Mad Men s4e10: Hands and Knees

“I just want some warning.”

“Why? What are you gonna do?”

“Whatever I have to. You can run the agency without me.”

Oof, this is a loaded episode filled with people hiding shit. Don and his Dick (identity), Roger losing Lucky Strike, Lane’s marriage implosion, Joan’s abortion.. it’s all a legit mess.

image courtesy of Imgur

Remember North American Aviation? Well, Pete’s done his due diligence and is very slowly coaxing them to SCDP as a client. However, this entails working with the government which is bad news for Don and his whole desertion thing.. you know, that. Pete is spot on to resent Don for needing him to kill the NAA deal, but he also seems to envy Don for not feeling more guilt about who he really is and what he did in Korea.. yet we see peppered in the episode/series how wholly crippling that weight still is, years later.

Pete: “I was thinking about this, and I know it’ll be uncomfortable, but if we have to, we can ride it out.”

Don: “Are you crazy?”

Pete: “This many years later? It must be past the statute of limitations.”

Don: “It’s desertion. There’s no statute of limitations.”

Pete: “I thought nobody cared about these things.”

Don: “What am I supposed to do?”

Pete: “I don’t know.. you’ve been doing it for years. I don’t have to live with your shit over my head.. You know, I signed this account after you disappeared in California. It’s taken three years, but I’ve grown it from cocktails to $4 million.”

Don: “Get rid of it.”

This is a far bigger deal for Don than when Pete found out, because Pete was just a smarmy jerk who wanted to wield that intel to get promoted; at best, Don could lay the smackdown as he did in Cooper’s office, and at worst, he could go full on hobo and Pete wouldn’t give enough of a shit to send the coppers after him. Sorta moot all around, and the old Sterling Cooper would have survived sans Don. SCDP is another story, since Don is pretty much the figurehead and face of this agency.. his loss would radiate.

These G-men are the real deal, and they interview Betty who covers for Don much to his intense relief and sweaty panic. The FBI has mad resources and no hidden agenda à la Pete, and should they happen to uncover Dick Whitman while conducting a routine hunt for Communist ties, he’s up shit creek sans paddle and he knows it.

Post panic attack, Don tells Faye that he’s tired of running. Then, true to form, wholly dismisses her (and Pete’s) suggestion that he should try to face the music and hope that the years passed would somewhat mitigate the penalty. The fly in the ointment is that this gigantic secret is one Don will never really escape no matter how hard he tries. Dick Whitman is dead as far as the US government and military are concerned, so he’s Don Draper until he dies, always looking over his shoulder, waiting for someone else to come blow it all up. His secret is a core part of his identity and his day to day.

Even though Pete can’t see the damage and assumes Don lives scot-free, that ain’t reality. Sounds fucking exhausting.

It was clear how much he yearned for Betty to love him after she learned the truth, and how relieved and relaxed he was around Anna who knew everything, yet Don is underwhelmed that Faye has accepted the truth so simply.. or the edited for content, semi-enhanced version he told her. There’s deffo distance between them in the final scene, and after Faye splits for the day, Don finds himself really seeing Megan for the first time. Cue Beatles cover.

(And how cool is it that Sally gets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium?? SO BOSS)

*Fun real life tidbit: this is the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding. Hey-o!*

Not entirely unlike Don, Lane has been running away from his life at breakneck speed. Granted it’s nowhere near as extreme, but he’s obvi chosen the USA over his family. Lane seems to really dig it in New York, and who could blame him once you meet his absolutely terrifying father.

Weirdly, Lane tries to rub his father’s nose in his choices with a trip to the awesomely decorated Playboy Club to meet his ladyfriend Toni. Even Don is in tow in a sad non-recreation of their night out, maybe an attempt to recapture that booze-fuelled magic. Everyone can tell that Lane is trying to show off, which is equal parts super awkward and sad. Turns out he’s dating a Bunny.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Back at Lane’s place, his father coldly (and violently) orders him to come back to England to resolve things one way or the other with his wife and son. In a vacuum, he ain’t wrong– Lane can’t just leave it all hanging in the balance, but there are more subtle ways of getting the point across without a fucking concussion.

So here’s Lane.. languishing on the floor, bludgeoned into calling his father “sir.” In this moment we see the origins of that PPL organizational man; this is where the man whom St. John could count on to blindly follow orders without hope of reward came from, his origin. And as much as Lane imagines himself to be this confident, hedonistic and progressive American, he’s still capable of being rattled to his core by his father and forced to obey.

