At the Grown-Ups’ Ball

 Posted by on May 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Season 5
May 022012

When our younger kid turned ten, we gave her a special birthday present: a little wallet filled with department- and specialty-store gift cards. Long the shopaholic of our family, she’d never had “her own money” to spend before. We made a big day of it. She was so happy.

I put together that gift for her with a clear memory of the “grown-up” things I had wanted when I was little. In my family, we all wanted something different. My little brother wanted a record player and his own records to play. My sister wanted tennis lessons. I wanted, for some reason, a long dress. (Little House on the Prairie was big then.)

The wishes of children are important: they show us who those little people want to be when they’re big. When Sally Draper goes out to greet her parents and adult guests in her outfit for the party, it is a special moment for her. It’s her first time out with the grown-ups, and she wants everything to be perfect.

Everything is not.

She has to take off her makeup and boots before she can go. When she gets to the ballroom, it’s not even really a ballroom (“There’s no staircase,” she says, genuinely confused). The dinner is the kind of food she hates. Later, she gets a look at one of the things adults do when they’re attracted to each other, and it shocks her.

We had dinner with some Basketcase friends on Sunday night; before we watched the episode, we talked for a while about our childhood memories. We remembered our kids’-eye view on the news stories about Vietnam, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Manson murders. Our childhood was not just a time of rapid change and frequent violence. It was a time when adults, busy with their own lives, tended to leave the TV on, the lurid magazines sitting out.

This 1966 magazine was still in my parents’ home when I learned to read.

At dinner, we talked about how the world looked to us then: out of control, at best confusing, at worst deeply frightening. How it treated us, small people of little import who were nonetheless around all the time. My friend, Basketcase Frank Bullitt, remembers being treated as “less than human. Not a real person.”

I don’t know if every child of the Sixties remembers stories like this, or this. My parents were big news consumers, so I do. I have a vivid memory of this face on my parents’ sofa table. I was not yet in kindergarten.

When I was Sally’s age, these stories landed on that sofa table. I had seen the TV news coverage of Jonestown, and of another violent act in San Francisco. They seemed somehow connected, but I don’t remember caring why either of these things had happened. I did not wonder what I was supposed to learn from them.

Because I knew. I knew, finally, that adults were as helpless as they seemed. Help me? Like hell they could. They couldn’t even help each other.

Sally Draper is not just, in the tender words of her father, a beautiful young lady who will one day wear makeup. She is a young person who has an instinct for helping others, and acts on it. She helps her step-grandmother, a woman she hates, feel better and stay calm after Pauline injures herself at the Francis home. She helps Roger feel like a winner, and look good in the eyes of Marie Calvet, at her father’s awards ceremony. She knows enough to tell her Dad that his birthday present is “from all of us”. Sally Draper is a terrific sidekick.

But she deserves better than “sidekick”. Sally is a reader, of fairytales as much as anything else. She knows that a ballroom should have a staircase. She knows she should wear a pretty dress when she goes to the ball. She’s close to her stepmother, the glamorous Megan, so she even knows how she should do her makeup and hair. She is resourceful enough to do both herself. Sally is good at so many things.

I want to go back in time and make Roger and Marie lock that door. I want to tell Pauline to take better care of those kids, Sally in particular. I want to make sure there is something other than fish on the menu at that stupid dinner. I want this as much as I want to go back forty years and turn off the TV news, turn those magazines face down. Better still, throw them all out.

I can’t. When I watch Mad Men, I am again just a kid: and kids don’t matter.


  73 Responses to “At the Grown-Ups’ Ball”

  1. Beautifully written, as all your posts are. I agree on all points. I still feel like a child in a lot of ways – I know I am constantly shocked at people just not being nice, or things in the world not being fair. Sally has no one to explain the world to her, no one paying attention just to her. Yet she is already falling into the female role of caretaker, even though no one is taking care of her. Heartbreaking but very true to life.

    • Hence the reason in 2012, Sally is probably a leading author and a great mother. Many of the over coddled children of the 90s are now protesting Wall Street. They feel they deserved everything they received as children, and they feel cheated now as adults without trying to make their own life.

      • I’m not sure I see that connection. I thought people were protesting Wall Street because the previous generations corrupted the lines between the country’s economy and its elected leaders, creating mass unemployment and a bankrupted future. I don’t see that as a result of over-coddling. And I don’t see what Sally has to do with it. Did I just get baited?

