#60 Why I Can’t Watch “Madmen”

I can’t watch Madmen because I lived some of it. It isn’t possible to enjoy the story set in the 60’s because I lived it in the 70’s and 80’s.

A story on NPR recently was about the odious mayor of San Diego and his kind-of sort-of eventually admitted decades-long lack of respectful treatment of women, which was going to be corrected in a two-week sensitivity course. His behavior was admitted because he’s being sued, and every day another woman came out to tell a similar humiliating story.

Women have legal grounds to speak up, though there’s still a stigma. I hope one day I’ll live in a culture when women can speak and have it corrected without going to court.

I arrived to New York business in 1971. In Seattle people knew me. Looking back, I was protected as a hard working innocent. Men may have noticed me but never did anything about it. I landed unknown in the east as breasts and blue eyes. Only married and inappropriate men chased and grabbed at me. I had no training or experience about how to handle this, evidenced in #34 Quick Like A Band Aid. But with the EQ of a seven year old, I gave in for affection when it meant only conquest for them.

At one radio station where I worked, I was preparing for vacation. The manager walked into my office and grabbed and squeezed both my breasts and said, “I’m going to miss these.” He turned and left. I don’t have a vocabulary for what I felt.

At WNBC, the studios were surrounded by glass. I was in the announcer’s booth several times a day changing the schedule or ads. When the mic was off we bantered since they were all funny guys for a living. A manager walked in one day, and in front of a tour group he grabbed me, dipped me and planted an unwanted smacker. Was I going to slap him in front of a tour group? I had no instinct for slapping. That kiss and dip is a movie move, and so is a slap. Apparently I had no sense of humor.

There was an era back in the 70’s and early 80’s advertising and broadcasting when managers still kept pretty complete bars in their offices. More than once I was called to an office for a supposed meeting, when a door was locked behind me and out came a bottle of scotch. At another, I was chased around the desk with his secretary sitting outside at her station. I was just short of screaming when he stopped. I don’t think he stopped because he realized the absurdity of his behavior. I was younger and faster. It didn’t happen wherever I worked, but it happened too much.

We not only didn’t go to someone in a corporation to tell them, we didn’t tell other women. I worked harder and excelled, always hoping my work would matter more and the behavior would stop. I was an idiot.

I applied to a country club in Connecticut, early ‘80’s. No single women were allowed. Someone was decent enough to explain my rejection as a long-standing rule instigated by the wives. No single women, rule number 37. Sometimes I wanted to hate other women for that insecurity. But I didn’t kid myself since a man, a very bad man, had left his wife to live with me. I disliked the insecurity in other women and I totally understood it.

When I was moving out of my house in Connecticut, a neighbor came over to say good-bye. She had never been very friendly but her children swam in my pool. She had waited to tell me something all the time I lived there. Because I was a single woman, husbands on our block weren’t allowed to mow their lawns when I was home. What? I struggled to picture women ordering this edict at their husbands. It was too bizarre. She was explaining why people hadn’t been very friendly. But why did she wait to tell me about other people?

Even in the 2000’s whenever a young associate editor was in my office he spoke to my breasts. I so wanted to say, “My eyes are up here.” But mustn’t embarrass him. I would now.

Maybe it’s being reminded of all the drinking and smoking, or the girlfriends on the side, or watching women in the 60’s struggling to find their voices that make it hard to watch. Maybe it was the same thing in banking in the 60’s. If someone does a well-written show on banking in the 60’s I’ll try to watch. But I can’t watch Madmen.

I have at least one friend who watches enough to make up for my absence.

 

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