Roger has a boozed up dinner with Lee Garner Jr, where he lets the bomb drop that Lucky Strike is moving on. This ain’t good news for SCDP, since Lucky makes up most of their financial stability which is super precarious.. oy. As Roger goes through his Rolodex, he discovers most of his contacts are now as irrelevant as he seems to be at SCDP. Time to get your shit together, Roger.

On top of that, Joan is now knocked up from their sexy alley encounter. Joan had been set from the start to go through with the abortion as the pragmatic option, but thinking on their past together, she drops her guard for no more than a few seconds; testing the waters to see if Roger would want to keep the baby and they could maybe be together. She swiftly gets popped right back to reality when he immediately responds with “of course not”, the scandal of it all, etc.

Where she was serene and friendly just moments earlier, there’s a hard edge to the rest of their discussion as Joan accepts that this what she’s stuck with; Roger Sterling will never be the man she needs him to be. Some things are better left up to wondering ‘what if’. Gotta get on with it in the real world.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Natch, Lane is too mortified by what went down to admit to the other partners the truth behind his leave of absence and returning to London. Roger blows up at Pete for ‘losing’ North American Aviation, but it’s really all about his own shit with Lucky Strike. And then there’s Don, defending Pete, while absurdly relieved he won’t be investigated further. Mess.

But hey, The Beatles tickets came through, Don’s not gonna go to jail for the rest of his life for the time being, Joan ain’t gonna have a lovechild and lie to garbage Greg.. it’s not all bad. Not just yet, anyway.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

“We’re dead, you know that. The question is when..”

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5 Years in LA: A Rare Personal Post

We create our own demons.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a quote from Iron Man 3, but bear with me here.)

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Utah rest stop view. pretty boss.

My 5-year LA-iversary is today, and I felt it fitting to jot some personal nonsense down in here. On this day, I rolled up to my new home and life right around .. now. Living here has been a formative experience, and I was a different person when I pulled out of the driveway of my NJ childhood home in 2011.

Looking back on my 20s and my formative years has always been mortifying, to be completely honest. I read and reflect on the things I used to feel, things I used to care about, and the shit I used to say and how I treated people and I am mostly .. upset. Not that I was ever some monstrous lunatic hellbent on world domination, but I definitely could have treated people with more care. I took things and people for granted, I lived my life recklessly and did whatever whenever (within reason, obvi).

And if I’m being realistic, I don’t regret most of it; after all, that’s what your 20s are for. But if I could go back in a time machine, I’d be kinder. That’s really the only thing I’d change.. more patience, more kindness. It’s one of the notions my mother stressed as The Most Important Things in Life, and of course she’s spot on. I guess being a human dumpster fire was my way of rebelling for whatever unknown reason. Looking back and surveying the damage was daunting.

Now, I know none of this makes me some ~unique snowflake~. Nearly everyone I encounter is horrified by some aspect of their past; I felt the need to write because I’ve never talked publicly about any of this. I play everything pretty close to the chest. I’ve touched on it, sure, but never gone into any sort of detail.

This all started partly because I’ve been getting a lot of emails/actual mail about my 10 year (!) college reunion, which was last weekend. Generally irritating, but also a fact of life; college is a time that I do not wish to be reminded of in the least, but I feel compelled to reflect. I graduated in 2006, and never looked back. Even with my BA in hand, I generally felt like a listless shitperson next to my classmates with business degrees and jobs lined up. Me? I was going to work at The Gap, and take it from there. Christ.

I mostly remember my graduation day as a day of people being mad at me, and they weren’t really wrong for that. I was also voraciously hungover and it was hotter than actual hell outside; one of those thick, soupy-dank east coast summer days.
So! At 22, I had my degree and no real Plan(TM) except to not be in college anymore. I think about the way I avoided everyone and everything on campus after my volatile relationship self-immolated and some tenuous-at-best friendships went south, and I feel mostly embarrassed by it now. I shut out the few friends I had on campus, my lifelong friends from home really didn’t know what was going on either because it was just a goddamned mess. I was friends with some vaguely toxic people, and rolled with the punches.
It was all ~so dramatic~ but it was one of those really intense relationships with a really intense person. Good learning experience, very bad timing and everything else. Everyone’s got one of those people, and it preferably happens in their late teens/early 20s so they can get the fuck on with real life afterwards.
My version of this trope had a bonus; pile on Actual Heavy Things to Deal With as a late teen/early 20-something and it turned into fucking Hiroshima. Truth was I had no clue what the hell I was doing and chose destructive ways to get on with it and move forward because I frankly didn’t know any better.
dog_thisisfinefile footage of me circa 2002-2008. image courtesy of Tumblr