      • Whoa, the occupy movement went on in all parts of the country. Including my town of Houston Texas which I proudly took part in. I am of Sally’s generation and can assure you I was never coddled. We were/are fighting for the great middle class and working class of this country who have seen their real wages and benefits go steeply down for at least two decades while the richest 1% have gotten enormously wealthy off of our backs.

        Sorry to get political but Jax started it.

  2. Thing is, parenting wasn’t invented in the 90’s. It’s safe to say that while we believe ourselves to be great parents, our children will view our parenting as flawed, old fashioned and misinformed. Parenting will never be perfect, as it is carried out by people. I think less blame and anger and more compassion and empathy towards previous generations might be worth our while/ One day we’ll be the ones saying “Honey , we didn’t know better back then, I really thought I was doing my best…”

    • Yes indeed! Kids will look back on the helicopter parenting, the everyone gets a trophy, let’s build your self esteem without requiring character/actual accomplishment, and say gee what terrible parenting! Some things improve, some things get worse. What seems to be constant is that each generation tries to be a better parent than the generation before. I think it is safe to say that Betty and Don are both better parents than their parents were. Same with Mrs. Olson. And Meghan is a better step parent than her parents are parents (not exactly the same). Etc.

      • Great points. And yes, trying to do better than your parents did is at least half the battle.

        Agree that the modern parenting has its flaws as well. Unconditional love and uncritical love are two very different things, and only one of them really helps a person grow.

        Long as we keep learning, though …

  3. I had tears in my eyes while reading your piece, Ann B. For a minute I was that child again, and I remember all too well when I realized that there was no one going to be helping me and that the adults were as clueless as the kids. Terrifying realization for a kid. Not surprising either that I also became a caretaker, a do-er, a problem solver, etc. Who else was there to do those things that needed to be done?

    • Not surprising either that I also became a caretaker, a do-er, a problem solver, etc. Who else was there to do those things that needed to be done?


      Sally isn’t “fine” now, but ultimately she will be. She will make sure of it.

  4. I agree that Sally understands that adults are pretty clueless, but I think she had a vague idea of that even before the ball and BlowJobGate. I thought the most interesting illustration of this is a skill she’s developed: She knows exactly how and when to lie. She says that Pauline tripped over one of Bobby’s toys when, in fact, she tripped over the cord of the phone Sally was using to (surreptitiously?) talk to Glen. As lies go, this was brilliantly executed. In the delivery, she speaks first when the adults ask the kids what happened (i.e. she speaks before Bobby can), and quickly explains the “how it happened” part before going into the “how I saved the day” part in greater detail. Even the choice of fall guy is brilliant: Don once fell on Bobby’s toys, so this explanation was likely very believable to Don, Betty and whoever else recalls the incident. If Pauline or Bobby challenge her story, she can just say that Pauline was confused after the fall (“I think she may have hit her head, mom. I’m worried about her.”) and Bobby was panicked. After all, Sally was the cool, collected one during the emergency, so who are you going to believe?

    Lying is a survival tactic, and one tends to do it only when one thinks she can get away with it. It makes sense that Sally thinks she can get away with it if she suspects that adults are clueless. Maybe she got the idea from Glen, who was specifically told by Betty that “adults don’t know anything.”

    Her lie was also a sign of maturity: Although we’d like to think we stop lying as we get older, we actually just get better at it. Sally’s lie was well executed, designed specifically to get her out of trouble with people she thinks aren’t paying attention, and I think it signals her nascent maturity.

    • Great observations. Wonderful.

      I also notice how and when Bobby speaks for Sally (another acquired skill, at least among kids). Sally was silent when she saw what was on the dinner table at her Dad’s house. So Bobby stepped up: “Sally doesn’t like fish,” he said.

      Which, of course, Megan knew, because she’d made spaghetti. (She also made spaghetti because she herself is made of awesome.)

      • Oh, that’s right! Bobby told a truth that would have been inconvenient for Megan had she not been so prepared. This is likely due to Bobby’s age (kids can sometimes be honest to the point of impoliteness) but I also recall Betty getting really angry when Bobby lied (About sleeping? It was in Flight 1.) and called him “a little liar.” Maybe his mom’s harsh words stuck with him, just like Katherine’s are gonna stick with Peggy.

        Well, I clearly need to open a pint of ice cream and watch this episode again. I’ll get on that ASAP, team.

