Let’s talk about Betty

 Posted by on October 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Characters, Season 4
Oct 282010

Betty is wrong and right. She divides fans because she is divided. She’s unsympathetic but she’s a victim of a system.

Amanda Marcotte (whose take on each episode is almost always completely different from everyone else’s) said:

I’m probably the only person left who still defends Betty, or the portrayal of Betty. Obviously, actual Betty is a monster, but I think the show has done a bang-up job of getting her character to this place. She’s the end result of a system where women’s only value is metaphoric baton-twirling. Once the crown has been placed on your head and life keeps going on, then what?

Betty played the game the right way according to the rules as she understood them. She even rebelled a little, modeling for her own fulfillment against her mother’s objections. But ultimately, even her fulfillment was about the performance of a feminine role. She’s oh-so-good at that role, but it has no real satisfaction for her. The obvious thing about the “not a good mother/not a bad mother” fight that breaks out from time to time is that Betty doesn’t like being a mother. Unhappiness permeates her being.

Betty can only see a shrink if she pretends that it’s not for herself. Everyone in the world, I think, noted that Betty wants to see a child psychiatrist in Blowing Smoke because she’s a child, and that was underlined in Tomorrowland when, in her unhappiness, she lay down on a little girl’s bed. But more than that, Betty can’t see a psychiatrist unless she can also pretend that she’s fine, and by pretending to be the put-together, concerned mother with Dr. Edna, she can allow herself some vulnerability.

That tail-end of conversation we heard her have with Dr. Edna was interesting; she was talking about assuming Henry was being like Don. It’s obvious she’s still traumatized by her marriage. Let’s not forget that in 1960 she opened herself to the vulnerability and intimacy of psychiatry, only to be betrayed by the shrink and Don in collusion. It’s really hard to get help when seeking help is part of the wound. The covert help from Dr. Edna must have seemed like a perfect solution. She can avoid opening up the vulnerability, but still talk about things.

What’s new in Betty is her driving need for vengeance. Well, of course we didn’t see that in 1960; she didn’t feel betrayed yet. In Season 1 Betty was depressed, and depression is a mask over anger; people who recover from depression are often enraged. In fact, Betty’s been cycling. She was sad in S1, angry in S2, deeply sad in S3, and now furious in S4. Each of her depressions was on the heels of the death of a parent, and because Betty wants to stay a child, there’s an extra layer of fighting back against that. “I’m your little girl” was one of the last things she said to her father, shocked that he would treat her as an adult.

When Betty found her life raft in Henry, she could end her marriage more easily. The problem is that she’s seething with rage at Don and now that she’s not married to him anymore she hasn’t got a good place to put that rage. Her “he doesn’t get to” from earlier in S4 is “I’m entitled to” by the finale. She can’t blame Don for her anger at Sally, at Henry, at Glen, at Carla. It’s fully internal now and will never be satisfied.

Betty behaves monstrously to Carla, and monstrously over all, but she’s not a monster, she’s a human being. She’s vulnerable, she’s fighting sadness with rage (as, in the past, she fought anger with sadness; a vicious circle), she’s needy, and she Just. Doesn’t. Grow. Up.

She also isn’t entirely wrong. It was right to move, and Glen is a bad kid. Keeping Sally away from Glen is only a bad decision because it’s badly, cruelly enforced, and it’s done for the wrong reason. Moving to a new town to break up a little pre-teen romance is over the top and crazy. All of that is true. Also, firing Carla was not just wrong but evil.

Why does Betty hate Glen? In The Inheritance they had a creepy pseudo-romance for an afternoon, and then Betty did the right thing, acted like an adult, and called Helen. Glen said “I hate you” to her, and she seemed to understand, in that moment, that sometimes that’s just what kids say.

So I think she hates Glen in part because they “broke up,” in part because he’s a reminder of her own vulnerability and bad behavior, and in part because in her less mature moments, that “I hate you” still stings.

Betty may be irredeemable as a character. I don’t know what Season 5 will bring, but it seems like she’s now raged herself into a corner. She isn’t allowing herself access, either internally (in her own feelings) or externally (through therapy) to anything that might grow her up and ease her pain. It’ll be a challenge for the writers to show us more than Monster Betty from here on out.

After I finished writing this, I found this amazing post by Sady that is brilliant about Betty’s anger, and really worth reading.


  105 Responses to “Let’s talk about Betty”

  1. Oh my god, YES. I feel so bad when people say they hate Betty, because she really is a product of a lifetime of bad guidance. “Be pretty and have a successful husband and everything will be just fine” except she’s so desperately unhappy and she has no idea why. Maybe it’s her cheating (ex)husband, maybe it’s her rebellious daughter; she keeps trying to find the external thing that’s making her miserable and pointing the blame at it, but it’s not working.

    The saddest part is that the only one who can save Betty is Betty, but she doesn’t know that and keeps trying to find someone else to save her. When I see her, I don’t see a bitch or a shrew, I see someone who is absolutely lost and will always be that way because she was never given the skills to navigate on her own (because pretty, rich, white girls are supposed get by on looks, not talent or smarts or inner strength).

  2. I’m still not convinced Grampa Gene’s breast grab and inappropriate proposition was the first time. I think his confusion prompted him to do it at the table, in front of everyone, (and didn’t he call her by her mother’s name?) but not sure it was the first time he had designs on his daughter.

  3. Betty can only see a shrink if she pretends that it’s not for herself. Everyone in the world, I think, noted that Betty wants to see a child psychiatrist in Blowing Smoke because she’s a child, and that was underlined in Tomorrowland when, in her unhappiness, she lay down on a little girl’s bed. But more than that, Betty can’t see a psychiatrist unless she can also pretend that she’s fine, and by pretending to be the put-together, concerned mother with Dr. Edna, she can allow herself some vulnerability.

    That tail-end of conversation we heard her have with Dr. Edna was interesting; she was talking about assuming Henry was being like Don. It’s obvious she’s still traumatized by her marriage. Let’s not forget that in 1960 she opened herself to the vulnerability and intimacy of psychiatry, only to be betrayed by the shrink and Don in collusion. It’s really hard to get help when seeking help is part of the wound. The covert help from Dr. Edna must have seemed like a perfect solution. She can avoid opening up the vulnerability, but still talk about things.

    THANK YOU. That’s an incredibly important point that doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of discussion.

    I didn’t really like the direction they took the character in in Season 4. It seemed like the first three seasons were telling the story of how an oppressive patriarchy and unattainable middle-class ideals set people up for unhappy marriages and families, and then they pulled the rug out from under all that and said, “Psych! Forget all that other stuff, Betty’s just a bad individual.”

    The thing is, until Season 4 I didn’t see anything she did as being all that bad, but I know I’m probably in the minority on that.

  4. There are a couple of root causes here.

    1) Betty has lost the audience’s sympathy, and that is reflected in the writing. If people were rooting for Betty uniformly, MW and the writers would be casting her in a better light. But they know that she’s not a beloved character, and they have free reign to write her this way.

    2) January Jones is not a skilled actress. Her good performances are well directed. When she’s not well directed, she flounders. She’s admitted she has no formal acting training. It shows. We react to her this way because she is not a strong performer.

    Imagine if Betty were acted by Kyra Sedgwick or Anne Hathaway or Naomi Watts. Those actresses are present in every scene. They are smart, thinking women.

  5. “Each of her depressions was on the heels of the death of a parent”

    When my parents got divorced in the 1980’s, I remember somebody (Lawyer, maybe? Not sure.) saying that the end of a marriage, even when you want that marriage to end, often brings the same kind of grief as a death in the family. I can imagine it was even more so back in the days when most people assumed that their marriages would last forever. So, in a way, her Season 4 emotional turmoil was informed by death as much as the others. And every time, there have been people telling her she’s wrong to feel grief, that she should just suck it up and move on for everybody else’s sake.

  6. great freaking post.

  7. Excellent, Roberta. I think you’ve got it right on.

  8. Living in Ossining was not a good choice for Betty. I hope living in Rye is a better choice for her. She isn’t always easy to watch, but I never thought any of the characters’ spirals on MM were. It’s easy to have a visceral reaction to her or to any of the characters when they do something that is terrible, but I’ve also rooted for her. I didn’t need to see as much of Betty as we had seen in S3, but hopefully what we’ll see of her in S5 won’t be as limiting as what we’ve seen in S4.

  9. Stefanie, I think Betty is a bitch and a shrew, but she is such for a reason; her lostness expresses itself in meanness. She has said and done unbearable things. Just as Don is an abandoned and abused child, yet he’s still an adulterer and kind of a dick, so Betty, as tragic as she is, still a bitch.

    pattishea, you’ll never convince me. Gene was demented and disinhibited. He thought he was seeing his wife; the fact that he called Betty by her mother’s name indicates he wouldn’t have done that if he’d recognized Betty as his daughter.

    Brenda, I disagree that the writing staff is playing to the audience. If that was the case, Salvatore would have come back. I also disagree about January Jones, who has done enormously subtle work. Crediting the director is a cheap shot, since we aren’t there watching the direction and knowing who makes which choices. Her face in the Dr. Edna scene I discuss goes through enormous changes; from vulnerable and trusting to hurt and panicked to pulled together and formal. It’s delicate and skillful.

    Roberta: Thanks!

    berk, I wrote the post. Unless you mean Roberta has it right on in comment #6.

  10. Oh, y’all. Don’t get me started about Betty. I’m in ATL (where I live) about to board a plane for D.C. More from the other side. I hated Betty, I loved her. And I want to weigh in. Thanks for this post, from one Deborah to another.

  11. I think Betty’s Anthro degree from Bryn Mawr doesn’t suit the character we’ve met. How did she study culture (& cultures) for four years & not learn anything about patriarchy or social roles–or any of those concepts you study in Introductory Anthropology?

