Dear Joan Holloway, Was It Something I Said?
May 31, 2012 | by Adam Wilson
Just wanted to check in, as I can’t help but feel slightly responsible for your actions in this week’s episode. I thought these letters from the future would do you all some good, providing twenty/twenty hindsight into your blindingly Day-Glo historical moment. But Doc Brown was right: messing with the past can alter the future in unexpected ways. Matthew Weiner and company thrive on this very notion; they’ve remodeled the mid-sixties into an era in which cigarettes don’t cause cancer, and the advertising industry is the pinnacle of glamour, filled with beautiful people in beautiful clothes making eyes at each other across rooms then retreating into bedrooms with beautiful bed frames for bouts of steamy congress in which panties always match the bra, and a woman can achieve orgasm just by inhaling Don’s smoky musk.
No surprise, then, that here in 2012 we’ve gone gaga over sixties style, sporting skinny ties and summer plaids, puffing cigs like we’re unaware of science, and ruining perfectly healthy marriages because, according to Pete Campbell’s friend from the commuter train, variety is the spice of life. We should probably all reread Richard Yates. Maybe it was wrong to tease you with a glimpse into third-wave feminism when the second wave is only now breaking against your shoreline.
But don’t think I’m judging you. What you did was brave and took cojones, and I only hope you’ll be able to enjoy the spoils of your sacrifice in glorious financial splendor without being slut-shamed by assholes like Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling. Don’t let them make you feel bad. You made a calculated business decision—just like Don did when he succumbed to the advances of a less-than-appealing woman named Bobbie in order to secure the Utz account (props to Emily Nussbaum for pointing this out)—and now you’re a bona fide partner, leading the way for future female leaders, perhaps more than anyone who simply burned a bra and stopped shaving her legs.
A lot of people have used sex to get where they are. Without Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries would just be another white power forward fighting for playing time, and without her own camcorder, Kim herself would just be another heiress with a giant butt and a couple of annoying sisters.
Yesterday Bob Dylan won a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and though he’s certainly deserving, from the somber look on his face at the ceremony it was obvious to me that the seventy-two-year-old maestro had been forced to sleep with someone truly abhorrent in order to finally receive his due.
There’s a famous Guy de Maupassant story called “Butterball,” about a group of Frenchies who leave Rouen via stagecoach after the Prussian Army’s invasion. The group consists of a bunch of rich people and a rather voluptuous prostitute named Butterball. Everyone has forgotten to pack a lunch (silly bourgoeoisie!) except Butterball, who graciously shares with the rest. Then all the rich people respect the prostitute and are nice to her because they realize she is a human being and a good person, regardless of her lower social station. But then they all stay in a hotel, and a Prussian officer won’t let them leave until Butterball lets him slip her the old weisswurst, and all the rich people start rationalizing and attempting to convince Butterball to do this one bit of harmless, treasonous boning for the common good. (SPOILER ALERT) Butterball refuses: she’s a patriot and not without dignity, but her coachmates keep pushing, and eventually Butterball agrees to take one for the team if it will shut everyone up and get them off her back. Butterball makes the sacrifice, and then, after all those rich assholes start treating her like a whore again because they know what she did.
Point being, most people are hypocrites, and dignity has nothing to do with upbringing or who you have sex with or how much money you spend on cufflinks. The other day I made my girlfriend watch the movie School Ties, the Brendan Fraser classic about a Jewish quarterback at a Waspy prep school, which is requisite viewing for anyone who hopes to hold a place in my heart. At the end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT), Matt Damon gets kicked out of school for cheating, and as his limo is pulling away, he stops in front of Fraser and says (I’m paraphrasing), “You might go to Harvard, but you’ll always be a Jew,” and Brendan Fraser replies, “And you’ll always be a prick.”
Well, Joanie, all I’m trying to say is that you’re Brendan Fraser and the world is Matt Damon, so be proud of yourself, and celebrate what you’ve earned by playing their filthy game, and if they call you names, then you stand up tall and call them names right back and walk away with head held high, red hair shining in the sun like it’s been dyed by rubies.
My fondest regards,
Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen.