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Over the holiday weekend, my boyfriend and I started watching Mad Men, the unlikely AMC series about the work and home lives of ad men on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. The critics can’t stop gushing. The show is smart and stylish, honing in on the sausage-making of one of the last great artistic moments in consumer culture. Ads still had cachet—-and the men who made them were the rare intellectuals riding (and smoking and drinking) on the commuter trains to Connecticut. They were also shameless adulterers who thought women were good for typing, cooking, fucking and, occasionally, inspiring good copy (that’s only if you’re the other woman). The show is great and I’m totally hooked. But I’ve noticed that Mad Men has an added appeal for male viewers: It makes them pine for less liberated times. I could see my boyfriend salivating at the idea of home-cooked meals and a fifth in his desk drawer. He’s not the only one. Several male friends have mentioned how much fun the boys on Mad Men are having, what with open-air sexual harassment and philandering, with no questions asked from most of the wives. You might say our dudes know equal rights are better for everyone, but part of me thinks they’re just resigned to the necessity of a two-income household. They really wish the old days were here again.
The worst part of it is that I have the faintest glimmer of envy for those WASP-wasted wives, with their tidy little gender roles and lack of concern about glass ceilings and workplace gender politics. Of course, that feeling fades fast. I wouldn’t last long with those other wives. I’d rather be drinking and slapping asses with the boys.