    She should have been written as the product of some useless finishing school in Europe who rebelled briefly as a model. Then settled down to suburban ennui.

    Yes, I pity her. She has profound problems.

  12. Thanks for the link to Sady’s post as well as for your own insights. I’ve had similar ideas about Betty this year. About halfway through this season, I began to see more of my own mother in Betty, and that recognition intensified by season’s end. My mother did not come from an upper-crust East Coast family (although she descended from passengers on the Mayflower, my mother’s folks kept migrating West, and she was born on a farm in Nebraska), but she had a traumatic upbringing and horrible marriage. My father didn’t share her interests or values, cheated on her, made poor business decisions without consulting her that wrecked our family’s finances, and ultimately left her for another woman. My mother felt trapped and unable to leave her bad situation, constrained by social mores, her Catholicism, and her inability to support herself and five children. She never considered therapy–would have been insulted by the suggestion of it–and did not confide in a priest or close friend. She ended up being verbally and physically cruel to her children, once sending 11-year-old me to an emergency room because she had slapped me so hard that she injured my neck. In the hospital, my mother began crying over what she had done, which led the doctor to pat her on the back and console her by saying that she surely didn’t mean to hurt me. When the doc left the room, I attempted to hug my mother, who glared at me and asked if I were trying to make her feel guilty. My mother only got colder to me after that, never hugged me again, and today she does not speak to me at all. Being an abuser really must be more damaging emotionally than being abused, and a common response must be to loathe the victim while also loathing oneself. I don’t know how Betty will pull out of this, if she ever does.

  13. I can’t wait to see how she ‘grows’ in Season 5 – she’s *due* for some growth – and I still think the actress hired to play her is perfect in the role – she’s a cipher, and it’s PERFECT. We can overlay all our own shit onto her, unlike a more famous actress. Yup – can’t wait for next season!! Thanks for this post!

  14. “I think Betty’s Anthro degree from Bryn Mawr doesn’t suit the character we’ve met. How did she study culture (& cultures) for four years & not learn anything about patriarchy or social roles–or any of those concepts you study in Introductory Anthropology?”

    If there’s one thing working at a university has taught me, it’s that you can;t predict what students have or haven’t internalized simply by looking at their degree. My friend who’s taught at the college level for years continues to be mystified at the things her students don’t retain (either before they come to her, or after). And many of them view the things they learned as being applicable to their professional and academic lives but not their personal ones.

    And then there’s the possibility that Betty struggled through as a C student.

    I know Bryn Mawr isn’t known for MRS degrees, but every college that had middle-class female students in the early-to-mid twentieth century graduated its share of them.

  15. I saw what that ’50s “baton-twirling” ethos did to two women of that generation: my mother and stepmother.

    After being shut out of the world of work by her children and a husband who refused to allow her return, my mother channelled her depression into a suicide.

    My stepmother was an incurious and undereducated Betty: she didn’t like either housework or children, but also didn’t want to be the working world.

    She was a beauty and that was all she aspired to be, because it seemed to offer her a livelihood, and it did bring her two marriages that supported her for over 70 years of her life (although one turned out to be abusive physically, and the other emotionally abusive.)

    My stepmother was, or became, a cold bitch: her own children suffered more as adults because she’d had her hands on them longer, I suppose.

    She was also anorexic, before the term or the illness was recognized, which may have contributed.

    The last decades of my stepmother’s life were so awful, trapped by marriage in a life that made her deeply unhappy, I pitied her too much to hate what she’d done to our childhoods.

    I have my moments of hating Betty for what she’s doing to Sally, I can’t help it.

    But Betty is in her own Purgatory in this life, suffering both for her sins and Don’s, the sins of the Patriarchy (and those of her own cold mother.)

    I wonder if Betty Friedan can help save Betty, with her book about the Problem that Has No Name.

    It was published too late for my mother, four years after her death, my stepmother never read it (or seemed to understand, or be interested, in Feminism.)

    Can Betty be saved, in time to save Sally?

  16. “I think Betty’s Anthro degree from Bryn Mawr doesn’t suit the character we’ve met. How did she study culture (& cultures) for four years & not learn anything about patriarchy or social roles–or any of those concepts you study in Introductory Anthropology?”

    I think it’s important to remember too that so many of the social sciences changed drastically after the women’s movements and civil rights movements of the 1960s. My mom graduated from UNC Greensboro (then a women’s college) in about 1964 with a degree in anthro and was just beginning to experience exposure to some of these examinations of our own/similar cultures and the application of theory to modern times. Mostly she studied Native American culture and French settlers. I would guess Betty’s education would be quite similar, if not more limited.

  17. I love Amanda Marcotte’s take on the abortion cop-out. I completely agree. Weiner could have had Joan keep the baby for character or plot reasons (about which I’m still somewhat dubious, but I’ll wait and see) without having the cliched changing-her-mind-in-the-clinic-waiting-room scene. It would have been a lot more interesting, actually, and a lot less run-of-the-mill. Total pander, IMHO.

  18. I don’t want to imply that my mother’s suicide was solely as a result of a ’50s marriage.

    She also had been abused by an alcoholic father (even, perhaps, sexually), the Catholicism of the period also seemed to lock her into a marriage in which she was controlled by a husband, which that decade declared was ideal marriage, but because that husband was Protestant also forced her to commit the sin of birth control.

    It was a vicious cycle, the depression was clinical before anti-depressants, but she was under the care of a psychiatrist (who reported to my father?) when she killed herself.

    It was a clusterfuck contributed to by the time and place, and claustrophobic assumptions of a woman’s place.

    Betty is also very much a prisoner of that time, although Peggy seems to be tunnelling out, and maybe even Joan is making a prison break.

  19. Also, I want to second others who see much in Betty’s character they recognize. My husband mentioned 2/3 of the way through S4 that, “Betty is pretty much EXACTLY my grandmother,” who would have been the age of Betty this season. His mom was born the same year as Sally. While his grandmother’s marriage lasted till death, the feeling that children should be kept at arm’s length and that they were a significant burden seems to have always been present. Though my own grandmother would have been a bit older, I recognize a lot of the same characteristics in Betty as well. Someone like Megan would have been considered strange, too doting, and liable to spoil the children at that time. It’s not until the end of the 60’s and the beginning of the Dr. Spock generation that kids like me got the benefit of kinder, gentler parenting. We look at Betty as though she’s a monster because we consider her style of parenting and behavior to be abnormal. I have no doubt if you transported 1960’s housewives to 2010, they’d consider us all akin to insane space aliens in the way we treat children. Great article.

  20. I think Betty’s function is to show that while their were certain aspects of the 50’s and 60’s that we look back at with fondness and nostalgia, it came at a price. Betty stands for a lot of women who paid that price.

  21. I grew up in the 1950s, and believe me, there were affectionate mothers (and fathers, although they were not nearly as involved as modern day fathers.)

    The Dr. Spock books of the period actually pushed for that affectionate parent, were anti-spanking, and so on.

    Although the generation before was more the spare the rod, spoil the child ethos.

    “Benjamin McLane Spock (May 2, 1903 – March 15, 1998) was an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the biggest best-sellers of all time. Its revolutionary message to mothers was that “you know more than you think you do.”[citation needed]

    Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and family dynamics. His ideas about childcare influenced several generations of parents to be more flexible and affectionate with their children, and to treat them as individuals, whereas the previous conventional wisdom had been that child rearing should focus on building discipline, and that, e.g., babies should not be “spoiled” by picking them up when they cried.”


    Of course, there would be holdovers from previous generations, including those who hung on to that ethos for their own neurotic reasons.

  22. #9 Sorry, Deborah – there I was trying to give credit where it was due and got it wrong. I know you write the analytic articles, I just got mixed up for no reason.

  23. Great post. Betty breaks my heart. Until the Carla scene I saw Betty as a garden-variety lousy mother who was having an exceptionally bad year. Now don’t even know if she would want to be saved. I really hope that she is redeemable.

    It’s like her vision of a perfect life is her heroin. She thinks she is getting by even though it’s obvious to everyone that she is throwing away everything to feed her addiction. I’ve known a few rage-aholics, they must get something out of being angry because they make no attempt to stop it. Her “I’m entitled to…” rant made me realize that she is not even trying to rationalize her behavior any more.

  24. “Can Betty be saved, in time to save Sally?”

    There were kids who grew up with mothers like Betty and were maladjusted as a result. And there were others who turned out just fine. I think it’s important to remember that not every style of parenting works the same way for every parent and every child.

    Even within the same family, sometimes different siblings respond to their parents’ style in different ways.

  25. #9 Deborah, I don’t think crediting the direction is a cheap shot. January can act when she is carefully directed. The problem is that it’s too apparent when she’s been walked step by step through a performance, and when she’s relying on her own instincts. I say this as a lifelong student of film and someone who’s familiar with performance techniques. If you know how film works, you can see it.

    Also, there’s a huge difference between Sal and Betty. Sal was a tier B character. Betty is a tier A character. She was central to the action in the first three seasons. Sal was on the periphery. His story became central only a few episodes.

  26. Does Amanda Marcotte know something we don’t?

    In the post you linked to, she calls “Tomorrowland” the final episode of the “penultimate season.”

    Has Weiner said anything about next season being the last?