      • “made of awsome”

        I love that

    • Excellent points on Sally’s facile execution of untruth! One Ace that Sally held was her step-grandmother was drinking when she fell. Sally shares the secrets and lies that accompany grandma’s alcoholic imbibing, including her stash of happy pills, and she recognized this was a good time to play it for her own gain. I predict Sally will be an excellent poker player.

      • Touche. She is smart and has great survival instincts.

        On another note, I was surprised how dowdy that “ball” was. I was expecting an elegant dining room at the Pierre. Anne can you comment on this please?

    • Tasha,

      I really appreciated your analysis of Sally’s falsehoods,. Lying is actually an underappreciated virtue; like so many things we’re taught as children, it’s a received wisdom that it’s all bad. I once had a therapist explain to me that it’s actually important to let children get away with relatively small lies, precisely because it IS a survival tactic and teaches them that they are not always at the mercy of what the grownups dish out. Moreover, he said lying enables kids learn to establish their own sense of self and, ironically helps them sets their own boundaries, not to mention the ability to maneuver through society. Think about it–what would most “civilized” social discourse be if we hadn’t mastered the ability to lie well, at leas some of the time?.

      Letting kids get away with lying sometimes sounds perverse, I know, but I’ve actually come to believe my therapist was really on to something, because the ability to lie well, can give you a kind of escape valve if you grown up in an overly controlling environment, as I did. Of course, the key is keeping the ability to lie in control; like any vice, moderation is key. Still, not only do I believe that lying sometimes is good for all of the reasons above, but it’s also a great way to foster the imagination; I, too, predict Sally will not only be just a great poker player, but quite possibly an author as well.

      • My favorite lie by one of my kids went like this:

        “My doctor says I can only eat hot dogs, French fries, pasta, ketchup, and sometimes dessert.”

        For a long time, it was the and-sometimes-dessert part that killed me. These days, it’s “my doctor says …”


        • Ha! Love the ketchup part. 🙂

        • I used to put ketchup on EVERYTHING. Including rice and fried plantains, both of which we had as sides every day for lunch in Venezuela.

    • “She says that Pauline tripped over one of Bobby’s toys when, in fact, she tripped over the cord of the phone Sally was using to (surreptitiously?) talk to Glen.”

      Thank you–I meant to go back and watch that part more closely the next time I watch the episode When I saw it on Sunday, and she tripped, I was so confused, thinking, “what’s that long cord along the wall?” for some silly reason it didn’t even occur to me that it was the phone cord from Sally’s call.

    • “I think she may have hit her head, mom. I’m worried about her.”

      That’s actually better than: “she was drinking, Mom. I’m worried about her.”

      I’ll bet Sally cleaned that drink off the floor.

    • My initial reaction when I saw that scene was that Sally was lying to cover up HER being on the phone to Glen…and that Katherine would have to back her because of the drink. I’m going to have to watch it again.

  5. LOVE this post.

  6. One of the hardest thing for parents to deal with is when children age and move into a stage of life where they become more independent and their views should be taken more seriously.

    Apparently Sally is 12. When Don saw Sally in her dress, he was truly amazed. But he was NOT angry or put off until Emile made the cheap comment of “Sally spreading her legs.” Don reacted by telling Sally to take off the boots and make-up but notice he never told her she could not wear the dress. The “old Don” was not into nuance.

    My take is that Don has mellowed out a lot when it comes to his kids, especially Sally, and I think a lot of it has to do with Megan’s influence. I know in the scheme of things when it comes to the trials and tribulations of Don Draper, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal, but in fact it is. Sally has come to really love her father and her step-mother and that appears genuine. In the case of the latter, that is the exception not the rule in most divorces.

    And when Don offered to give his award to Sally, she told her father to keep it because of how proud Megan was of Don winning the award. For a twelve year old girl to not only being that unselfish, but to be that observant to Megan’s reaction to Don receiving the award and to be that gracious to her step-mother was truly an act of a grown-up.

    For that moment alone Don should give Sally a big hug. Sally said it best herself when being reproached by Pauline in episode four: “I’m NOT a bad person.”

    And a final note it was in season four episode 12 Blowing Smoke that Megan told Don how proud she was that he wrote the letter to the NYT (why Don won the award). Again something many folks may not consider a big deal but really is. How many people at SCDP were in Don’s corner when the letter was unveiled? To my recollection there was only one person: Megan Calvet.

