“Don Draper is every Park Slope mom’s fantasy,” said Paula Bernstein, a 40-year-old author who lives in Brooklyn with her husband, a video editor, and their two children. “The fact that he is so emotionally withholding and mysterious is frustrating, but women are intrigued by men like that, and as much as they say they want a sensitive guy who’s going to let it all hang out, there is an appeal to a man with secrets.”
Ms. Bernstein was speaking about the darkly compelling protagonist of Matthew Weiner’s 1960s advertising drama Mad Men, which airs every Sunday on AMC, transporting scores of New York women into a haze of longing for an era they never knew and a type of man to whom they definitely aren’t married. Who, in fact, may no longer exist.
Don Draper is a bastard, most of these women will concede. He cheats on his pre-Friedan-ized wife, Betty, going through mistresses like packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes. He is stoic, handsome, emotionally stunted. “Obviously, he’s physically attractive, but his lack of conscience is upsetting,” said Megan Donis, 34, a television producer who lives in Fort Greene.
But he also reminds us of a time before suits were replaced by messenger bags and Converse sneakers. Before hairless chests and Cialis; before men knew pop-psychology phrases like “displaced anger” and “defense mechanisms” and talked about how their parents fucked them up; before Dr. Phil; before dads posted photos of themselves with their babies on their Facebook pages; before paternity leaves—there were men like Don Draper.
“If you just compare him, to, say, Patrick Dempsey on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. McDreamy comes off as a whiny little sensitive bitch,” said Lindsay Robertson, 31, a co-editor of Videogum.com, resident of Carroll Gardens and a self-described member of the “Draper estrogen brigade.”
“I don’t think most women would want to go back to a time where someone like Don Draper could exist,” continued Ms. Robertson, who is unmarried, “and Betty’s life is clearly a nightmare”—compartmentalized in her husband’s cabinet of secrets, the character, played by January Jones, seems to be getting closer and closer to a crackup—“but he has a kind of effortless masculinity and swagger that sets him apart from our other TV crush options.”
The consensus is that outside of DVRs, Don Drapers have gone extinct, traded in for the Stepford Husbands—stay-at-home dads or SAHDs as the indeed sad acronym goes—that crowd the aisles of Whole Foods and the mats of Gymboree; men who recognize themselves in potential First Fellow Todd Palin: contentedly smiling and clutching a baby while his wife hurtles herself toward the vice presidency.
‘I GLAZED OVER’
In suburbia-inflected Park Slope, scores of such Stepford Husbands can be found roughhousing with their toddlers at the playground, hoisting strollers up brownstone steps or putting together a nice little risotto for dinner.
“In New York, in the age of the metrosexual and all that, especially in neighborhoods like Park Slope or Prospect Heights, it’s not that unusual. In fact, it’s pretty accepted,” said Timothy Spence, 39, who lives in Prospect Heights and stays home with a 2-year-old daughter while his wife works in Manhattan as a graphic designer. “There just aren’t those issues of masculinity.”