  27. I have felt that Betty Draper might be more typical of women born before World War II than people would like to admit. The role of housewife was much more difficult in the 1960’s than it is today. As a person who is retired and has a wife who still works; I understand the why and the wherefore of grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning,meal planning and cooking. I will admit that I have it made in the shade compared to the work Betty Draper and other 1960’s housewives of all social classes performed. There were a lot of women who still ironed sheets and shirts back then. Today, thank you for fitted sheets and perma-press clothes. Some things haven’t changed like scrubbing toilets.
    Betty gave birth to Sally at age 23,not 16 but still very young. How well equipped was Betty for motherhood; or marriage for that matter.
    Betty got the short end of the stick at home the way Peggy got the short end of the stick at work. Don Draper is totally absorbed in himself; both at work and at home. Did they have anything like an equal marriage; I think not.
    Betty is not a victim! she is,however, just as self absorbed as is Don Draper.She is a rotten mother just as Don Draper is a rotten father. Sally and Bobby and Gene all lose. Henry is getting fed up with Betty. She is not aware of the monster she has become.

  28. Concur Bob K.

    Betty is frequently viewed as a victim, but she is an adult. It is her free will that makes her do what she does.

    The fact is that she is responsible for: herself, her choices, actions, inactions, and the lives of the three children.

    I think JJ is a talented actress, able to make a completely unlikable character compelling.

  29. “I’m still not convinced Grampa Gene’s breast grab and inappropriate proposition was the first time. I think his confusion prompted him to do it at the table, in front of everyone, (and didn’t he call her by her mother’s name?) but not sure it was the first time he had designs on his daughter.”

    I completely agree Pattishea – and I think the key is in Betty’s reaction to the breast grab. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, and I can’t find a video online, but this is what I remember: She sits there, blank stare, taking it, and then gets up and straightens her dress and moves on. Everyone else around her reacts but she does not, besides maybe a small gasp. Wouldn’t most people a)deflect the grab if they could, b)make a horrified face, or even yell or scream? Even if the guy is your father, obviously confused and probably going through dementia – I think most people would still try to block his hand and say “NO!” firmly.

    Her reaction seemed oddly passive. And even though she was clearly shaken, she still seemed intent on pretending it never happened afterwards. I wonder if we’ll see this revisted as Betty (hopefully) pursues therapy.

  30. Sangfroid #26

    Has Weiner said anything about next season being the last?

    When he originally conceived it, Mad Men was going to be a novel for television told in five seasons. He didn’t think it would become as popular as it has. He’s more open to the idea of continuing beyond season 5.

  31. Matt Weiner has said in various interviews that Grandpa Gene was NOT an abuser, that the behavior he exhibited with Betty thinking she was his wife was due to TIAs and some early dementia he was beginning to suffer. That’s why Gloria left him and moved to Florida and why he couldn’t be left home alone any more. He was getting confused and forgetful, dangerous to himself if no one else. Remember him dumping all of Don’s booze because he thought the revenuers were outside looking for the still and hooch?

  32. Thanks to everyone for sharing so intimately about your lives and your mothers and stepmothers. I’m so moved.

    Brenda, “cheap shot” was a terrible way to phrase it; I didn’t mean to insult you. I apologize.

  33. I can’t get through all the commentary b/c I have children to tend to, but great post! I so enjoy coming tto his site to get my Mad Men fix. You are all fabulous and insightful!!!

  34. Count me in the camp of feeling sorry for Betty. She’s been through a lot, from the very beginning, when she couldn’t put on her lipstick and crashed the car because she had uncontrollable shakes. It’s been downhill from there.

    I don’t see her as an evil person; just an incredibly weak one.

    I also strongly disagree with those who think January Jones is a bad actress. If she comes off as contrived and fake, it’s because her character is contrived and fake. She was raised to “put on a good face,” and taught that appearances are everything. There’s clearly a lot of sadness she has to cover up, which makes her stiff and plastic.

  35. I think in the last episode the horrified way Don said “Diapers?!” on the phone to Betty when he was explaining why he couldn’t take the kids to California on his own said it all.

  36. Yeah, Kathleen, I know. “Diapers? Me? Did you forget about my PEEN?”

    What I always say about Betty is this: She’s right that she’s getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop, she’s just wrong about who’s perpetrating it, because society has been set up for her not to know.

    That’s why I actually think Don being married to Megan might relax her some. She can send the kids to his place and not have to worry that he’s “leaving them with nobody,” and maybe get a little more time to herself. I actually think she does really care about what happens to them; in fact, in the case of Sally, she’s freaked out that the poor girl is going to ruin her whole future at age 10 or 11. Irrationally so, of course, but you can’t really accuse her of not giving a damn.

    And I hope Henry talked some sense into her about Carla, and at least got Betty to write her a recommendation letter.

  37. #11 and #14 I once read on these boards that Matthew Weiner admitted in an interview that it was a mistake to make Betty a Bryn Mawr graduate. I didn’t read this myself but others claimed to, can anyone speak to this?

    • Taiga, Matt picked Bryn Mawr because it was the right level of wealth in the right region, without knowing much about the school. He had Betty in a sorority and that was an error — Bryn Mawr doesn’t have sororities. The picture in his head was along the line of the local school, the easy choice made easy by family money, whereas Bryn Mawr is actually hard-working and progressive.

  38. Love this post. I still want to see Betty as redeemable-I agree that January Jones is not a terrific actress, but somehow, like some Hitchcock heroine, she is really perfect for this role. I wish they would write more for her.

  39. Betty does seem more like a Penn person than a Bryn Mawr person, if they wanted her to go to a local school favored by rich kids with good grades.

  40. Not “some” women who ironed shirts in the 1950s — but every woman, there was no choice in the matter before Permanent Press.

    There’s a reason housewife was a full-time occupation.

    Every piece of men, women’s and children’s clothing (except wool) required ironing. (Except underwear, usually.)

    Long before the day when everyday wear for everyone became t-shirts and jeans.

    Every pleat on a six year-old’s skirt for school, when girls wore dresses every day, every piece of playwear the children changed into after school, a fresh white shirt for every day of hubby’s work week, and bowling shirts, casual shirts, and pants for weekends.

    Her own aprons and house dresses, tops and pants, and dresses for church and functions and shopping for groceries.

    Maybe even sheets, although I do remember my mother hanging it all out to dry on a line, with all the rest of the laundry, at least once a week.

    Throw in creating three meals a day from scratch (TV dinners, restaurant or diner food, an occasional luxury), cleaning a house to a fine shine without swiffers, roombas, home steam cleaning machines, scrubbing bubbles. Cloth diapers for years on end for 2.5 or more children.

    There’s a reason housewife was a full-time job.

    But Betty doesn’t even have that useful occupation to take up her time anymore.

  41. I would like to make some random remarks:

    I think Betty is an extraordinary character. I love JJ, I cannot fathom why she would not be seen as the excellent actress she is. At her best, she does it better than any actor on the show, except maybe Jon Hamm, who is at her level (and they are at best in their scenes together).

    Betty is different from any character we usually see on the screen – in other shows or films, we are used to see a sex bombshell like Joan, an alpha male like Don, an ambitious young woman in a man’s world like Peggy.

    But we are not used to see an apparently perfect, actually very imperfect though very beautiful, young wife and mother like Betty, who was kept from growing up by her parents, it seems, and, more evidently, by her husband, whom she married young, and whom she trusted, and who cheated on her constantly, who could barely bring himself to talk to her like a human being, who could not bear to see her display happily and innocently her sexuality (by wearing a bikini, say) – Betty who has met what she thought was her only way out in another man, Henry – who frankly looks right now as a much better husband than Don, and who could more easily connect to his wife.

  42. As I’ve said before, just as some people don’t understand the Betty bashing I’ve never understood the Henry bashing. Sure his original move on Betty–asking to feel her pregnant belly–was a little weird, but so what? It actually seems pretty tame compared to some of the other “shenanigans” we’ve seen. And then what subsequently followed courtship-wise was actually pretty chaste. His only real fault seems to be either banishing Polly the dog or giving her away; maybe he was allergic to dogs? Anyway, I think he’s good for Betty and exactly what she needs; she just doesn’t realize it. As he said, he’s an adult–in the best sense of the word–and he’s trying to help Betty become one as well.

  43. #43 SFCaramia: Betty was a married woman when Henry Francis began his chaste affair with her. I take umbrage with that. He encouraged her: “What do you want, Betty?” and saw her clandestinely. He helped her break up her marriage.

    I have been so touched, and so moved, by the comments on this thread. I read them, nodding my head in recognition of my own childhood, my own mother’s life, and how generous-hearted we Sally’s (and others) have become.

    And I ironed sheets! I starched pillowcases. I also was taught how to iron my father’s boxer shorts and fold them just-so — it was ridiculous! I well remember when permanent press sheets came on the market, and how my mother replaced each set of sheets she owned, for each bed, one by one, as she could afford to. It was a happy day and she said so.

  44. I hope Henry saw something good in Betty and can stick around and be supportive and help her grow into it. He made himself her life raft, and I hope that was a bold decision based on his good instincts. There is nothing else about him that seems selfish or impulsive.

    I don’t like the way he started the “chaste affair.” When I first saw the seen where he wanted to touch her stomach, I thought he was an adult Glenn trying to score an inappropriate intimacy with the pretty blond lady.

    I love the 21st century: the only time I use my iron is for craft projects with the kids.

  45. Behold the glory of the IRONRITE automatic ironing machine!

    As little as I iron, I’d still love to have one of these if I had the room for it. Apparently Grandma had one when Mom was a kid.

    Mom remembers getting her fingers caught in the wringer washer, then all the kids having to pile on top of their first spin washer to keep it from dancing across the room, hanging clothes up outside in the winter and then bringing them in stiff as boards to iron the rest of the way dry, and the joy of getting their first tumble dryer. Laundry really was an all-day affair before synthetics and modern equipment.

