second wife. (There wasn’t an overlap.) When I asked him why he married her, he said “She was easy.” The girlfriend wasn’t easy. I wasn’t easy. He’s since remarried.
I identify with Faye; she’s willful and interesting and in your face and her version of love is to offer realistic, supportive, compassionate advice and a little pressure to do the right thing. She’s not easy.
In the opening scene of Tomorrowland, Faye talked with Don about fixing his identity problem. He was resistant and a little incredulous. She assured him he wouldn’t be alone. She wanted to help things be right and good for him, help him be a good person.
Megan looked into his eyes and told him he was already good.
Faye wanted them to get to know each other. Megan said they already did.
At the finale, my friend Nathaniel said that Don chose Megan because he didn’t want to be with someone who knew who he was. I’m not sure that’s exactly right. I think Don wants very much to be known, but he doesn’t want to have to do the work. He doesn’t want it to be hard.
Faye is hard. Megan is easy.
I thought Faye in the opening scene said everything right, and I was impressed and moved by her. She took a tortured, complicated man, and instead of being dazzled by the romance of that torture and complication, she gently showed him that he could suffer less, be happier, and have support doing so. That she could be not just loving but helpful.
Don said he’d been thinking about Megan a lot, and I’m sure that’s true; he sees her all day, every day. But he didn’t make a move until after this conversation with Faye, and I think that’s significant. Not that he didn’t want Faye to know him, but that he didn’t want painful confrontations. Ever. He had a hard enough time with the one to say goodbye to Faye.
Whoever said Faye is the kind of woman Don has affairs with, not the kind of woman he marries, had a point. Even while he was flirting with Faye, he was dating Bethany in a more formal way. Another marriage type, Bethany was all of the right things: innocent, beautiful, younger, sophisticated, but she was also a clear Betty clone (down to the name). Don has every reason to believe that Megan is Not-Betty. After all, Megan is Maria Von Trapp, an attentive “mother” to Don’s children. (You could parallel the whole Faye/Megan thing to Sound of Music, but I think my sister would be better at that.) When he saw Megan’s reaction to the milkshake, he was startled. What you have to notice is his body language right before she says “It’s just a milkshake.” He’s tensed up. He’s ready. He’s going to jump in and criticize and scold, but he’s also going to soften. He’s going to intervene. He’s in full-on Betty mode. (And let’s leave aside anti-Betty and pro-Betty sentiment for now; the reality is, we know Betty would have been stern if not livid at that spill, whatever her other faults or fine qualities may be.)
So he sees that she can be a completely different kind of mother, Anna rather than Abigail. The ring he gives her is about the mother she’ll be. (And I guarantee you, Don has a fourth child at the beginning of Season 5.) But when you describe a thing, you also describe its opposite. When you reach for the exact opposite of your problem, you still have the problem.
Roberta and I were just discussing this the other day. In astrology, Virgos are often described as neat freaks, and as hypochondriacs with overflowing medicine chests. I knew someone who was the exact opposite: He was an unbearable, Oscar-Madison-has-nothing-on-me slob, and his medicine chest was compulsively empty. It contained a razor and a bar of soap. Seriously. No aspirin, Band-Aids, shaving cream, NUTHIN. And in both ways, that is equally Virgo. (Astrology books will say this: A neat freak, or the opposite. A hypochondriac, or the opposite. Scorpios are oversexed, unless they’re celibate. Libras are fair-minded, unless they’re crazily impulsive. And so on.) Not-Betty is still a response to Betty, or more accurately, to Abigail Whitman. Don is still living out his unprocessed issues.
Over the past four years, I’ve often seen people ask how it was that Betty came to be married to a man she didn’t know. Why did she make that choice? How could she? I think now we know. Don deep in romance mode is not something we’ve seen before. He’s stunned, knocked off his feet, persuasive, and oh-so-loving. Is it romantic? Yes. Is it sensible? Of course not.
Love is a combination of insane romantic feelings (which are very real), and sane life choices. Joan rejected Roger because she values sane life choices, although she obviously has feelings for him. Don wouldn’t know a sane life choice if it sat on his face, and Megan, well, she’s young and dazzled. This relationship is neither doomed nor blessed, it’s truly a time will tell situation. They have an unknown period of time where Megan was the receptionist and they barely knew each other, a month where, working together, they got to know each other better (and while this isn’t intimate, it at least breaks them into one another’s personal style), then they slept together exactly once, then about eight weeks passed with only professional contact, then after a few intimate days Don proposed. That is not a relationship. Bad or good or weird, they enter into the unknown together.
But it’s easy.