    • Sally has always really loved her father. The only issue between them in her 12 years was that Don was an absentee and neglectful father. We, the viewers, really haven’t been given a whole lot of evidence of how well (or not) Sally is getting along with Megan as her stepmother. Sally gets to spend more time with Don now I would imagine as Don now has someone other than him to do the “heavy lifting” of childcare when he has the kids on (probably) alternate weekends. She’s getting to see more of Don and getting more attention from her father and she probably loves that part more than anything.

      “And when Don offered to give his award to Sally, she told her father to keep it because of how proud Megan was of Don winning the award.”

      I think you’ll find on re-viewing this scene that what Sally said was “…no, you should keep it because it makes you really happy.”

  7. A Summer Place filmed in 1959 was touted at the time as a movie that shows adults acting like teenagers and teenager acting like grown-ups.

    In many episodes of Mad Men, we see this theme played out through the story lines of the main characters. It is not only Don who is shown to be immature at times, but Roger, Peggy, Joan and Pete as well. Bert seems like the only grown-up in the room.

    And in contrast the children are often shown as talking like adults or behaving as children should in a normal fashion.

    For me Pauline and Katherine are cut from the same cloth. Both make out that they want Sally and Peggy respectively to act like adults but in truth both want to keep them under their thumb and treat them like little kids.

  8. What I find fascinating is the idea perhaps that Sally is more mature than her mother Betty Francis. From the series how do I know that?

    a) Betty’s weird relationship with Glenn as seen in the last episode of season one where Betty drives up to an office and engages Glen Bishop, a nine year old, in the parking lot and treats him as if he were an adult or Betty lowering herself to a nine year old level–take your pick. At the time Betty made this comment to Glen: “Adults don’t know anything.”

    b) Betty’s psychiatrist in episode 7 of season one telling Don, “Basically we’re dealing with the emotions of a child here.”

    And this occurred 5-6 years before this last episode. And that begs the question what is more likely to happen? That Betty becomes an adult first or that Sally does. And if you choose Sally, then what is in store for her as she becomes a young teenager while Betty is still reacting and making decisions in an infantile, childish or juvenile manner? And to complicate matters how will it exacerbate the tension between Betty and the Drapers when the latter deals with Sally in a grown-up manner while Betty remains wedded to her current outlook or thought patterns? I can see a major blow-up here.

    • And that begs the question what is more likely to happen? That Betty becomes an adult first or that Sally does.

      I know we have discussed this a lot in past seasons. I side with many viewers in seeing Sally as the more mature of the two.

      Sally is what therapists call a parentified child: she was charged early on with responsibilities she was probably unprepared to assume. (Making alcoholic beverages for adults, caring for younger siblings when she was little herself. etc.) She knows others who are parentified as well: Glenn Bishop mentions “changing diapers”. Kids of their (our) generation did these things, and more: cooking, laundry, housework, phone calls on behalf of adults.

      But Sally is more emotionally mature than her mother. We’ve seen this most recently in the scene of the two of them eating ice cream. Sally knows when she’s full; she knows who isn’t really her “boyfriend” or “date”. I believe that she may have this maturity because she enjoys a level of comfort with her father that her mother never did. I’m just guessing about this, of course, but Betty does seem less secure than her daughter.

      Mature or not, Sally is still a kid. Anything can happen in her story, and I look forward to seeing where Matt and company take it.

      • Kids of their (our) generation did these things, and more: cooking, laundry, housework, phone calls on behalf of adults.

        Yes, we did. Let’s start a campaign that kids begin learning how to do these things again. I am always thrown when I hear women my age complain about how much housework they have to do when they have kids over 12. I hated my chores, but, man, they made me self-sufficient. And it’s in keeping with the feminist idea that mothers are not your maids. Have your kids help out with the chores, peeps. It’s good for you, good for the kids, and good for humanity.

        • Totally agree with you MartyK. My siblings and I were cooking, cleaning house, grocery shopping, ironing, etc. by age 10. I remember the day when my two kids were 12 and I realized that I had done exactly what I had said I would never do (in the years I was childless) — I was still doing everything for them and had not given them any responsibilities that were all theirs. That was the same day I quit as laudress and from that point on, both my daughter AND son, did their own laundry. And there were quite a few times they wore unironed unclean clothes to school until they REALLY understood that I was not going to come to the rescue when they had no clean socks, underwear or jeans or tops left. And that took great discipline on my part :)!

          • Good for you!!

            Just out of curiosity, why did it take so much discipline? I take it that it was hard, what did you find it so? I’m genuinely curious because I don’t have kids.

            (It’s Marly with an L, by the way. 🙂 )

          • Hi MarlyK (thanks for the correction!). It took discipline on my part because back then I really cared what other people thought about me. And I had very strong ideas about what a “good” mother did and didn’t do. (God, I was a judgmental pain in the butt :).) And “good” mothers didn’t send their kids to school with anything less than ironed, clean, attractive clothes. It’s difficult for me to believe now that I had such superficial beliefs about so many things. Divorce and single parenting cured me of a lot of nonsensical beliefs, really fast.

          • Ah, Brooklyn Jan, that’s so interesting. Thanks for the insight! Did your kids ever get good at ironing, by the way?

        • Partly because this generation has fewer kids. When you meet some adult who doesn’t know how to pick up after him or herself, it’s almost always an only child. When there are four or seven kids, that’s when the parents put their feet down.

          • I have met people with two or three kids who haven’t given them chores or asked them to help out, though.

          • Oh, yeah, I knew that I didn’t even have to ask, Deborah!!

          • I think it is also because Moms like me who had worked in a high pressure jobs that demanded we be on call 24/7 and then quit to stay home with our kids just couldn’t slow it down. Three loads of laundry a day, I can do that,,,cookies for school tomorrow ? Sure, how many dozens do you need? It was a challenge, it was pulling off a difficult assignment in a time crunch, and rather tellingly it was a control issue. I realized almost too late I was limiting my boys and making them dependent upon others. I would never tell them or show them that their economic well being was dependent upon someone else, so why was I telling them their ability to make a nice life for themselves, having a clean house, making really good food, learning how to stop a leaking faucet would be up to someone else?

    • Techno, your (b) above is only evidence that Betty’s psychiatrist was reprehensible and a total FAIL as a therapist. He broke more rules of patient care and confidentiality that I care to think about. The man was a charlatan. What he said about Betty (and who he said it to) spoke volumes about who he was, nothing more.

      • He was the worst! What a horrible person that therapist was.

      • Actually all we have to go by in posting our analysis and interpretation of each episode is what is said during the episodes, what action takes place and the insider accounts of how the characters and Matt Weiner view each episode.

        Yes, I can agree that the shrink broke the rules of ethics but nowhere did I get the impression he was NOT qualified to do his job. After all he would have to be licensed and to receive his license he would have had to go through college training to qualify for it.

        One can be crooked but qualified. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

        • I really disliked him. I’m not going to say he didn’t have qualifications, but as far as Betty was concerned, I think he could have delved much deeper. Did he even realize she was living with a man who never opened to her, and she was frustrated by it? Or that she felt lonely and unfulfilled, wondering how to fill her days? There was just so much that could have been explored, and from the scenes we saw, we didn’t get the sense that he did explore it. He mostly just seemed really cold.

    • Not a comprehensive defense of Betty, but justa few points in Betty’s favor. Betty has had to be the adut in the family while Don ran around absenting himself whenever he felt like it for work or philandering. When Don abandoned his family during his daughter’s birthday party, Betty had to keep up a happy front for the kids (and the guests) and make do. The new neighbor, divorcee Helen, Glenn’s mom, helped by coming though with a frozen cake. Don shows up that night, softening the blow for kids by bringing home Polly the dog. I know of plenty of women who would have refused to keep the dog. Betty didn’t throw a fit, she didn’t get hysterical (as Don often accused her of being to shut her off). She calmly said “I don’t know what to say.” But then Betty was seen caring for that dog, walking the dog, taking adult responsbility for the children and house even to the tune of taking responsiblity for Polly the dog, symbol of Don’s irresponsible, reprehensible behavior. Lots of other examples but just to say Betty is in my opinion much better than she gets credit for – of course admitting there is much trouble there as well.

  9. Great post, Anne. I felt Sally also lost some of her innocence when she watched TV after Gene died (at Betty’s insistence) and she saw that awful news report about the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire. I just felt she was too young to be seeing that/hearing about it 🙁

    edited to add: Also, Anne, may I say that looking at your photo, you look too young to remember anything about the 1960s! 🙂

    • The first summer I remember with any clarity is the summer of 1969, when I’d just turned three.

      I remember the Moon Landing very clearly. There are times when I long to have that day back, because of the memories that closely follow it: hot weeks of closed windows and locked doors, obvious fear among the adults, and then the nightmare of the Manson Family at trial a year later.

