Mad Men and Me

One of Juliette's and my favorite shows--indeed, one of the only shows I still care about watching--is Mad Men. It's a wildly successful show, of course, both popular and critically acclaimed, and I like it for most of the same reasons that everybody else does. Still, you'd think that the fact that I have no particular nostalgia or longing for the 60's--nor any desire to drink and smoke at work or cheat on my wife--would mean that some of the appeal would be lost on me. There's another facet, though, that helps pull me in, one that's very personal and that I didn't realize until just last week.

You see, it turns out that Don Draper is just about the same age as my mom's dad. Sally Draper, his daughter, is almost exactly the same age as my mom. John Slattery's character, Roger Sterling, is just a couple of years younger than my other grandfather. And characters like Peggy Olson, Joan Holloway, and Pete Campbell are right around the same age as my father-in-law.

Granted, the resemblance pretty much begins and ends with age. One of my grandfathers was a career Army sergeant, while the other came back from the war to become a farmer--neither of them led lives that were anything like the Madison Avenue life depicted on the show. My mother, unlike Sally Draper, was born in Italy and lived in Japan, Okinawa, and several places up and down the Pacific coast. And while my father-in-law was a New York businessman in his younger days, he was never the sort of ruthless son of a bitch that Pete Campbell is.

Nevertheless, I've come to realize that watching Mad Men makes me feel some connection to those people. I know so little about what my parents' and grandparents' lives were like back then, and I can't help feeling some sense of recognition when I see the world that these characters inhabit--even if only for the context of the historical events.