 

This continued for a bit in some form, then I got a full time job doing tech support for The Fruit Stand, and things seemed to even out for a beat before the roof caved in. When mom died, I was 24 and overall a human mess who was working 70 hours a week.
And then the 2008 stock market implosion happened and I lost that job shortly thereafter, as did most everyone else I knew. I remember it vividly, it all happened over the course of about a month. Everyone seemed shaken, like the earth had suddenly stopped rotating and we all fell over, powerless and drawn back home. Looking back on all that, it was a really healing time for me in the midst of all this massive uncertainty. Tons of people I knew had lost jobs and had to move back to where we grew up, and it became a bizarre remix of high school all over again. Bittersweet, but fun.  I feel like this is what saved me.
During this time, I hung out with some really nice people, reconnected with old friends, and went on some really nice dates, but I was so fucked and in this black hole of a headspace that any perceived kindness sent my way I instinctively read as false; really fucking cringeworthy.

2010 in particular was a strange year of unemployment and anxiety and stress framed with a lot of fun, late nights, and coming back out of my shell thanks to actually being close with people again. Slowly but surely I felt like I had value again, and that I was someone worth knowing.

At this point I was beginning to excavate my core so I could get back to being a Human Lady in a Society of Rules. I had no fucking idea what my next step was, but I knew I needed to change. I started surrounding myself with positive people and genuinely made every effort to be less awful. I axed trash people along the way and felt free.

Moving to Los Angeles has given me the rare gift of forced perspective that I badly needed, and I hope it’s not too late. I laid really good groundwork in NJ, but blasting off out of my comfort zone was that final push I needed to vaguely get my shit together. Or at least impersonate someone who had their shit together.

For all intents and purposes, I’ve lived a charmed life. Nowadays it’s trendy to talk about Privilege(TM), but brass tacks– what could I possibly have been so fucking unhappy about? I grew up in a really great area, surrounded by a rotating cast of good people who stuck by my side for nearly 27 years. I never had anything truly horrendous happen to me, yet I was lost.

I have wonderful parents, a strong family support system, and friends who feel more like family since we all grew up together in multiple senses. And yet, I had this lethargic rancor eating away at me. For whatever reason, in spite of all of this, I shut off at any sign of closeness. Maybe it was the past relationships gone sour, maybe I got too into my own headspace. Maybe I had focused on the wrong things.

It hits me in waves to this day, how many fucking great friends and family I’ve got, how lucky I really am. It sincerely overwhelmed me at the wedding last year, all that love and kindness. Why did I push it away with both hands for so long? The hell was that all about? Awkward.

As I dug deeper, I had longed for something indescribable. I always felt hollow at the end of the day, some static hum. I would stay up all night because the morning sun made me feel better somehow, a habit I picked up in the depth of being a college shithead with too many feelings/no feelings at all. But when I eventually started to turn shit around in 2009 and firmly place my gaze toward what was in front of me, that was the turning point. Suddenly a weight had been lifted, like mom coming back to me and saying, “knock this shit off already and get on with it”. Guess I was finally ready to listen.. and somewhere, mom is replying, “about fucking time”.

Driving out to California was more cathartic than it was intimidating or sad. It’s been a second chance, a clean slate for me. I met my husband here, I’ve been able to start relatively fresh these past 5 years. I’ve been faced with my own bullshit, felt it all, and essentially gotten on with it with confidence. Taking ownership and responsibility for past garbage behaviour has been equal parts humbling and uncomfortable. Shedding any lingering negative people has helped as well.

When Nick and I met at San Diego Comic Con in 2011 and I soon figured out that he was more than some one night rando to add to the carousel, I was objectively fucking terrified. I had a terrible track record with prior relationships, and generally felt inadequate in that regard.

When someone says enough nasty mean-spirited shit to you, friends and exes alike, you start to believe it. I absorbed it all, though I tried my best to be Teflon. But as I reflected and shared all the good, the bad and the ugly with him and received acceptance and love, I was fucking stunned. Everything just turned to colour.

So, what the hell does this all mean? How can I wrap this up neatly? Truth be told, I can’t. Just gotta keep on going.

We create our own demons, but there’s so much more; we’re in charge of our own future. Shape it into whatever the hell you want, and try your damndest to allow the past messes to impact you positively.. and always be kind*. That’s what I’m taking away from it all, and what I’ve been working on this past half decade.

 

Thanks for reading this mess.

 

*(unless the person is a maniac asshole, then they should be shot into space.)