      The Sixties ended, in more than one way, that summer. I for one would never be sorry that they, and the creepy, disoriented near-adults that defined them, were gone.

  10. Annie!

    While I look forward to every new episode of Mad Men, I find myself equally looking forward to your writing afterwards.

    I do want to make one point clear – as a kid growing up, I deserved to be treated as a non-adult. I’d spend hours meticulously building a Me 109 (that’s a German WWII fighter), painting and detailing the model until it looked like the real thing; my brother and I would string up some fishing line from our second floor apartment, I’d douse the model with my Dad’s Zippo lighter fluid, stick a M-80 in the cockpit and film the burning fighter as it exploded. My ambition in life was to be a Wacky Packages artist and my high school senior english teacher said I reminder her of Holden Caulfield. It’s no wonder my folks left me alone 🙂

    One last thing – having spent time with you and Jim, I’ve come the conclusion that you’re Sally.

    • I am Sally. I can walk backwards all the way from the living room.


      • Sally O’Malley! You’re not one of those gals who has to lie about here age. You like to kick and stretch! But you’re defintely not fifty!

  11. I was fascinated with Matt Weiner’s last comment in Inside Mad Men for this episode in which he claimed based on what Sally saw Roger and Marie do, that once you peek into the keyhole children will discover grown-ups are gross in their behavior and part of also being gross is the lies they tell. One thing I also noticed unlike most of the comments Weiner makes on these recaps of the episodes, he was not as dispassionate as he is accustomed to being but instead brought a lot more emotion or intensity to the table than he normally brings on any topic.

    And that brings me to the topic of HYPOCRISY. Does Weiner and his staff of writers generally believe the majority of adults are hypocrites? Think back over the 59 episodes of Mad Men so far, how often are adults portrayed as something they are not or shown to act in ways contrary to what they advocate or believe in? Quite often I would say.

    But think back to the one constant over every season of the 4+ seasons of Mad Men and I think you will discover the only character who is NOT a hypocrite is Don Draper. Don may be secretive, lied about his true identity and not let the world in to the extent of his promiscuous lifestyle, but can you remember any time Don said something which he did not do except to break his marriage vows or go to bed with his secretary against the rules (The Suitcase). But on a daily basis I don’t remember Don being a goody-two-shoes, taking the holier-than-thou route or saying he believed in something and then did the complete opposite. Generally Don never pretended he was something he was not based on who the world considered Don to be.

    For example Don has never voted and didn’t feel comfortable working on an advertising campaign to elect Nixon when he would have not voted for him himself.

    And big-time smoker and drinker Don Draper never tried to convince people not to smoke or drink.

    I guess you can debate whether that The Letter was evidence of hypocrisy by Don. To me it would be if SCDP had gone back on Don’s assertion that SCDP would no longer take tobacco money. Changing your mind and going in a different direction is NOT hypocrisy, but telling the world you are changing course when you are not is.

    Yes, Pete considers Don a hypocrite by virtue of what Don advised Pete to do in Signal 30 which was to appreciate what he had in Trudy. Pete then says to Don: “Brave words from a man on his second time around.” Basically Pete is calling Don out and accusing him of being a hypocrite.

    This is when Don uncharacteristically levels with one of his colleagues to the extent of his past indiscretions by suggesting if he had met Megan first he would have known enough not to throw it away.

    And imho, the ultimate hypocrisy in the entire series will entail Don Draper breaking his marriage vows to Megan if that happens because if that does Weiner can cite how gross that is and what an egregious lie Don committed in breaking his marriage vows.

    But the issue of hypocrisy for TV and movie writers is never far removed from those folks who are deemed to “gotten religion.” The grand prize for any secular humanist is to catch a prominent self-righteous person who holds himself or herself out to be a person of “high virtue” or “high moral values or character” to be acting contrary to what he says or acts in public.

    What I find fascinating in Mad Men is whether the real-life producers and writers of Mad Men will go down the road of showing that Don is actually a hypocrite or will they hold flawed Don out as person who does not indulge in hypocrisy and instead focus on exposing other adults for their hypocrisy, those who the world deems are not as flawed as Don.

    Will self-righteous folks always be shown as hypocrites on TV or will Weiner and staff become grown-ups themselves and realize that not everyone who is considered virtuous or a person of high moral character is a hypocrite? That would certainly be breaking new ground on TV, wouldn’t it?

  12. I realize this is a small point but when the waiter came around at the very end of the scene where the five characters were sitting glum around the banquet table, he only asked Sally of her intentions.