  46. Warning: misogyny ALERT ahead. I’ve been called out here as a Betty ‘hater’. The beef against her is that she doesn’t move the story forward. Once she left Don, her purpose or story thread lost relevance. IMHO there is no character trait in Betty that reveals any future prospect for growth. The poor thing is ‘stuck’, and aint it horrible. As a viewer I just sit there dumbfounded and scream into my head ‘Dammit, do something’. Enough. JJ is an actress who has grown. I think she did Emmy worthy work, that good. She made me feel ‘something’ for Mrs Francis. The odds of that are incredible. I was a dirt poor kid (like Don) raised in NYC (unlike Don) and saw my mom go from welfare to working two-full time jobs to raise 4 children by herself. DD is the American Dream to me and I always sympathize with him, however much of a dick he acts like. The one thing in life that puts me in a RAGE are rich ‘kept’ people who think they’re better. Betty is kept- I couldn’t care less that this is how things were, or what was expected. Ignorant declaration by me? Perhaps. But I lose all sympathy, and do not want to hear your story if you are capable of hustling a life for yourself, and choose not to. REVOLTING. Maybe The Feminine Mystique can help. Who knows? If Don kept her and thought ‘Who is she to tell me what to do, she’s kept by me? ,he would be an asshole, right? But, would he be wrong?

  47. #43 Good Sally: This is MM. Affairs with married people are second nature on this show–and in life, I might add, It isn’t a perfect world, least of all on this show :).

    Yes, Henry persued Betty, but only after she indicated her williness to continue. Remember in Season 3 when she was lying around mooning on the fainting couch, sending letters to Henry, dreaming about him “rescuing” her? She literally threw the cashbox at him when he didn’t show up at the fundraiser and sent a (woman) representative in his stead. It was then, he explicitly told Betty, “You are a married woman, if you want this relationship to progress, you’re the one who has to come to me, not vice-versa.” A marriage like Betty’s and Don’s based as it was on a fundamental dishonesty with an overlay of years of cheating on Don’s part, couldn’t be sustained. I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did, but again, that was in the era before divorce was commonplace.

  48. #47 tilden katz: you make good points about Betty, especially about her station in life. The thing Betty does for so many of us, as evidenced by this thread, is make us think about our own childhoods and our own mothers, most of whom were not as “kept” as Betty. It’s what great literature does as well — you can see yourself in a character, even if that character is out of your social league… there are underlying truths that resonate.

    It’s hard to judge Betty by 2010 standards and like her. And maybe she isn’t likeable by 1965 standards, either. But her struggles are real, and they are largely unknown, even to Betty — it’s that problem that has no name; that problem cuts across stations and birthrights and social status. Maybe Betty will realize this and become more than she is now, but remember how young she is right now and how isolated she is. Who is her role model? Who can show her a different way that feels worth the ostracism she will suffer if she breaks out of the system? How can she withstand that ostracism, and how will she care for herself financially and otherwise? She has no power and doesn’t know how to get it. That’s what makes her story compelling for me, to see her struggle with what it means to be who she is in the sixties… and is there really another way?

    My dad was a Don Asshole in the “Who is she to tell me what to do; she’s a kept woman” way, even though we were by no means wealthy. We were solidly a middle class, leave it to Beaver, the way we never were family. But men called the shots in the sixties, and they largely footed the bills and made the careers, and women were in supportive roles. My dad would not allow my mother to work — he thought it made him look like a bad provider, and he wanted her to be available to him at a moment’s notice, if he wanted to get away with the family for the weekend, or do whatever he wanted to do — she was to be his helpmeet in that. He never let her forget that that was her role, right up to the day she died, after 50 years of marriage, still taking care of him.

    #48 SFCaramia: Yep, it’s MM. I still feel the same way about Henry Francis and his pursuit of Betty — he started it. She was six months pregnant. To tell her later, “you’ve got to come to me,” well, that’s being disingenuous at that point. But that’s my opinion. And yeah, sister, don’t I know that it’s an imperfect world! :>

    Agree with #42 bling that Betty is an extraordinary character, and JJ is marvelously adept at portraying her.

  49. #49: I’m sure there are reasons to pick Henry apart–he’s no saint. I just don’t think Betty was taken advantage of; she’d already shown a willingness to “try out” the role of a cheater in her pick up at the end of Season 2, before Henry even showed up on the scene and the circumstances were ripe for her to have an affair when he did. Betty may be childlike, but I just don’t like to see her cast in a passive role vis-a-vis the breakup of her marriage; you know, it takes two to tango and all the other platitudes. She could have, after all, refused to let him touch her belly. Again, just my opinion; I like Henry and think he’s a far better choice for Betty than Don.

    I’ve written in many other posts about my own mom’s Betty-like tendencies, so I won’t go into them again here. Just suffice to say, as a daughter of a Betty-like mother, I knew her problems intimately and well, and my heart is with all those others who’ve written about their lives with this kind of a parent. If there’s one thing the Betty (character) is doing it’s providing a window of what living with such a wife/mother was like. Apparently the experience was much more prevalent than I ever believed and probably to a certain extent was generational.

    I can never totally relate to Betty based on my own life experience; but I’ve written it before, and MM makes it painfully clear: our problem-who-has-no-name mothers got a raw deal, and just because the problem couldn’t be named doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. It was, and we daughters who came after them are far luckier, even if we think we’re not.

  50. I never thought I’d be a big fan of Henry’s but I am. My main (childish) reason for not liking him was that he cuckolded (?) my boy-o and made him look weak. As if DD didn’t deserve it. LOL. Mr Francis looks like he would be completely supportive in any attempt Betty would make toward some kind of career if she chose. Don’t think he would give her any ‘I am the man’ jive, and would be proud of her and show that off to his colleagues, peers, etc. But als, Mrs Francis can’t even think that short distance down the road. Since she is so consumed with appearances and maintainance thereof, a life of even say, charity work, is not plausible in her closed mind. Blurg! See how Betty can be so exhausting?

  51. But ALAS. Aack. My apologies to everyone who is forced to suffer through my deplorable spelling/typos.

  52. SFCaramia, I think we’re basically saying the same thing here. I totally agree that Betty was not in passive role vis-a-vis the breakup of her marriage (vis-a-vis! love it). And I think Henry is far better for her than Don was. AND, I like Henry. The way he’s been written this season is terrific, and yet, last season, I was confused by what I saw as his advances to Betty in the beginning, which I considered untoward behavior (including meeting Betty to talk about the water tower thing — he knew what he was doing, he knew she was married and had small children, and he knew she was vulnerable — that’s caddish (clandestine, and ulterior motives) behavior, in my book, but again, that’s me). And yet I was led to believe he was an upstanding, moral man — and this season he has certainly seemed so — he’s like a compass for Betty to follow (or not). But this season’s Henry didn’t jive with last’s, for me.

  53. #51 I think Henry would be supportive of any career that she wanted, as long as it was volunteering in a high-profile, republican friendly charity. No matter how nuanced he may be, he is still a man of position in 1965.

  54. In a show of fascinating characters, I put Betty and Pete Campbell in a tie for Number 1. In the case of Betty, what fascinates me is not only how stifling and repressive the life of the 1950s-1960s housewife in the suburbs must have been for so many women, but also the whole Betty “package” — here is a beautiful creature, with brains and financial means whose life just has not turned out how she had imagined it would. Francine’s statement to Betty in “The Summer Man” (“Betty you have terrible luck with entertaining”) could be a summary of Betty’s life over the last five years or so. The cake that Betty was frosting later on in the episode could be a metaphor for Betty’s life — a lopsided mess that possibly could be salvaged, but it will take work.

  55. madmommy you make an excellent point. For one minute however, let’s contemplate a scenario where Betty is adamant about wanting more of herself. She comes to Henry and states something to the effect of,’ I’d like to see what I’m capable of in terms of work/career’. (Imagine her thinking this, let alone saying it aloud!). Would Henry go old-school on her and do the expected and risk reminding her of ‘it was like being with Don’? Or, would he do his gallant man thing and discuss with, and take seriously her intent? I’d say the latter. Regardless of whether its 1966 (season 5) or not. I am STILL hopeful for Betts, irregardless of what anyone else thinks.

  56. Top Of The World lyrics
    Patty Griffin (covered by Dixie Chicks)

    I wished I was smarter
    I wished I was stronger
    I wished I loved Jesus
    The way my wife does
    I wish it had been easier
    Instead of any longer
    I wished I could have stood where you would have been proud
    But that won’t happen now
    That won’t happen now

    There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard
    Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
    Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
    She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
    Top of the world

    I don’t have to answer any of these questions
    Don’t have no God to teach me no lessons
    I come home in the eveing
    Sit in my chair
    One night they called me for supper
    But I never got up
    I stayed right there in my chair

    There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard
    Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
    Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
    She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
    Top of the world

    I wished I’d a known you
    Wished I’d a shown you
    All of the things I was on the inside
    I’d pretend to be sleeping
    When you come in in the morning
    To whisper good-bye
    Go to work in the rain
    I don’t know why
    Don’t know why

    ‘Cause everone’s singing
    We just wanna be heard
    Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
    Wanna grab a hold of that little song bird
    Take her for a ride to the top of the world right now

    To the top of the world

  57. Rankings by definition are subjective, but Don is a bottomless morass of hidden feelings, and dare I say, neuroses. Those who aren’t fond of DD can say he’s defined by his tail chasing at the moment the Pavlovian bell goes ring-a-ding-ding. His Jeckyll/Hyde duality, his ability to seemingly outdistance his past and try to live the second act of his life, which Fitzgerald said is impossible. His self-loathing and shame which are very real, and not some self-pity comfort food for the erratic mind. His moments of gallantry with Peggy, and the ‘take off your hats’ in the elevator bit. His loyalty to Freddie. His ruthlessness to damn near everybody else. This guy is all over the board. IMHO how can he not be the most complex/fascinating subject this great show has to offer.

  58. Helen Bishop,

    The cake that Betty was frosting later on in the episode could be a metaphor for Betty’s life — a lopsided mess that possibly could be salvaged, but it will take work.

