“Mad Men” is in its final season? Get me some Valium! I love everything on that show, from the ashtrays to the highballs to the ham at the center of it all. Jon Hamm.
Something about the show inspires lust, and it’s not just the fact that everyone’s sleeping with everyone else; they always do on cable. No, what’s drawing viewers and Emmys and essays such as this one is the heady whiff of ‘60s style, when folks threw cocktail parties and the dresses weren’t little black tubes and Jell-O molds jiggled without irony. So much has been lost since then, and what have we gotten in return?
Oh, right. My job. Feminism. Civil rights. Pilates. Is it worth the trade-off? Here’s a look:
— Men in hats. Why, oh, why have these gone the way of the cha-cha? Men looked better in hats — taller, richer, smarter. They looked great taking them off, too, as a sign of respect. What simple gesture can men do now to show their respect to women? Unlock the car door using their key chain remote? Oh, boy. I’m swooning.
— Women in hats. We looked better, too.
— The brilliance of brilliantine. The only men still slicking back their hair are the villains in action movies. Yet even the most dweebish guys in “Mad Men” look polished because their hair is polished. It shines. It stays in place. And when it doesn’t, it gets put back there several times a day. An informal survey of my male friends disclosed exactly how many of them even carrying a comb? Zeero. And yes, these are guys who still have hair.
— Bras that did all the work. Exercise all you want, ladies; we never will look as good as the women in “Mad Men.” They’re so shapely it’s as if someone taped party hats up there. “Those were firm bras,” Nancy Deihl, director of the costume studies program at New York University, explains. “If you had the bust, it got shaped. If you didn’t, there was lots of structure available, padding (not just from below like our Wonderbra), concentric circles, batting.” Let’s hear it for concentric circles.
— Station wagons. How did we ever decide these aren’t cool? How did we ever decide chunky, clunky SUVs are)? In SUVs, the back seat faces forward! Sorry about that, kids.
— Posture. They had it. We lost it. In the 1950s and ‘60s, standing straight was more important than working out. It still is; guys just don’t know it.
— Meat. And here’s the secret most women don’t know: Meat is important, too — on us. The “Mad Men” women have an extra 10 pounds they’d be working like crazy to get rid of today. A little roundness makes their skin look young and legs look nice. On the show, everyone also always seems to be eating meat, too, and no one is talking about cholesterol. Not even the doctors. Of course, they weren’t talking about the rampant alcoholism, either. But still, it would be nice to eat more steak.
— Vests. Nowadays, they make a guy look like a lawyer. But when everyone was wearing them, they just looked great. Same with cuff links. Same with a smirk.
— Lunch hour. Imagine a time when people actually took a whole hour off to eat someplace else. Even as I write this, I am picking at the chicken kebab next to my keyboard.
So what’s on the plus side?
— Post- lunch sobriety. When you’re eating a chicken kebab at your desk, you’re not going out for any three-martini lunches. That’s progress. I guess.
— A smoke-free work environment. It’s lovely we don’t have to smell cigarettes at work. Now we can smell the kebabs.
— Pantyhose. Whoopee. We’ve got ‘em; the women in “Mad Men” don’t. They all seem to be wearing stockings held up by garters. How do we know? The drunken guys always are trying to paw them off. (See cable TV, above.)
— Self-service elevators. I’m really relieved no one is pressing the buttons for us anymore. Also that we get to grab our own paper towels in most bathrooms. But I’m kind of sorry we have to pump our own gas.
— Cellphones. No longer do we need an operator to place a call. No longer do we even need to be at our desks. The phone is wherever we are. So is our office! And our work! And — oh, wait.
I meant to put that in the “lost” column.
— Equality. Women, men, blacks, whites — we’re all better off. We just don’t look so good as we did.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of the book and blog “Free- Range Kids” and a keynote speaker across the country. Her TV show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery Life Channel.