Don Draper from the television show, Mad Men, has been on my mind a lot lately. This year because of COVID, Bagel and I have watched a good amount of television. Since January, we’ve ripped through The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Community (S1-6), When Calls the Heart (S1-2), Under the Dome (S1-2), and I also discovered and personally devoured all four seasons of Rick and Morty as well (Bagel dislikes cartoons so she sat that one out). Of all of the shows I’ve seen this year though, Mad Men is definitely the most thought-provoking. The show’s actually quite old; its first season released back in 2007. And while I remember at the time watching the first two or three episodes, I eventually lost interest and never continued. Thirteen years later though I think I’m finally now mature and old enough to appreciate Mad Men— this is probably one of the best television shows I’ve ever seen.
To be clear, this is still not a show that I’d probably watch on my own. Left to my own devices, I generally turn to television to be entertained. Fare like Rick and Morty and Community are right up my alley. But now I’ve met Bagel, my repertoire of appreciation has significantly expanded! On our evening walks, Bagel and I often like to discuss Mad Men and its different characters. While the show is fictional, it possess a fidelity to the 1960s that I’ve never seen in period television. In the past, I’ve watched (and tremendously enjoyed!) period pieces like Spartacus: Blood and Sand and The Tudors but let’s just say that “period authenticity” isn’t exactly the appeal of those particular Starz and Showtime cinematic masterpieces.
Mad Men fascinates me though precisely because is so real. I love all of its attention to period detail. The way people smoke and drank (and littered after picnics in the park!) back in the 1960s is insane! And since I obviously wasn’t around for the Cuban Missile Crisis or the prospect of nuclear annihilation, seeing people live during those periods have been hugely educational. And while there are tons of things I could discuss (and probably will in future posts), today I wanted to write about Don Draper. Specifically, what I’ve learned from him about what it means to be a man and a good husband.
I’ve always been proud of my own honesty and transparency. But what I learned from Don is that when you’re married, being a good husband does NOT mean telling your wife and family everything. In the past, I always foolishly believed that I should tell Bagel everything. For example: Our finances. Let’s just say this year has been a very rough ride. And there are times that when I’ve mentioned the specifics of our finances and budget to Bagel, it’s just needlessly stressed her out. If I lost a good chunk of money day-trading one day, it’s not like she had any way of helping to recover that money. She was helpless and this added information did nothing for her except ruin her day. I always thought I was being a good life-partner by telling her everything. But now I realize I was wrong.
On days when I’ve lost a ton of money and I’d tell Bagel about my poor results, she’d get super stressed out. But then a few days or weeks later, I’d often make back all of the money! And then I’d tell Bagel about my good days too. I had thought that we were a team and so I should share with her, my failures as well as my triumphs.
But I now see the tremendous error of my ways.
By sharing my daily ups and downs with Bagel, I was needlessly taking her on my rollercoaster ride. She often had trouble sleeping at night and poor appetite on days when I lost a ton of money day-trading. When I reflect on this year, I see all of that was entirely unnecessary.
What I learned from Don Draper is that when you are the man of the house, your wife (or S/O, life-partner, etc) doesn’t actually want to know everything. As the man, it is your duty to be the provider and primary caretaker. (Or if you’re a house-hubby and the wife is the one who works, then the same would go for her. Basically, I’m talking here about situations where one spouse works and the other stays at home as the homemaker.) If you are the primary provider of a single-income household, it is simply your duty to provide comfort and security to your S/O. You need to find a way to put food on the table and roof over your children’s heads. And that’s it. There is no need and no reason to share all of the gory details on how the sausage is made.
You don’t need to share every single financial detail with your S/O. Now, two caveats here: First– if your S/O specifically asks, then sure– you can tell him/her the details.
However, if they don’t ask, as the Main Provider of a single-income household, your job is to give your S/O a sense of stability and security. Absolutely, make a monthly budget and expect everyone to stick to it. But aside from that, there’s no need and no purpose to share daily details with your S/O. The second caveat is– sure, if things really go sideways, you should tell your life-partner. For example, Bagel and I have agreed that there is a certain number our household savings (that I day-trade with) should never fall below. And if I ever fall under that number then I should automatically tell her.
Aside from these two caveats, a good S/O should just exist to be your life-partner’s rock. Don Draper never shares any of his daily work shenanigans with Betty; he simply shoulders all of the troubles and burdens alone. That is his sole responsibility and duty as the Man of the House. Betty doesn’t care what Don does at Sterling Cooper; she just wants to be able to shop for groceries, take care of the kids, go horseback riding, hang out with and drink wine with friends, etc. When you get home from a hard day’s work, you leave it at the door. Your wife just wants a lovely husband, safety, and security. That is what it means to be a man.