    Yes, it’s a mess, but she’s doing it herself instead of depending on Don to bring one home to her (and we all know how THAT turned out), so I’d say it’s a step in the right direction. 😉

  59. BJ–that is a good point about the cake. 🙂

  60. What Betty needs to do is take a step back, take a critical look at the mess she has made, resolve to fix it, take a sharp knife and cut out the offending excess and wind up with a somewhat smaller but much more satisfying cake/life.

  61. Deb. Terrific work here.

    I don’t see Betty Draper Francis as irredeemable. I probably feel this way because I see rage as interesting right now. I think that rage is the place where the high pressure system of temperament meets the low pressure system of others’ actions and expectations. This ends up making the weather of your life, but the enraged person doesn’t know the difference, because it’s where she lives.

    Betty doesn’t see herself as an enraged person; she would probably see herself as brutally unlucky, never able to get exactly what she needs. She doesn’t know where her difficulties come from; she doesn’t even think she needs to see a psychiatrist. Why would this woman have any idea that her rage has ripped the door off her life, thrown her oldest child into a tornado, and set her ex and her kids down in an entirely different climate?

    And how could she, anyway? We are speaking now of a woman who does not seem to know the location of any of her own boundaries until someone else touches one, whether that touch is an invitation (Henry Francis, Captain Awesome in the Bar At The End Of The World) or a violation (Glen in the bathoom in S1, Jimmy Barrett). What guides Betty? Sensation? Intuition? Aversion?

    If I didn’t know, I’d be angry too.

    Finally, January Jones is a very skilled actress. With Betty Draper, she does something I would find impossible: she displays ignorance and cruelty without judgment. She could make this woman a caricature, and she does not. Instead, Betty is perfectly withholding, perfectly exasperating, sometimes perfectly confused: perfect.

    I am eager to see her again in Season 5.

  62. Poor Betty. Henry is more right than he knows when he disdainfully tells her no one is ever on her side. Every time she uses any small bit of authority or power she may have she undermines herself with her terrible anger. She does not know how to assert herself without being mean. When she’s mean no one cares if she’s right. Yet if she’s not mean no one pays attention or takes her seriously – at least that’s how she must feel. I wish she would find herself a consciousness raising group in Nye. Some women did, after all, do just that: they talked to each other and helped each other figure out what was wrong (and started to fix it). Doesn’t seem likely for Betty though, considering her conservative, strict upbringing. But I can hope…

  63. That’s such a great way to put it. She’s not likable, but she’s sympathetic. That’s exactly how I feel.

    Honestly, I can’t stand Betty and have disliked her character from the start. For all the horrible things she did this season and for all the issues she’s obviously repressing, she seemed far more…real. Her anger makes her vulnerable and as honest as I think she knows how to be.

    I may even kind of hate Betty, but I can trace almost everything I hate about her (her childishness, how awful she is to her kids, her entitlement, her obsession with appearances) back to how unfair the world she grew up in and continues to live in as been to her. She was taught that her looks were what she had to offer. She was taught that she should want to be a suburban mother and housewife, even though that’s so obviously wrong for her. She was told that if she did all the right things and kept up all the right appearances, everything would be perfect. It’s not.

    So, damn right she’s angry. Her anger is probably the one thing I like about her.

  64. #49 GoodSally said “It’s hard to judge Betty by 2010 standards and like her. And maybe she isn’t likeable by 1965 standards, either.”
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We have Don, Henry, Grandpa Gene, Carla and Doctor Edna judging Betty by 1965 standards, and THEY all have pretty much the same criticisms that we do! It’s not us, it’s her.
    Maybe TPTB will have Betty emerge as an activist for women’s rights. That would be, to use 2010 language, AWESOME.

  65. That essay by Sady Doyle is mindblowing. If I’d had a flyspeck of her talent at her age…

    For those who haven’t read it, one of the things she says is that we wanted Betty to get in touch with her anger, but in a way we could admire — either that or maintain her martyr status. Whereas feminists have been talking since the dawn of feminism about cycles of abuse and oppression, and that a lot of the time having suffered abuse and oppression doesn’t make you a better person, just an abusive and oppressive one. A better cautionary tale you could not find.

    Yes, Betty has privilege, in that she doesn’t have to care for three kids and run a shipshape household all by herself, and she doesn’t have to work some scut job for a meager paycheck like single mothers have always had to do. But she’s also trapped. She probably feels like she has ultimate responsibility for how her kids turn out, and therefore feels she must put all her emotional energy into them, and it’s blown up in her face. And she has no marketable skills, and heretofore until now hasn’t had either the opportunity or the felt need to acquire any. But Henry is going to notice that she needs an outlet; he’s that kind of guy, in a lot of ways more progressive than Don is. Hopefully it won’t be too late for them.

  66. #46 Melissa,

    The Ironer!! Thank you!! I watched the entire video in fascination. Ironing pleats? Ruffles? egads. Talk about the modern marvel of permanent press. My mom sat at this for HOURS with her little radio by her side. It was her retreat. She ironed everything–after she lugged it up the basement stairs, hung up on the line, took down from the line, lugged back down the stairs. Four kids and one husband who never learned how to wash a plate. Bless her heart she worked her fingers to the bone. Count me among those who feel pity for Betty. As a few others have said, she lacks the skills to know how to express her anger “appropriately” (ugh). And anyone who’s been cheated on by someone they love and trust will attest to the utter to-the-bone incapacitating pain it causes. I can relate to lying on your child’s bed, lost in sorrow and longing for lost things….

  67. I feel like Betty wasn’t totally wrong at being angry at Carla for letting Glenn, a boy she told Sally to stay away from, go up to Sally’s room where they’re alone.

    My mom would have been livid if at 10 years old, her daughter was alone in her room with a boy (with a bad rep) when the babysitter allows it. I remember once, a babysitter pulled my hair because she was angry at me. I told my mom and she was looking for a new babysitter the next day. My mom specifically told me over and over again before and after that incident: ‘if an adult touches you in any way (hitting, kicking, pinching, smacking, pulling) and they’re not mom or dad, tell us immediately. They are NOT allowed to do that because you’re not THEIR child’.

    In Mad Men, I dont think it was right for Betty to fire Carla because Carla has been there through the childrens’ lives and have helped out immensely. I do think Betty’s anger (maybe not irrationality) was right. If I were Carla, I would have told Sally to come down and greet Glenn instead of sending him to her room.

  68. Thanks for this post Deborah.

    I find it fascinating how much Betty’s story parallels the story of mothers today and that she is still so misunderstood, just like we are today! Now, I’ll grant you that maybe we don’t hit our kids, maybe we see that masturbation will not make them “fast’, maybe we get that a divorce will not simply be “gotten over” but still… if we take Betty from the beginning, we can see a lot of mothers of today in her and their story and their struggle.

    For starters, I disagree that Betty was suffering from “depression” when her hands were shaking from season one. It’s wasn’t depression, it was anxiety. Taking care of two kids while your husband doesn’t come home until late and sometimes not at all in addition to suspecting he is cheating on you is enough, and was enough to make mothers from any generation shake. Especially an at-home mother. Watching kids day after day with nothing else in your life can be a bit…upsetting. Betty’s hand shakes were the quintisential symptom of what Betty Freiden so aptly termed, “The problem that has no name” in The Feminine Mystique.

    Some Basketcasers would describe Betty’s shaking and subsequent behavior as a sign that she does not want to be a mother. I disagree. Imagine Betty, not being completely fufilled by raising children. (I as a 1990’s mother have NEVER felt that by the way, ha!) She knows she’s supposed to have it all. Nice house. Handsome husband. Doesn’t HAVE to Work. Hell, she even has Carla to help. Imagine that. An At-home Mom needing help? The nerve. And yet still she is unhappy. There MUST be something wrong with HER.

    Is it any surprsie Betty doe not want to completely admit that she needs to see a psychiatrist? She’s aware of the inappropriateness of her feelings in 1960! Imagine what the at-home moms today feel? Guess what. They feel the same thing. “The problem that has no name” is alive and well. Like Betty, we question our feelings. If I’m not completely fulfilled by raising children and taking care of a house and my husband’s needs, is there something wrong with me? After all I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky to be able to care for my kids for no money, no job experience, no pension, no raise, no review, and no appreciation from my partner or from society. Lucky, Lucky, Lucky! I must not want to be a mother. I’m a bad person. Like Betty.

    As my great-grandmother used to say, “baloney skins!” Just because we want something more than raising our children does not mean that we don’t want to be mothers. We were all born with the need for self-fulfillment and for some women that simply does not come from raising children alone. That makes you a human being! Ask Abraham Maslow. I think Mad Men is showing this progression in women through Betty. Hopefully, this exposure will remind the mothers of today that it’s ok to seek out that which fulfills you, too.

    • H4NM, Betty’s hands didn’t shake, if I recall correctly, they simply went numb. Numbness is often associated with suppressed anger, adn she described herself as “sad” (as Glen recalls in Tomorrowland). When her sadness was relieved, she seethed with anger. These things led me to conclude she was depressed.

  69. # 20

    “I think Betty’s function is to show that while their were certain aspects of the 50′s and 60′s that we look back at with fondness and nostalgia, it came at a price. Betty stands for a lot of women who paid that price.”

    I think you are absolutely right!

    #21 The Dr Spock reference is p. 1, line 1. of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare, 6th edition, 1992. My all time favorite Baby Book for just the reason you cited.

  70. There were times when we definitely saw her hand shake.

  71. I’m really glad this topic is here, because for me the whole MM series is really about the Bettys of the world–not so much the Dons.

    I was a little younger than Sally–born in 1960. I had teachers like Suzanne but they were feminists. I have to say my high school teachers were the ones that opened my eyes–before that my mom was my mom and life was what it was.

