Dear Don Draper, I Think I Understand
April 19, 2012 | by Adam Wilson
Dear Don Draper,
I think I know what’s wrong. Are you waking to pee in the middle of the night? Suffering from joint pain? Hot flashes? Vaginal dryness?
Don, you’re going through menopause.
I’m kidding. Sort of. No one doubts your manhood, especially not after Sunday’s display of muscle and plumbing. You’re a beefcake, buddy, grade-A American sirloin. When you stripped down to your undershirt it was like you were Spartacus entering the arena. Or, to put it in more modern terms, it was like you were Khal Drogo and the sink was your Khaleesi.
Poor Pete Campbell in his dinky little party tie, face crimson and flush, fawning over you. Twice emasculated, and married to that ballbuster Trudy. She wears hair curlers to bed, Don. Hair curlers!
Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t smile when Lane Price bloodied Pete’s pretty, Waspy nose. Another victory for old England! First Geoff Hurst banks it off the crossbar in extra time to beat the Krauts, and now Lane Price with a nasty right hook. Campbell had it coming. You were right not to break up the fight. It’s the producer’s job to interfere there, nip that script in the bud before the first table read. At least it was entertaining. Nothing you can do but sit back and watch.
But you’re not sitting back, Don, and I don’t know what you’re watching. Maybe Bewitched? Or are you just watching skyscrapers while you giggle and blush, dreaming of pregnant bellies and pink babies?
Something’s seriously off and I do think it’s hormonal. I’m not just talking about your new interest in monogamy. Monogamy I get. You’ve got a hot wife, and you don’t want to lose her. No more whores for you, homey, no more gum in your pubis. Whatev. Monogamy isn’t the problem.
The problem is you’re getting emo and annoyingly moralistic. I mean, you of all people know that men have needs. And what Pete needed was a hooker on all fours. You didn’t have to be a jerk about it.
That was a really classy brothel: four-poster beds, bottle service, classical on the dial. We should all be so lucky. Brothels these days are all techno and neon, menthol and Bronx accents, heart tattoos faintly etched on buttocks. Maybe it’s different if you’re rich, I don’t know.
About the baby thing. Let me give you some advice in the form of an anecdote. You may know about the newsboys strike of 1899. Well ninety years later Disney based a movie on it starring young Christian Bale (see attached photo) as a seventeen year old orphan named Jack “Cowboy” Kelly who leads the Newsies in rebellion against evil Joe Pulitzer.
Cut to 2012: Pulitzer’s still a dick, and Newsies is on Broadway, camped up and sexified, a Tupac hologram of its former self. I saw the show last night, Don, and it made me sad. The cast was great, and the dancing’s spectacular, but I wish they’d stayed faithful to the original story. In the Broadway version they made Jack an aspiring artist. Because American audiences like dreams to be literal.
In the movie, though, Jack’s only dream is poetic and vague, a magical place that he calls Santa Fe. But you know what happens in the end? Jack realizes something. He realizes that Santa Fe is in his heart. It’s in his heart and it’s been there all along. He realizes that while he was dreaming of freedom and lamenting the absence of family, he was forgetting the most important thing: he already had a family—the Newsies. Almost makes you tear up, doesn’t it? Real men sometimes cry, Draper. I’m not ashamed.
Point is: I see Santa Fe in your eyes. I know you’re dreaming of a fresh start with Megan, yet another opportunity to bury your past. But you’re too old to be Huck Finn this time, so don’t light out for the territories. Remember Jack Kelly and the lesson of Newsies. You already have a family, complete with newborn. They need you. And I think you need them.
So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to pull up outside Betty’s in your car. Bring Megan if you want. Honk the horn until your children come dancing out the front door yelling, “Daddy!” Load them in the back seat and turn up the tunes. Pat Megan on the knee. Drive through the suburbs with a smile on your face. Light a cigarette. This is your life and it’s not so bad.
Food for thought, Don.
Until next week,
Adam Wilson is the author of Flatscreen: A Novel.