Mind Of Man: Why Everybody Hearts Dapper Don Draper

Here are some of the things I learned from watching the second season finale of AMC’s Emmy Award winning show “Mad Men”:

  • In the psudeo-historical world of “Mad Men”, work days start at 10 in the morning, because professionals needed the extra time to style their perfect hair.
  • Men who sleep around are studs and women who sleep around are sluts.
  • Also: men are big babies with trembling eyes, and women have icicles for spines.
  • But the most important thing I learned from the last episode of “Mad Men” is that Don Draper, the chain-smoking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing lead character, is a kind of pop Rorschach test for modern day cats and dames. Both men and women see something different in Don, played with chilled beefiness by Jon Hamm, and what we see is proof that there is still a primal disconnect between what women want in a man and what men want to be.

    Women love a challenge, a fixer upper. They enjoy playing the role of lion tamer alchemist who can domesticate and transmogrify a man behaving badly into one who plays nice. As if the dream guy is a good boy with a rotten core rather than the other way around.

    In many ways, Don Draper is my hero. He is a better example of male wish fulfillment than the shallow, adolescent antics of the boys on “Entourage”, the male equivalent of “Sex in the City” if ever there was one. Draper is a talented hedonist with a tight lip who is always in control, with one foot permanently out the door. He stands up for himself and does what he wants, when he wants, even if it costs a lot of money, which is no problem since he has plenty of scratch. He’s like the handsome love child of Ian Fleming and Ayn Rand, part James Bond, part John Galt. Plus, he’s a smooth mofo who knows how to erotically Vulcan power pinch women, rendering them utterly submissive (this happened, in one of the more bizarre moments of this second season.)

    Who doesn’t want to enjoy the fruits of being a well-funded, good-looking sociopath? Would you prefer men look up to and admire “Dexter” instead? Or to put a slightly more moral spin on it, who doesn’t want to live their life for themselves, doing what pleases them, ignoring the fashions and expectations of the hoi polloi. The trouble with that, of course, is it’s a lonely place to be.

    Don Draper is the classic strong, silent type. A cliché that seems to suddenly be, I don’t know, post-cliché. So old it’s new. In the Facebook and Twitter age, when every thought or status update can be digitally immortalized, there is something romantic about the stoicism of such a macho man. Granted, the strong, silent type can have a clenched jaw because he cannot understand his inner-tumult. And I’ve known plenty of stone-faced dudes who are basically emotional orangutans. But who wants to play a game of poker with people who are constantly showing you their cards? Who don’t know what card is valuable, what card isn’t, and what card of low value can be willed into being the card that helps win the pot.

    Far too many of my friends overshare, and I’ve been guilty of unleashing far too much information upon the women I date, for instance. It is better to choose your words, than to buy them wholesale and unload them with a shovel. Snowflakes are nice; avalanches are not.

    Don Draper is a reminder that in a less sophisticated, sensitive time, men were encouraged to suck it up and be men. Barring a jugular spurt, we do not cry, and only eat quiche if we’re starving and considered auto-cannibalism. Wisdom isn’t always gained through being overly emotionally available and fully disclosing every thought, emotion, and whim. It can also be gained through discretion, meditation, and patience. And keeping your fat mouth shut, especially about the small stuff.

    Of course, modern day men have evolved. Our instructions are to open up, and be sensitive, and to emote like a vulnerable teenage girl spinning tales of heartbreak and confusion for the slumber party to deliberate upon. Which why it baffles me why so many of my she-dude friends are utterly infatuated with Don Draper.

    Women just love his bad boy with a hard candy shell. Don Draper is a tin man in search of a heart, even though he is exactly who we’re told not to be.

    Women love a challenge, a fixer upper. They enjoy playing the role of lion tamer alchemist who can domesticate and transmogrify a man behaving badly into one who plays nice. As if the dream guy is a good boy with a rotten core rather than the other way around.

    Could it be that women pine for Don Draper, a man who can’t or is unwilling to articulate complex feelings, because they’re surrounded by real men in their lives who are far to willing and cable of articulating simplistic, or worse, superficial feelings? Sometimes it feels like women suffer from Goldilocks Syndrome: one dude has too much spine, one dude too little. Exactly, what is just the right amount of spine?

    In the second season finale, women got the Don Draper they wanted — a guilt-ridden, eloquent love letter writing man making amends because he finally realized the woman he was cheating on was the best he was going to get. And men got a Don Draper who compromised himself, who didn’t soul search as much as partied and moped, and then learned how to lie to himself in order to make the people around him happy.

    Here’s to season three, where Don does Betty a favor, dumps her, and becomes a balls-out cast iron bastard, instead of a sugar-coated, sweet word spewing one.