    Betty is not awful–in fact she throws a few Hail Marys in the series. She confides in the shrink in S1. Somehow she hooks Henry–as if she has an instinct about needing somebody with basic empathy to be with her and the kids. You will notice that when Henry gives her child rearing advice she listens–she took Sally to the shrink he recommended.

    She backs off and lets Don take Sally to the Beatles, and she does not pull any last minute control freak stuff on the CA vacation–in fact when he was yelling about diapers she did not leap in and offer to keep Gene and just send the older kids.

    I agree that Betty has internalized the abuser/abused dynamic, and her kids will suffer because of that, but she’s probably going to fall into the category of the “good enough” mother. She’s horrible in a lot of respects, but we did see her being good with Gene when he was a newborn. The “Good enough” mother gives kids enough to get them going in the right direction.

    Betty, like a lot of mothers in the ’60s and ’70s did some really mean things and was neglectful by the standards of the 21st century. But so were the vast majority of parents back then, and yet their kids managed to grow up to be semi=responsible.

  72. And less entitled than they are today! BTW: I am reviewing season one, and realizing the transformation of a Betty, whom, I had forgotten, was not unlikeable then!

  73. Rewatching Season One this week was an eye opener, even though as a late comer to this series I had watched it only last year, not three years ago. Betty was not mean, or nasty, or crazy, or evil, and was not feeling or doing anything much more than most housewives were feeling and doing at that time. Maybe even less. Or she hid it better than some.

    What stood out more, at least for me, was what a real shit Don was, and so casually. It’s as if the man has no soul or no conscience. He had such casual mental and verbal abuse of Betty, and his oh so casual whoring around and coming home directly to his wife and children from other women’s bed with their smells and other things still on him. His casual indifference to any of their feelings, the birthday cake he never brought back are a great example.

    Better was definitely in love with him, she seemed to be a loving mother, and yet from the very beginning he was whoring around, he was doing whatever he felt like it with no concern for his wife or his children.

    It’s as if he feels that his childhood gave him an excuse to not only steal another man’s identity, but also to do and say whatever he felt in the moment, without concern to the consequences to anyone else.

    If this was all coming from a man a foot shorter, without a pretty face, and no charm, we would all be having a very different conversation about Donald Draper. His beauty seems to give him a pass from the public. I’m sure MW made the character beautiful TO give him a pass.

    Any woman who is NOT with him now dodged a bullet and should say a prayer of thanks. The blank slate he is currently pretending to himself that he fell in love with should run for her life. He’s not in love with her, he’s in love what he thinks she will do for him, what she will do for his life for the role he thinks (with very little evidence to support it) that she will play in his fantasy future. And if she stays around, if she even has anything behind the face she’s put on so far, he won’t be around for long, or he’ll be casually cheating very quickly. Don’s created another fairy tale, another marketing campaign, only this time the client and the customer are him and Meagan; he’s made them both the chumps and the fools of this little pretty play he’s directing and starring in.

    As he said as far back as the beginning of Season One, he only moves forward. The minute the person with him does not want to go in the direction he wants to go in, or wants to stand or sitt still for awhile, or they won’t take their seat and sit in the way he wants them to sit on his train into his future, they’ll be uncerimoniously dumped off his train to tomorrowland.

    He didn’t like where he was or who he was, he doesn’t like where he is now or who he is, and he won’t like for long who he’ll become when he gets to the future. And remember, he takes no baggage, whether they are brothers, children, wives, friends….Don goes without a suitcase and without any regrets.

    I was surprised, very surprised at how much I didn’t like Don by the first few episodes and those feelings only got stronger with every new episode. That was a pretty classic American suburban family at the start of this show. The only one standing out as very damaged, and passing the effects of his damaged child on to everyone around him, was Don.

  74. Brooklyn Girl, you nailed it. I also rewatched S1 this week and realized we were watching the destruction of Betty by her lousy, cheating husband.

  75. BrooklynGirl those reasons are among many that make Don, well,….Don. If he was the great guy hubby with the 2.3 kids n everything was just hunky-dory what would MM be? Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn. I’m not saying that Don wolfing around is what makes the show good, bad or anything in between. That’s a ludicrous statement. But, Don not being a PC plastic man is on point for the era the show depicts, and in drama the bad guy is INFINITELY more interesting than any 2.3 kids good guy, by a country mile. I know I risk the howling anger of the mob when I say that the extreme level of anger at Don’s infidelity is surprising to me. I know America is a puritanical society in word only and most of us prefer to preach how being chaste is the moral thing to be. How many studies have pointed out that in the animal kingdom, of which our species is a part, monogamy is biologically unnatural and wanting many partners is par for the biological course. If you are extremely good looking, successful, wicked smaht, and dress great, women will notice you and opportunities will abound. Don being an entitled guy in his mind, happens to indulge in his form of recreation. I know cheating is a hanging offense in a disturbing amount of people’s minds, but its only natural. ‘A poor excuse’, you might/will say. I have many (male) married friends who are educated, successful, etc., and most of them have or are currently having affairs. Does this make them bad people? According to society at large, obviously so. IMHO its not something that should overshadow the overall quality of a person as a whole. I’m gonna get reemed for this.

  76. Reamed. Jeez, I’m awful. Sorry.

  77. Moral and ethical behavior is not situational, is independent of opportunity to behave otherwise. Rather it is a measure of character… and flows from our core values.

    I have been taught that ethics are what we do when no one is watching.

  78. #75 Brooklyn Girl, Great post. I didn’t realize how much I dislike Don until I read it.

    He seems to be generous with money, but he only gives it when he wants to shut someone up or get them out of his life (I think that Don and Anna’s relationship involved a whole lot of delusion and denial). He is a detached, neglectful father (he has no business complaining about Betty’s mothering). His relationships with women are unbelievably selfish and we don’t know about his relationship with men because he doesn’t have any friends.

    The only selfless thing I can think of is to find Peggy and go see her in the hospital. Actually, that was pretty great, but his advice to her was chilling. The only other redeeming thing is he seems to want to be a better person. That is why his proposal to Megan was so disappointing: he decided it was easier to believe he was a good person than it was to be a good person.

    Con men are successful BECAUSE people like them. I like to watch him, I think he is charming, but he is a snake.

  79. I like to watch Don also. He’s what/who attracted me to MM to begin with, last year, when I read that this character in a TV show named Don Draper was most *influential* man in America. I LOVE this show and Don Draper in the main character that ties the show together for many reasons, the hub on the wheel and everyone else are the spokes. Or so I thought.

    I was surprised this past season how much i was losing patience with Don, even as I was feeling hopeful when he started changing. Until I realized that his daily swim, journaling and cutting down on drinking are great steps in a man or woman’s journey of change, but only baby steps; and if someone is really to change their life, continuous intention and action steps are necessary for him to succeed. As someone who is in the *business* of helping people change themselves and their lives, I often see people stop very short of their goals, for a lot of different reasons. I also often see people succeed.

    Rewatching the first season though, at the same time I’m reading on several blogs about evil Betty, was an eye-opener. I didn’t see the “whole” of Don the first time around and, of course, like everybody else I didn’t have a clue what his effect was going to be on everyone around him, especially his wife.

    As with all charming, beautiful and seductive people, just like a *snake* Don has the effect of *hypnotizing* people into believing he is *safe* to get close to. He appears to be much more than he actually is. Watching from the first episode again, is seeing Don without those rose-colored glasses on, as just another man, and allows you to see him AND his actions so much more clearly, IMO.

    And it is definitely easier to see the day-by-day destruction of the person closest to him: his wife. Was she already damaged? Sure. Like many of us are by our childhoods. Was it an accident that she was attracted to, and married, a seductive snake who turned out to be emotionally, mentally and sometimes verbally abusive? Probably not. It is not uncommon for people who are abused as children to end up in relationships where they are abused again, although sometimes in different ways than their original abuse.

    This post, and my previous one, are not meant to be a wholesale condemnation of Don Draper. I’m actually very surprised at my reaction as I really liked Don until this season. I’m also surprised at myself, that I was as *taken in* as most people are by him. I feel like I should have seen him more clearly.

    I’m almost glad I wasn’t able to clearly see Betty’s disintegration earlier though. It would have been unbearable to watch this show if we had known how she would end up after years of marriage to Don.

    And instead it’s been a joy and will continue to be, because, after all is said and done, it’s just a TV show. A GREAT TV show. And it’s a credit to MM that we feel so much for these characters. And a credit to these actors that they are so wonderful are portraying their character that they are so very believable.

    I very much recommend rewatching from the beginning, for those who haven’t done so. I thought it might be boring, as I’m so much more interested in their futures :), just as Don states so frequently. It’s definitely an eye-opener. And ever better the second time around!

  80. Hawk, of course you’re right. Character is not situational; it is what makes us who we are when the lights go out. And we are beginning to know who each of these people is.

    But the way each era views each of these character’s “situational ethics” (a real term, for a real reason) exists for its own reasons. And tilden katz is correct: fidelity and infidelity seem to be a real thing for women in this era, for whatever reason.

    These aspects of Dick Whitman/Don Draper’s character seem to loom larger for some modern women than the fact that he’s a deserter, his willingness to switch out another man’s life for his own, his comfort with the long con … even his qualities as a father and a mentor.

    Mad Men is not the only place where we see this. Last week, the editor of a major magazine made the public (and disastrous) decision to respond to a few dozen women who complained of her publication’s choice of a cover model: a woman who left her own husband for a married man, and later married him. This editor wrote directly to these women, using their own words (“husband-stealer” among them) — ignoring the fact that this message would inevitably leak to the millions of other readers who had no problem with the cover.

    Or to the woman on the cover herself. Whoops.