    If you remember when you were a young child, when out at a restaurant your parents would order your food and expect you to eat what was on your plate. In other words you were given no choice or other option. By the waiter singling out Sally and not directing his attention to the other adults at the table, he was recognizing Sally as a person capable of making her own decisions and choices.

    And when you in your formative years, that is absolutely a huge step in a child’s development and a development in a child a sense of autonomy. Notice also Don did NOT answer for Sally but let her answer for herself. Now if that were Betty, would she have done the same thing as Don. I don’t think so.

    • He wasn’t a waiter, he was a busboy. They were at a banquet, there were no dinner choices. Everyone was given the same plate. We saw Sally end up with food she didn’t like–fish. “You done with this?” about a drink isn’t all that. I think it’s much more on point to interpret it as Sally saying she is “done with this,” e.g. the grown-up world, which is no longer magical to her. She is “done with” the drink Roger brought her.

      • Perhaps I was more interested why the bus boy did not address any of the other 4 adults at the table and instead only addressed Sally. I found that symbolic.

        In most shows I would have ignored this gesture but I have learned every word spoken or every act in an episode of MM has a deeper meaning or at least is designed to signify something which is not readily apparent.

        But your interpretation of the gesture has merit. You were focused on the actual objects that were taken away while I was focused on the idea of the bus boy singling Sally out at all.

      • Deborah, interesting — I interpreted that moment in just the opposite way. He asked her if she was done with her Shirley Temple, a special childhood drink. That is, “Are you done with childhood.” “Yes.”

        I felt that the experience Sally had had just moments before of stumbling onto the primal sex scene between Roger and Megan’s mom ended her childhood. In that moment, she was thrust into adulthood. Are you done with that Shirley Temple? Sadly, yes.

        • I heard and interpreted exactly the same way Elizabeth. Devastating moment.

        • “Shirley Temple” is the name of the drink and also the name of the girl who sings and dances “At the Codfish Ball.” Sally is done with the fantasy of the Codfish Ball. She doesn’t like the grown-up world. It’s “dirty.”

      • I saw it as both, she is done with the innocent, child-like notion that the grown-up world is glamorous and good. Granted, she already had plenty of glimmerings that grown-ups are not all-powerful, all-knowing, or good. But seeing what she saw at the ball was the clincher.

        Let’s not forget, as imperfect as Don and Betty are as parents, they’re also damned glamorous, as is Megan. She’s surrounded by some fairly dazzling adults. Hell, even Roger and Marie are glamorous. (Julia Ormond as Megan’s Mom was very good casting. They have similar coloring and they both carry themselves with assurance.)

        Now it’s goodbye childhood and goodbye adulthood. Now what?!

        • Maybe she becomes a mermaid — half one thing and half another.

          • But she hates fish!!

          • It is probably an overstretch but I noticed that the Little Mermaid drinks a potion in order to be able to join the world of the humans. I don’t think it came with a cherry though.

            I see it the way Deb and others do, the purpose of the busboy’s stage business is to give Sally that line.

    • My parents never ordered for me or my sister. At first my stepfather didn’t like this, until my mother explained that this is what we were used to. Although he was an extremely extremely controlling person, I think he adapted because he loved to eat and us ordering on our own gave him a chance to try stuff he wouldn’t otherwise. I always ordered the strangest thing on the menu, which he liked. Then again, there was no such thing as making separate food according to each kid’s whims. If we didn’t like what was for dinner, too bad. There was also no “kid food”. We ate what the grown-ups ate.

      • Our own policy with meals is we prepare “grown up” food and the kids (now teenagers) eat it (though we never “fought” ove food – never insisted that they eat).

        I was amused more than once when my son’s would have a guest over for dinner who would walk away hungry.

  13. As Mad Men often shows, being a child in an adult world can be traumatic enough, let alone having to deal with the challenges of puberty, physical and intellectual development, the knowledge that your parents are not god-like figures that you imagined as an infant and what you will eventually do for a living.

    And what complicates the issue for certain children is when their parents are divorced. Children who desire to remain children suddenly find they have to act more grown-up to understand the ramifications of the divorce which includes intellectually processing the information and compartmentalizing their lives. In addition to the confusion of divorce, children also lose their childhood innocence and often take on the cynical outlook and patterns of adults. And imho, this is the great tragedy of divorce. It is one thing for adults to be cynical, jaded and jaundiced and full of frustration due to life’s disappointments and not achieving their dreams and their goals but for a young child to be burdened with such counterproductive feelings through no fault of their own is simply unconscionable.

