What Mad Men has to do with living in a van (and thinking differently)
Finally, I am enjoying the seventh and last season of Mad Men. There’s a spoiler coming up, not a big one, but if you are still to watch it – skip this article. In the fourth episode Roger discovers his daughter Margaret abandoned her husband and son and went off to live in a commune somewhere in the countryside. Roger and his ex-wife pay her a visit, telling her to return. They find her living in a big white mansion, together with a bunch of hippies. She is dressed likewise – no more heels and fancy Bergdorf outfits. Her hair hangs loose instead of being pinned up and she looks natural, not wearing as much make-up as she used to. It gets clear that she is there totally out of free will, not being forced or anything. She tells her parents she doesn’t want to leave. She is happy there. She does miss her son, she says, but what good is it if his mom isn’t happy?
In the previous episode it was foreshadowed it was going this way. Instead of being cross with her workaholic father who’s never there for her and who uses money in order to make that alright, she met with him for lunch and told him she forgave him. There was nothing behind it, no extra money needed which was usually the case, she just smiled and explained anger can be replaced with love. All you need to do it forgive.
"Do what is expected of you, it'll sure make you happy"
Back to the mansion. Margaret’s mother told her that being a mother should be enough to make her happy. It had made her herself happy, she said. Margaret replied: ‘If that’s what you call secretly having to drink a huge glass of gin in the bathroom each day, alright.’ Her mother gave up and returned home, upset because she knew her daughter was right.
Now, since I haven’t yet watched the next episode I don’t know where this will end. I don’t think Roger will manage to take Margaret with him. He tried to grab her, but fell in the mud. The peculiar thing is though, he pretty much understood why she was there – and sort of agreed with it, too. I mean, the people in the mansion weren’t even doing anything strange, to be honest. The bunch of hippies just lived together, sharing everything, from tasks to food to each other’s physical love, and they were happy about that. Also: happy about not fitting in society.
Even though we’re talking late sixties here and this whole idea of questioning ‘the system’ was quite a thing back then, it was also still not so much accepted by most of the people.
It seemed like Roger felt at home there too, sitting on the porch altogether, peeling potatoes and talking about how they had no hierarchy. You see, this is a guy who has more threesomes than nights sleeping alone and feels super okay about being drunk in the office and even smoking pot – if you know the series you know. Basically, he does a lot of things that are not called for in society. Not even nowadays.
I’m not getting into the ‘is it good or not’ thing, because that’s not the point I’d like to make. Obviously I don’t think you should take drugs while working. But what I’m talking about is being different – and whether and when this gap will be accepted by the people around you or not.
This voice on the inside
This is a topic I often think about. It’s strange, how we’ve create these templates where we make ourselves fit into. Raise your hand if you agree. Sure, we have the freedom to do a lot, almost anything we want. But you simply cannot ignore this nagging voice in the back of your head, saying you’re doing it wrong. Or telling you can enjoy what you’re up to, but only for so long. Then it’s time to be a grown-up, and make adult decisions, this voice tells you. Probably it’s your conscious, you think. So you listen. Your gut feeling is always right, right? But what if this voice is simply the gathered opinion of everyone around you that weighs down on your shoulders? Maybe not even the people directly surrounding you, because I really hope you spend most of your time with ones that agree on the real you – but perhaps something like society’s ‘voice of reason’. Like, we live in a democracy: the majority know what’s best.
We do tend to do what others do. This psychological phenomenon has been proven many times. We humans, we’re group animals. We like to stick together. It’s just safer that way. But who decides what’s safe and not? When we go back in time, whomever decided that you should aim for the house and the nice job and the hubby or wife and please, throw some kids in the mix as well, will ya? And if that ever were the perfect way of living a life, isn’t it possible that might have changed? I mean, I entered a gym the other day using my fingerprint instead of some stupid card you will certainly lose or forget. Things change, man!
But then, what happens if you stand up and say you want it differently? Or what if you just do and don’t bother others with your thoughts and feelings, but they will still voice their opinions on you? I am sure you now think: ‘But hey, Hedwig, there ARE actually many people that I know that do it differently. And that okay.’ It is. But I know by experience you can only go that far. No doubt there comes a point where it will be no longer accepted what you do or think – not really.
The commune that Margaret joined was wild and exotic back in the sixties. Nothing too crazy going on there though, no mass suicides or so it seemed, and I think that preaching love has gone a long way since. Heck, I just might as well join her. But still, I’m thinking, how different can you be?