    So this is kind of our “thing”. Our issue, as a culture, is how to confront it: how to acknowledge this kind of pain (humiliation, lying, broken promises, and loss) and at the same time, place it in context with things like crimes against society (treason). Childhood trauma, and the lasting wounds of that — which no one, I don’t care who you are, is in any position to measure on behalf of another. Or violence from rage of other kinds (racism, sexism, just the free-floating I need of the person who sees things changing and wants them to stop).

    I see Matt Weiner and company trying to balance their depiction of what happened in a previous era against what they know is our era’s distaste for it. They can’t pretend that it did not happen, or that it doesn’t still. They can’t do anything about the current rage that rises up in response.

    All they can do is be fair to the characters, broken as they are, and to the time they depict. And to ours.

  81. Infidelity is such a “thing” for women now because it can be. If a woman insists on fidelity in her marriage she is no longer socially ostracized or impoverished.

    Old movies can make me cringe: the wife is often blamed for her husband’s infidelity (Mildred Pierce, The Women, in Philadelphia Story the philanderer blames his daughter) and eventually realize that they should just accept it. Helen Bishop is a perfect example of this.

    I find it very hard to believe that women were ever okay with cheating spouses. Men certainly never have been.

  82. Thanks, Anne B. Again. The obsession with DD’s infidelity comes mostly or all women contributors. Its incredible when listening to the commentary on the DVD’s from show writers, directors who are female, they state time and again that had Don not been such a whoremaster that Betty/they themselves MIGHT have forgiven him all his dastardly deeds. WHAT? Betty suffers from ‘the problem that has no name’. Well, ‘the thing men must never say in feminine company’ is that infidelity is not something that is considered all that terrible, and is to be expected inevitably from either person in a marriage. Sorry, but most guys who watch the show’s reaction to playing around is roughly, ‘Oh, ok, what happens next’. Routine. Not saying its right, or I’m going ‘Yea, Don’ when it occurs. Part of the suit of being a man like Don is casual, emotionless sex. Its just not that serious. There’s a lot more broth to the soup when considering a man in full. Don is not for the approval of the crowd, he is the immoral center of a morality play. The ambiguity makes for irresistible drama. You can not stop talking about Don, because he’s more of a universal everyman than any of us are comfortable enough to admit.

  83. Don’s lousiness as husband is not entirely due to his infidelity. Had he been unfaithful, but otherwise warm, supportive, affectionate, tender, emotionally open – had he been able, say, to not absent himself from his daughter’s birthday, to not betray Betty’s trust by talking to her therapist, to not manipulate her into not going back to her job as she wanted to, to not take insult her because his slutty boss made a pass on her, to not treat her like a madwoman when she confronted him about Bobbie, their marriage would have been very different. Don was a terrible husband also because he was cold, controlling, manipulative, and mentally abusive.

    Plus the fact that infidelity was OK (in the eyes of some: the US was and is a Christian country, where infidelity is one of the worst sins) does not mean that the victims of it were not hurt: it just meant that the cheater did not care, and that nobody understood their pain.

    Don was not only having emotionless sex: not with Rachel, not with Suzanne, maybe not even with Midge. The only “pure sex” affair that we have seen is the one with Bobbie Barrett, and he hated seeing himself in the mirror and recognizing that he was a male Bobbie (I suppose that Bobbie’s husband also had to just say, oh well, that’s life, that’s who my wife is, infidelity is no big deal). Don did not cheat only for emotionless sex: he cheated also for complicated psychological reasons, maybe linked to his self-loathing, and his desire to have a woman in whose eyes he could be the good person that he knew he was not.

  84. Check it out—
    The name of the post is Let’s Talk About Betty and here is Don, taking the spotlight once again. She gets the shaft even in a star turn!

    I have a couple things to say about Betty, in addition much of what’s already been put forward:

    Season Two: She showed hella backbone to kick Don out, and then to keep him out (when she told him she didn’t want him to come home). That was not the easy or expected move, especially without a support structure beyond the estimable Carla.

    Season Three: Showed promising professional chops while working on the reservoir campaign.

    I don’t know much about acting from a professional standpoint, so my crit comes as a typical viewer, but if her performance seems stilted—it perfectly suits the character. I’ll save my JJ opinions until I get to see her in other roles.

  85. #86 Pete, you’re right. Don’s in the spotlight. Actually, we gave him the spotlight. ugh.

    I don’t think Betty is a bad mother. There are a lot of thing she could do better, but personal problems spill out into parenting and kids are resilient. She is not beating them, she listens to advice. She is impulsive, but that doesn’t make her cruel.

    Sally IS acting out – that’s what kids do. She was masturbating in view of others, she chopped off her hair (something five year olds do), she ran away from home and started hanging out with an older boy – the one boy guaranteed to make her mother furious (both Sally and Glen knew that). She is doing everything she can to hurt her mother and it’s working.

    I think she handled Sally running off to New York pretty well: make Don tell her she can’t stay. I also don’t have a problem the way she told Sally that they were moving. Sally is a child and obviously can’t understand the ramifications of her actions. She needs to respect her mother’s rules and Betty should come down like a hammer on that. Also, moving is the right thing to do and there was no way to make Sally happy about it.

    We seem to have swung from a culture that has little compassion for abused children to one that has no compassion for imperfect parents.

  86. Deborah, thank you. Exactly what I would say, if only I were so eloquent.

  87. I just took apart a vintage childs dress ( like sally woul d wear to her Birthday party) (to harvest the fabric ) its pretty much entirely made by hand. there are tucks in the bodice, each edged with lace. there are little puffed sleeves, with a tiny velvet bow tacked onto the outside egde, also edged with lace, to match the tiny velvet ribbon belt. The belt is threaded through little tabs , made of the same fabric as belt, sewn into the waist seam. buttons on each of the tabs. This dress took hours to make. My point ? Im stunned by the brilliance of these posts, but I also note the dichotomy ,between the descriptions of housework as grueling ( it was) , and the mysogeny ( thanks for the warning) of those who describe betty as Kept- I think she earned her “keep”.

  88. P.S., the united states is not a Christian country. Look at a US quarter : it says E Pluribus Unum- Out of many, ONE.

  89. Our beloved nation is still stuck in the 17th century when it comes to matters of the flesh. To describe it as quaint and puritanical is beyond banal. When traveling across the pond and spending time at topless beaches it is astonishing to still see us Yanks react with all the panache of giggling 80’s movie teens at all the ‘pulchritude’ on view. Tyrannical puritanicals still are the rule. Disconcerting.

  90. Interesting points, everyone!

    Re. Making Don the focus: Word! I was just noticing that happening when someone mentioned it!

    Re. Infidelity: I don’t think Betty would have cared a fraction so much about Don cheating if she hadn’t been so shut out of his life, not just practically but emotionally. Even when though none of these marriages are perfect, particularly by modern standards, you see actual partnerships between everyone from the Cranes, Joan and Rapey Harris, and even Mona and Roger Sterling (and they’re divorced!) to the very cooperative and almost modern Campbells. Betty never had that in her first marriage. She was so isolated and shut out. Even when she found out about one of his affairs, it seemed like that was the catalyst, not the real problem.

    Re. Betty being “kept”: I agree that that’s not a cool word, but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about Betty working particularly hard in her household. Women of her means either hired people to do a lot of that for them or bought things that they didn’t feel like making. If Sally had a lovingly hand-sown dress, I’d guess it was made by a local seamstress, Carla, or made by Betty as a special hobby item, not as a typical item characteristic of her children’s wardrobes.

    Re. Betty being a bad mother: From time to time, Betty hits her kids, locks them in closets, screams at them for things that aren’t their fault, is downright cruel and vindictive towards them, and is often completely emotionally absent. Some of those are differences of the times, but a lot of them are all Betty. She repeats her screwed up relationship with her mom with Sally almost as a conscious, selfish punishment (and, I think, a fair amount of jealousy that Sally is still the child Betty would like to be treated as), and she takes her issues with Don and the men of the world out on Bobby. I have sympathy for how she got where she is, but that doesn’t mean her behavior is okay.

  91. Sorry, Tilden, but I think that is confusing several different issues.

    Comfort with nudity may or may not be related to broader issues regarding monogamy and fidelity, but it is a separte issue from the underlying econimic system than made many women dependent on men for centuries of human history.

    Don’s ‘freedom’ in regards to sex worked one way: Don was to be free and Betty was not to be free. If Betty had strayed and it had come to Don’s attention, Don would have punished her. He probably legally could have taken the children and divorced her leaving her penniless.

    Don’s own step mother is a rather desparate example of how utterly dependent many woman felt on a husband. In the example of Don’s step mother, I felt like she was trapped by a combination of Depression-era economics, a society that shunned divorce, and her own religious convictions. She was trapped into staying with a mean, nasty, drunk brute who was not only nasty, but who expected her to raise the child he had with a prostitute. Yet, to leave him may have literally meant starvation during the Depression.

    Was this woman free? Was she free to engage in “free love?”

    Society changed between the 1930s and the 1960s, but some of that change doesn’t hit all groups of people right away. I think there were a lot of “new options” available to Betty, but not all of them seemed real to her. Yes, in theory abortion was available to her–but her doctor basically told her no. Yes, she could have gone back to work–but her husband wanted her to stay back with the kids and manipulated her keeping it so. Yes, she could get divorced, but the massive negative pressure put on women like Helen Bishop made Betty avoid divorce until she actually had a replacement husband. Divorcing without that security seemed too hard to Betty. Yes, she could go to counseling–but her first psychiatrist demonstrated very dodgy practices that did not seem to support or empower Betty.

    I think it ignores the larger problems with the overall system when the issue of Don’s infidelity is only viewed from one persepective: whether it is prudish or not.

    Prior to paternity testing, easy birth control, abortion, better jobs, easier divorces, and the like, many women paid a steep price for engaging in free sex, for divorcing, or for working. Many were made more responsible than men for the consequences on the children.

    A marriage was supposed to protect women from many difficulties (raising “bastard children”, lack of income, lack of social status). However, if this “protection” comes at an enormously high price–dedicating decades of your life to cooking, cleaning, and raising children for a man who has no affection left for you and cheats–that is highly distrubing for the individul woman involved.

    I think that countries that successfully get by with less fidelity often have stronger systems in place to offer support to mothers. (Northern Europe provides free health care in many countries, easier and earlier access to contraception, and more services to women.)

    These women are able to be more “free” because they are not made to feel so dependent on one man.

  92. #92 Chica la Bouche wrote:

    “Re. Betty being “kept”: I agree that that’s not a cool word, but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about Betty working particularly hard in her household. Women of her means either hired people to do a lot of that for them or bought things that they didn’t feel like making. If Sally had a lovingly hand-sown dress, I’d guess it was made by a local seamstress, Carla, or made by Betty as a special hobby item, not as a typical item characteristic of her children’s wardrobes.”

    My mother has always loved sewing, so I guess it seems strange to me that you would assume Betty wouldn’t or couldn’t sew clothes for the kids.

    I actually think that we as a culture are lazier and turn up our noses at a lot of tasks and projects that many more people used to be trained to do”as part of life.” As a child, I helped my mom do a lot of sewing projects. She always considered it fun to sew.

    I am not insisting that Betty did make every stitch of the kids’ clothes. Of course, not. But nor do I find it unbelievable that she could have made more than a token item or two.

  93. I’m sure she can sew, and I’m sure she does. I think we’ve even seen her sewing machine a few times, though never, I believe, her using it. My point is more that we know Betty gets to be very selective about which household tasks she wishes to do and which she doesn’t, but that she doesn’t really have to do any of them. I don’t think anything we’ve seen of Betty leads me to assume (because it would be an assumption) that she does a lot of detailed hand-sewing of children’s clothes.

    In fact, I think we see her doing occasional laundry, cooking and grocery shopping (but see or hear about Carla doing more), some isolated Junior League stuff (at which she’s quite good) and then a lot of wine drinking, laying about, and horse-riding. I don’t think that’s a crime. If you have that option, rock on! But I don’t see a lot of reason to assume that Betty is choosing (and it would absolutely be a choice for her) to invest a whole lot of time and energy into painstaking, arduous, domestic pursuits.

  94. I wasn’t trying to make a correlation between a flimsy a subject as nudity and playing around (‘I dislike the word CHEAT’, says Mrs Mulwray in “Chinatown”.) That would be ludicrous. Just pointing out how the richest, most everything nation on the planet is so stuck in the mud when it comes to infidelity. Seems incongruous to me. Not stating anything about the socioeconomic dynamics at play against pre-women’s lib American ladies. You did a wonderful job with that, Lady K.

  95. Thank you, Lady K, for such a fine response. Much better written, and nicer, than any I could write at the moment.

  96. #92 Chica La Bouche Betty’s mothering: Betty didn’t lock her child in the closet: putting (we don’t know about locking) her in the closet was her first impulsive action, but she immediately relented. She hit Sally once: given everyone’s reaction, it probably wasn’t a common occurrence. I don’t remember her ever screaming (I can’t imagine JJ raising her voice to a scream). She is not perfect, and she is letting her anger spill over to her children, but I don’t see it as cruel and vindictive.

    About infidelity. I can’t imagine spending night after night alone, believing my husband was working hard to support us, and then finding out he was out DATING! Given the time and logistics, I wonder how any mothers with small children ever manage to have affairs.

    Being kept: When an executive passes off the grunt work, he’s delegating. When a mother does it, she’s indolent. It’s not as if cooking and scrubbing are the only way for a woman “to earn her keep” instead of being “kept.” If the only value people have to each other is financial, then maybe one of them is “kept.” If a man feels that way about his wife, then I feel as sorry for him as I do for her.

    Also, I love to sew! My mother and grandmother taught me. The irony is that they couldn’t afford not to sew, and I can’t afford to sew. Sewing your own clothes now is more expensive then buying them and I can’t justify spending that much time on it.

  97. @98, I think you’re splitting a lot of hairs, and yes, she’s screamed at them. I think people’s shock at her slapping Sally had to do with how surprising and unnecessary it was given the context. Sally didn’t seem as shocked as everyone else, which I think is telling. Her interactions with Bobby in season two are almost as painful as that way she treats Sally in seasons three and four. Even Betty’s father could see the damage she was doing to her daughter.

    I’m sure she didn’t love him cheating, but I stand by the fact that that’s not what ended their marriage. The shutting her out, lying, and pushing her away seemed to obviously be a much bigger issue.

    See my comment above. I don’t agree with using “kept,” I don’t fault her for having a life of leisure, and I’m sure she sews for pleasure. I just don’t see any evidence to support this idea that she works terribly hard in her household. Many women of that day did, particularly in the absence of a lot of modern conveniences, but vintage relics offer no evidence that women with means and hired help did the same.

  98. Chica, please understand that I did not mean to make my message solely at you. We don’t agree about Betty’s mothering, but my other comments were more general and I did not mean to direct them at you.

    Actually, I really agree with you about Don’s emotional cheating (evidenced by the time he spent on it). My comment on being “kept” are on the term itself and not directed to you (I will never say that Betty is the picture of industry). I was commenting on general ideas in the thread, and I am sorry that wasn’t clear.

  99. It’s all good! Don’t even sweat it, I didn’t take any offense at all.

  100. […] Let’s talk about Betty | Basket of Kisses What’s new in Betty is her driving need for vengeance. Well, of course we didn’t see that in 1960; she didn’t feel betrayed yet. In Season 1 Betty was depressed, and depression is a mask over anger; people who recover from depression are often enraged. In fact, Betty’s been cycling. She was sad in S1, angry in S2, deeply sad in S3, and now furious in S4. Each of her depressions was on the heels of the death of a parent, and because Betty wants to stay a child, there’s an extra layer of fighting back against that. “I’m your little girl” was one of the last things she said to her father, shocked that he would treat her as an adult. (tags: mad.men mad.men:[character]betty.draper) […]

  101. All of this reflection on Betty and her lack of choices in the sixties, has me thinking of the dozens of women I know, friends and clients, who in many ways are like Betty. The difference is they earned law degrees and MBA’s from top schools, many Ivy League. They spent a few short years working, before marrying well, raising children, decorating mulitple homes, travelling first class, and actively volunteering in their schools and communities. They live lives of complete priviledge.

    Given those same opportunities, would Betty have done anything differently? I doubt it and given the opportunity for a do-over, the women I know would have chosen the same path again.

    I think many of us BOK posters are career women, so this choice seems banal. Just a little window into the fact, 25 years later, there are women who had every opportunity for self-fulfillment (as we might view it) but are living their lives with zero regrets (and probably plenty of husbands who have strayed by stayed).

  102. #95 Chica,

    We have seen Betty use a sewing machine. Can’t remember the episode off the top of my head, but she was using one — I think she received a phone call, and we saw that the call interrupted her at the sewing machine. It was this past season.

    As for the continuing discussion on fidelity (yours, mine, ours): It comes down to motive, opportunity, and … something else. If I feel cut off enough from my own marriage, I might wander, for whatever I tell myself is the reason. Perhaps I’m bored, angry, curious, tired — or tired of being pushed away. (Pushing people away is something I tend to do to loved ones when I’m depressed; often I don’t even know I’m doing it.)

    The beauty of the modern world is that I am every bit as capable of availing myself of these possibilities as my husband is. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it wouldn’t be all that hard. I just can’t be bothered. I happen to believe my husband is better than the alternatives … but it’s just as true that I do not care to invest the time and energy in testing the veracity of this theory.

    Also, affairs are so structured, and there’s really no room in the budget now for any kind of personal assistant, so … 🙂

    Anyway. I get that mine is a minority view. I am supposed to think of each of us as the property of the other. But there is nothing in me that’s built for that, which is what makes it interesting that we’re married.

    I just didn’t really think on the day we married about the two of us and fidelity. This would have been like thinking about the housing market when you buy, saying, “We’re doing this for The Market.”

    How stupid would we feel, years later, when everything’s underwater and every perfect thing everybody just had to have for their very very own is now just a miserable pile of Oh God, I Wish I Could Undo That?

    All of which is a long way of saying, other people carry this fidelity banner. I’m just married. If I’m unfaithful, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in fidelity; it means I don’t believe in myself.

    My $.02.

  103. @ 104 Anne B.

    I think you’re right, it may have been when Don called about the Beatles tickets. I know it has to have been this season, because it was in Don’s former office (certainly not a place she sewed when he still occupied it). And like I said, I’m sure she sews. I just don’t feel compelled to believe that she bears the brunt of a labor-intensive wardrobe for any of her children, let alone all of them.

    Again, though, I don’t think Betty’s life of leisure is a mark against her. It’s a good gig if you can get it. It just feels strangely revisionist to make her out to be some kind of domestic martyr. Don wronged her in lots of ways, and she’s right to be angry, but I don’t think how much she did or didn’t do around the house has any bearing on that.

    I also totally get your view of monogamy, by the way. And I think these days, it’s actually far easier for women to get sex outside of marriage, just as I think it’s easier for women in general to get sex on demand because women offering sex are a more scarce commodity than men.

    I know that I could go out tonight and find someone other than my husband to have sex with (not that I have any plans to do this. Aside from thinking my husband is awesome, my hair’s not clean and Aunt Flo is still in town from Redlands for another day or so). My husband, making the same attempt, might or might not be successful. No knock on him, he’s adorable and charming, but it’s a whole different ballgame.

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