    And then when you compound the problem through the injunctions of people like Pauline who told Sally in Mystery Date that “someone needs to discipline you so you can start acting like an adult” you see the battle lines being drawn between Sally trying to keeping her childhood and being forcibly taken into the land of adulthood against her will and the battle being played out with a lot more public emotion, with definite signs of teenage angst and ongoing refractory behavior which could include teenage rebellion.

    And then when you throw in episodes of adults acting in gross ways as was witnessed by Sally eavesdropping on Roger and Marie you even accelerate the process of becoming an adult even further.

    Could an argument be made that the adults in Sally’s life are robbing her of her childhood? I think so. And why Weiner is so brilliant is that I believe he intends to show gradually the effects this will have on Sally’s future development as a young teenager and make it crystal-clear that adults have a responsibility to raise their children without expecting them to be adults before they are ready to become so.

    Should parents stay married for the sake of the kids until they reach 18? I sometimes wonder.

  14. But having said what I said about Sally being forcibly taken to the world of adulthood against her will, Don and Megan are imho doing a decent job of helping Sally to adjust to this new world, cushion the negative impact and to create a soft landing for her. And Don himself would NOT have been able to contribute as much as he has if he had not grown up himself starting with the milkshake episode in CA right through to the latest episode.

    I know many critics of the “new Don” suggest either that his new persona is not believable (story line; Henry Francis viewpoint that there is no such thing as a fresh start) or that Megan has bewitched him into acting contrary to the “old Don” who occasionally acted immature, temperamental, or did not demonstrate the parenting skills one would expect an adult to possess.

    For example imho, the old Don would have told Sally she could not attend the banquet unless she did not wear the shoes, makeup and the dress. The new Don allowed Sally to wear the dress. I don’t think this adult compromise was within Don’s repertoire before he met Megan.

    And this leads me to the point of controversy on every blog: Is Megan really good for Don or is she manipulating Don to act in more grown-up ways towards Sally? Or is Don’s more adult, rational approach to Sally completely self-revelatory?

    Imho, based on what I have seen of Don in 4+ seasons of Mad Men, I don’t see him taking on this new persona as Sally’s dad without some input from Megan. Yes, you can argue that divorced dads in anecdotal accounts treat their children better but do adults fundamentally change their parenting skills without the influence of an outside agency? Can a leopard change his spots?

    Imho, the milkshake episode planted the seed in Don that he did not have to conduct himself as a parent as he had done previously with Sally. Go back and watch Tomorrowland and focus on the surprising look Don gives Megan as she remains cool, calm and collected in wiping up the milkshake spill. And what Megan has done in the subsequent months they have been married is to water those seeds and through osmosis Don has transformed himself into a better-adjusted parent who acts like a grown-up.

    And in terms of Sally’s mental and psychological health I believe Don’s improved parenting skills are vital in keeping Sally from going off the deep end especially in the light of what Sally has now seen in what Roger and Marie were doing.

    But finally the question needs to be asked: Will Don eventually revert back to his immature ways? If he does that will definitely impact Sally and her development as a teenager.

  15. I’ll bet Sally was expecting a grand staircase in the ballroom because she watched a musical production of “Cinderella” the year before.

    It aired on CBS on February 22, 1965 and starred Lesley Ann Warren in the title role, with Stuart Damon as The Prince. As I recall, it was a highly rated special when it first aired and it was seen again fairly regularly into the 1970s.

    This video tribute to the production includes a shot of the impressive staircase …

    • As a child, I used to watch this on TV every year!

    • Oh, yes! I remember this Cinderella! And that is Alan Quatermaine (General Hospital) playing the prince. 🙂

  16. I believe the Jews got it right when they set up a ritual called bar mitzvah (for boys at 13) or bat mitzvah (for girls at 12).

    Why Christians do not have a similar tradition I do not know why. But for girls like Sally who is now 12, it would confirm she is regarded by her community as an adult. But more importantly she would expect to be treated like an adult by her community.

    • Next time you are in the barrio, check out a quincinera.

    • The Catholic Sacrement of Confirmation used to be about 8th grade. Now, there is a trend to having First Holy Communion and Confirmation together. My cousin’s children were in the third grade when they accepted both of these scacrements.

  17. Wow, this is so beautifully written, yet true.

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