The highly rated TV drama Mad Men on AMC has spotlighted the subject matter of men and women in the 1960s business world and taken it to task. In the first season I watched only one episode. It was painful. I had lived that life in the advertising world where a token woman worked harder than the men for far less pay and still had to serve coffee while listening to degrading remarks about sexuality, femininity, defined skills and forbidden opportunities. Women in mundane jobs had to take orders and ask permission from men who were less qualified than they. Funny thing, many of us didn’t mind the remarks. We were flattered when a man paid attention to us. Was that a lack of self-esteem on our parts or didn’t we know any better? We knew that good looks got us in the door, and we used them.While I was writing No Sex in St. Tropez I decided to soften some of my feelings about the way women thought and were treated in a man’s world. The parts about being a single mother and how I got to be a single parent were part of a back story I chose not to reveal. It was hard enough to explain my position on motherhood of two teenage boys who wanted to live with their father.
Now I’ve started watching Mad Men again. The writing is good. So are the acting and the story lines, as painful as that still is for me to watch. I remember when my commissions for sales I’d made were taken away from me by my sales manager who told me that he had a family to feed and I had a husband to take care of me.
In a recent episode of Mad Men, one of the women at the agency, Joan, has ended her job to have a baby. Her husband is in the military and hasn’t yet seen his child. When he arrives home for the family reunion he announces that he has signed up for another year in the military without consulting his wife. An argument ensues and Joan decides to leave her husband to go back to work while her mother takes care of the child.
A similar situation happened in my first marriage. My husband was a Regular Army officer. He changed his branch from Finance Corps to Infantry without consulting me. This was a big step. The Viet Nam war was beginning. Infantry came with a lot of risk and we had two children. I was furious that he did this without discussion. He loved Army life. Actually, I liked military life too—until he said, “If the Army wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me a wife.” Mad Men.