Change is in the air! Last Friday, we visited Mal for New Year’s Day. For fun, we each took a little quiz and from a list of ten items, identified what our most important priorities were in life. It’ll be neat when we revisit this topic this time next year! 😄
My top three: 1) Physical Health; 2) Wealth; 3) Interesting Hobbies.
Bagel’s top three: 1) Spiritual Enlightenment; 2) Career Success; 3) Traveling the World, Physical Health, and Interesting Hobbies. (She cheated and picked three for her third priority!)
Mal’s top three: 1) Soulmate Romance; 2) Contributing to Society; 3) Spiritual Enlightenment.
Last but not least: As I do every January, here are my goals for the new year, 2021:
My Goals for 2021
Better use the environment and my “flow-states” to my advantage. Know when I’m useless and need to just veg-out. Know when I need to exercise. Know when I need to visit the café or an external environment to get stuff done. When I need to call someone or just talk to another human-being for the sake of my own sanity to share an idea that’s about to burst, tease something out, or just ward off loneliness. Don’t “force it.” As Matthew McConaughey says: “Catch the greenlights.” Go with the flow! Everything should feel easy. If it feels hard, I’m doing something wrong. .
Be more focused. Set a schedule. When working, work. When playing, play. Don’t constantly be in a “middle-state” where I’m doing something half-ass. Middles are bad! Extremes are good! Either be “on” or “off.” Be rigid and inflexible. .
Keep a physical calendar and stick it on the fridge where Bagel and I can IRL see it and have it be top-of-mind every day. Take periodic small day-trips with Bagel (and friends, hopefully!) in order to “recharge.” A change of physical scenery is important and refreshes the mind! .
Money is (almost) everything. You attract the energies you put out in the world. In the past, I’ve always condescended money and thought it lowly and material. But after losing so much money in 2020 (thanks, stock market! And my own weak nerves!), I’ve now come around to a totally new position. Yes, health and love/relationships are important. But I’ve got those now! (Knock on wood.) So now we need to set the crosshairs on the next obstacle that’s really keeping me up at night: Financial security. Not just for myself but for Bagel too, who’s now really relying on me to figure things out. In 2021, I need to find a way to make tons and tons of money. Need that Tesla Cybertruck!! 🚘🚘🚘!!
Bagel’s Goals for 2021
Introspect to heal internal wounds and traumas.
Be honest with herself.
Focus more on establishing a solid base of friends and family; create a feeling of “home”!
Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney cartoon of the cannon. Of all of the Disney princesses, Belle has always been my favorite. It bears mentioning, by the way, that when Bagel and I first met, the first movie we ever saw together in theaters was the live-action remake in Bageltopia. Ah, what a faraway land… it honestly feels like a lifetime ago. April 1, 2017 was that fateful day. Good times; good memories. 😊
Watching Mad Men recently, specifically– S05E13: “The Phantom”— B&B appears as a strong motif in the episode. On Reddit, that episode is one of the most discussed in the series (at least so far) and I thought I’d just take a minute this morning to dash off some quick thoughts.
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
There are many different ways to read Megan and Don’s relationship in E13, but everyone largely agrees that this is where Don “falls out of love” with Megan and reverts to his “Old Don” ways. I largely agree with this; but people differ on the exact timing and interpretation of how/why. And while we’ll obviously never know for certain (likely only Weiner knows, if he even knows) but the key moments: 1) Megan betrays her acting friend and asks for Don for the Butler shoes TV ad spot part for herself. 2) Don watching Megan’s screen test.3) Don walking away from Megan once she’s landed the TV advertisement spot.
In addition to this, Don obviously brings his own baggage to the table– namely, his abandonment issues. In E13, Don also meets Peggy at the movie theater (during the workday! Haha 😄) and it’s a nice moment; but they have an exchange about Don “helping people” and then “those people always eventually moving on.”
So to me, here’s how I (choose to) read E13: Full disclosure, I’m a Megan-fan so I read her generously and charitably (Bagel is notably not). While some Redditors feel like Megan’s a manipulative conniving witch from the beginning, that’s not how (I’ve chosen) to interpret her actions. I feel, if anything, she’s just immature, innocent, and growing– which means losing that innocence (compromising principles and values in the pursuit of a desired outcome). All her life, she’s dreamed about being an actress and making it big. Off-Broadway, Broadway, TV shows, the movies. Being famous. Like all of the other characters in Mad Men, she’s chasing an image. It’s just unclear if that image is a phantom or not.
