Girl Talk: How I Got Stuck In A Job Interview Straight Out Of The “Mad Men” Era
In honor of the season four premiere of “Mad Men” on Sunday, July 25th at 10/9 Central on AMC, this weekend The Frisky is re-posting a few of our favorite “Mad Men”-inspired essays.
It’s one thing to switch on the TV for “Mad Men” each week, vicariously sip whiskey and smoke stogies with Don Draper and Co., and experience (or re-experience) life in the 1960s. I, like most other women in America, jumped at the chance to give my look a makeover complete with red lips, the pencil skirts, the swooping coifs, and the tight cardigans that give Joan, Betty, and Peggy their sexy, vintage sizzle. Hell, I even found myself harboring the urge to tie on a frilly apron and bake something wholesome for my husband. It’s fun, escapist even, to dabble in outdated social stereotypes and play the victim to those womanizing ways that dominated the “Mad Men” era. We’re safe in the knowledge that times have changed, and we can go back to being empowered, successful, respected alpha-females whenever we feel like it. Or so I thought. Not long ago, I went on a job interview so anachronistic, patronizing, and inappropriate that I actually found myself looking around the office for a hidden camera, thinking surely I was the subject of some sort of reality show about gender equality. It was “Mad Men” come to life, and it wasn’t entertaining.
- I was greeted in the conference room by the founder and co-owner of the company. I stood to shake his hand, and he gave me the most disgusting, limp fish of a handshake I’ve ever felt. I tried not to make a face.
- He gave me a brief synopsis of what the “girl” who previously held this position (which was listed as “Marketing Director” in the job posting) had been responsible for, and how it was different from what the “girl” before her had done. It became obvious that the only reason I had been called in for this interview was because I was a female whose graduation year suggested I was under the age of 30.
- I was informed the “girl” they let go was terminated because she was “too professional in social settings and didn’t know when to turn it on and when to turn it off.” I nodded, working through the possible implications of that, as he continued. “I mean, if you are the sort of girl who, when you are out with a client, and he reaches over and puts his hand on your knee — well, if that sort of thing is really going to offend you, then this isn’t the right job for you.” Ahh, so that is what he meant. Fabulous.
- I was treated to a 10-minute lecture on “how to do business.” This included choice phrases like, “I’m gonna let you in on a secret, little lady,” and, “The real deals get made during social hour with a few drinks and some buttons undone.”
- He expressed his “hesitation” over the fact that I was married. “How is your husband going to feel about you being out on nights and weekends entertaining male clients?” Normally, I would have responded that my husband would be fine with it, as he supports my career and understands the time commitment that it requires, but I would assume that “entertaining clients” wouldn’t involve anything concerning my cleavage, thighs, or self-respect. That didn’t seem to be a safe assumption here, so I chose to dodge the question and steer conversation to my previous work experience.
- I mentioned that I have a strong background in journalism and public relations. I asked what sort of PR they have in place, and if they’d be interested in increasing their public exposure. “Well,” he replied, “I have been wanting to start a company newsletter. I would take care of the technical stuff, of course, but you gals could be responsible for the other stuff. You know, the babies, and the birthdays, and a recipe of the month. You could also give it a cute theme each month. You know, like pumpkins in October, turkeys in November, Christmas trees in December…” He went on to give me possible theme suggestions for all 12 months. All. Twelve. Months.
- He revealed, rather grandly, that the position I was applying for came with a company car. “However, the car is equipped with a GPS, so if you go and park at Bed Bath and Beyond and go shopping for three hours, or go home to watch soap operas in the middle of the day, we are going to know. If you don’t leave the house in the morning until 10 a.m. because you had to watch ‘Regis and Kelly,’ we are going to know that, too.”
- He mentioned that for the first six months to a year, the position of “marketing girl” would be doubling as his personal assistant. “What I really need there is someone who can run out to my house if I forget something, or if I’ve got the lawn guy or the cable guy coming or something.” Lest I start to feel undervalued by having to split my time between two jobs, he let me know: “Eventually I’ll get a separate full-time assistant, and if you’ve been doing a good job, I’d let you apply for that when it becomes available.” Oh, would you please?
- Surprisingly, he said that he really wanted the person in this marketing position to possess ambition and drive. Just when I had started to think perhaps I had judged him too harshly, he clarified, “I don’t know why, but it seems like some women start making a good amount of money, and then they decide they want to have babies and start a family, and their eye isn’t on the ball anymore, and then they are no longer useful to us.” Apparently, I hadn’t been judging harshly enough.
- In closing, he informed me that round two of the interview process would take place during a cocktail lunch at the local country club so he could see “how you girls interact during social hour.” I found myself trying to imagine what kind of self-respecting female would agree, after having sat through round one, to attend round two. Then I tried to imagine a group of such females battling one another to prove who could toe the line between professional marketing director and professional sex worker most adeptly.
I stood, I smiled, I shook his hand again and tried desperately to ignore the fact that he said his parting line directly to my chest: “Well, I look forward to seeing you again soon for round two.”
I did get the call inviting me to round two. Sheer curiosity almost led me to accept, but the modern 21st-century woman inside me wouldn’t allow it. The 30 minutes I had spent in that time warp were more than enough to make me painfully aware of the social hindrances my gender has overcome in the last five decades, and I am in no hurry to revisit the reality of the past anytime soon. So, no offense, “Mad Men,” but while I’m going to keep working pencil skirts and vintage pumps into my wardrobe, I no longer think there is anything glamorous about your sexual politics.