(As a quick aside, by the way, the people I really hate/blame are Megan’s toxic parents. But that’s a separate discussion.)
Megan is chasing a childhood ambition, the dream that never dies. And while she’d tried and failed before (and resigned herself to being just a secretary), only after being with Don does she obtain the full arsenal to try again (money, power, connections, etc). This in itself is a huge, fascinating conversation about chasing one’s dreams (Bagel and I had a huge argument about this yesterday!) but in summary: I’m a firm believer that the most ardent among us– the people who try hardest– are those who never quit. The Hufflepuffs of the world are the ones who never say die. And this perseverance to never give up can, in a way, can be poisonous. It anchors us to a perpetual past and Hufflepuffs will exhaust every last outlet, including their principles, if it means getting what they want. Scene 1 where Megan throws away her independence (and innocence) is the place where Don “falls out of love.”
But. We pick our truths. And while Don may have lost all respect (and love) for Megan in that first scene, in the next scene, Scene 2– when he’s watching the reel– I think he chooses to believe another truth. The idea of Megan being “like the rest of them” hurts him deeply (consciously or unconsciously) so he wants to find/choose another narrative (one that’s more self-serving). So he adopts the B&B narrative: He, the great Don Draper, sees talent in his wife. And he’s going to be the one to “let her go” (before she has a chance to leave him). Valiantly, he’s going to choose to fall on his sword and “set Megan free.” He’s been around the block a few times and has likely seen a good number of beautiful women and aspiring models/actresses. (Eg. Betty.) So seeing Megan’s tape he probably realizes that Megan has some talent and is definitely gorgeous/has acting potential. During that scene when Don watches the reel is when he decides he’s going to let Megan go. Don knows (I believe) that if he gives Megan this break (like he’d done with Peggy back in S1), that she will make it. And since Megan’s no longer the pure and innocent woman that he fell in love with (she’s ambitious, like everyone else!) and while Don could crush her dreams (like he’d done with Betty; which to be fair, didn’t ultimately work out), this time around, Don’s going to set Megan free, just like the Beast had done. Hence the final, “walking-away-from-the-fairy-tale-into-the-dimly-lit-bar” sequence. And doing so, Don’s going to throw himself back into the pits of hell and his “Old Don” ways (Scene 3). Bye, bye, blissful domesticated life.
After five seasons, I’m a big fan of the theory that Man Men is largely about Don –an instinctually bad man (read: a survivor/fighter; one without honor/principles who’s willing to do whatever it takes to survive)– trying to be a good man in the only ways he knows how. But perpetually failing. Because at his core, it’s just not who he is. Man Men is honestly so great though– Can people ever trulyvoluntarilychange? Or are we simply forced to change (because of environmental circumstances/resource constraints/etc)? And does that then even count? If it’s only the external environment shaping us? (Cue free-will discussion here.) Also: What is love? What is love if setting Belle free means ensuring your own destruction? If Belle is willing to let you remain a beast the rest of your days, does she really love you? All of the Big Questions, etc. Anyway, thanks for reading! Just my two cents for the day! 😀
Anyone who’s ever been in the trenches will agree: A healthy relationship is one in which both partners really get to know each other. And to this end, watching television shows and discussing them is the ultimate cheat code, especially if they are fictional (ie. not documentaries) as they’re vehicles of communication to facilitate this interaction. When you are in school, especially in a liberal arts class, it’s easy: The professor can pose some open-ended topic (eg. “What is Justice?”) and then you and your classmates can really go to down having those 2am bull-sessions that run ’til dawn, with everyone pontificating away on their pedestals.
This mode of interaction isn’t only training critical thinking, receive-and-respond, debate skills, gauging-of-social-currency, but is also allowing you a window into the lives of others. To really know the other is to know what and how they think. Their beliefs and value systems. But there needs to be a medium for this discussion.
So why TV shows? It’s easy and something people in a relationship can jointly do together. The joint experience is important– a communal and collective feeling of togetherness. Reading is great but it’s a solitary endeavor. Watching a television show can be done snuggled together on sofas and in front of laptops. You don’t even need televisions or cable nowadays.
For example, recently Bagel and I have been watching Mad Men and that show has really brought us so much closer. When I was younger, other than the Sorkin shows, I never really watched television shows because I was always haughty and felt them lowly. Yes, sometimes I’d indulge in a Spartacus or a Strike Back, but it was always when I was eating and wanted to burn through 10 or 15 minutes (and not watch YouTube).
But back when I was younger, I was single.
To be clear, Mad Men is definitely not a show I would ever watch on my own. It’s often uncomfortable and hard-to-watch. And definitely not a solo leisure activity.
But as a couple-activity, at least for us, it’s perfect. It’s characters are richly developed and Bagel and I both find the subject matter endlessly entertaining and educational. Neither of us were there for the 1960s. But all of the period details– the mores, music, fashion, gender/race dynamics, is fascinating. Matthew Weiner really deserves a Nobel for putting that work in the world! What a genius!
By virtue of being a fictional show, we’re also able to discuss its subject matter with fellow friends as well. And what I’ve found, anecdotally at least, is that the advantage here is that, broadly speaking, the temperature of conversation is much lower when you’re discussing something fictional and imaginary as opposed to a real-life event (say, Black Lives Matter). I’ve mostly found people more generally willing to engage with different perspectives and more empathic when it’s not real people’s lives on the line. We’re talking about Don, Peter, Peggy, Joan, Roger, etc. Figments of the imagination! And that distance gives everyone some remove and breathing space to entertain and debate ideas that they normally may not in a real-world setting.
Bagel and I are currently nearing the end of Season Five where a gruesome turn in the storyline has just occurred. Obviously, I won’t ruin anything here, but that incident has sparked so much discussion for us. Cultural differences and the pernicious effects (and pressure! Omg, the unimaginable pressure) of having to constantly maintain an image as opposed to just being authentic and genuine. How something small can slowly snowball into something catastrophic. The price of deception and how it slowly chips away at the soul.
For us, Mad Men is a springboard into discussion. It raises moral conundrums and presents a properly complex world with complicated characters. Even when we disagree with specific decisions that Peggy or Joan may have made, it’s easy to see “their sides” and empathize. More largely, this is honestly, I guess, a piece today about the merits of fiction as a vehicle for building empathy and understanding. The truth is we often don’t know our values, what we truly stand for, until we’re tested. And Real Talk for a moment: In real life, we (thankfully) aren’t often tested. In quotidian life, you’re virtually never dropped into these impossible situations of monumental consequence.
And to be fair– while talk is just talk, and we don’t really know how we’ll act until we’re actually in it— watching and discussing these subjects ahead of time at least sparks the conversation so it’s somewhere on your radar. How helpful, I guess, is up to you and how honest you are with yourself. My humble suggestion is simply to not think yourself so great, smart, noble, or moral. The higher the horse, the greater distance the tumble.
Again though, even if you are uninterested in “knowing thyself,” just being able to discuss these questions and topics with your SO is so worth it. We know and understand each other when we talk with each other. And with couples, after you’ve known each other for a good chunk of time, the constant fear is that both individuals eventually drift into their own isolated orbits. Especially if both of you are professionals in different career spaces. Taking trips together certainly helps. But on those long car drives and plane flights, you still need to talk about something material and substantive. It’s easy for relationships to calcify and lose that spark. Before long, you might feel like you’re a mechanic or a logistics officer simply negotiating supply chain details (“pick up the kids at X; dinner ready by Y; what are we getting the Millers for Christmas this year?”), etc. But your SO is not your fellow mechanic! She’s your SO!
Finally, on a parting note– watching and discussing fiction shows, especially one as good as Mad Men, possesses the additional benefit of giving us a barometer to track change over time. It’s interesting to both Bagel and me how both of our opinions about Don has evolved over the five seasons so far. And it’s enormously fascinating to me to track how Bagel’s opinions of certain situations has evolved. Ideally, we’ll revisit Mad Men again in a few years to have these same discussions, but just even in the month of watching so far, I’ve found her opinions rapidly change as she’s increasingly connected the events of the show–especially the office politics element– with her own work experience. One great example: Honest to God, for four seasons, we both could not understand for the life of us what Roger actually did at Sterling Cooper. But after Lee Jr. comes to visit for that Christmas party in S4, and then in S5, we’ve both turned into the most ardent Roger fans. In Bagel’s own work experience, she’s known as least one “Roger” whom she’d constantly complained about and despised. But being able to see “the story” from Roger’s perspective has really shed new light on a whole new POV that she’d never even considered. As I’d often told her– if her “Roger” had managed to stick around at the company for so long, there must have at least some value –in some way, shape, or form– that he was delivering, even if it was invisible to her (and the rest of rank-and-file storm troopers).
Anyway, those are my two cents for the day. In other news: 2021 is here! Hooray! 🎉🎆 Very excited about the New Year– blessings and good tidings to everyone! Let’s make this next year the best one yet! 😀