Friday, 7 January 2011

Mad Woman

I wish I’d written Mad Men. I wish I were writing Mad Men. I think I can speak for Christine when I say it is the kind of television we aspire to create – complicated, hilarious, stylish, poignant. Smoky (automatic atmosphere).

If you’ve just emerged from living rough in a box under a bridge, I’ll tell you that Mad Men is the story of men and women making ads - making love, making trouble, making babies - in 1960s Manhattan. For anyone who spent time in North America that decade, it evokes the world with haunting precision.

Although writer and creator Matthew Weiner hasn’t been in touch to offer me a staff position, he cannot interfere with my fantasy that I’m not only writing for the show – I’M IN THE SHOW. And I don’t mean as an actor, acting in the show that is full of other actors.


I mean I’M A FICTITIOUS CHARACTER in the show.

It’s 1965. My name is Marnie Stewart. I’m model-beautiful and I write ground-breaking novels about the claustrophobia of women's lives in suburban America, asking the question Can’t someone invent a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t topple over when you drag it around the corners? (Life may be claustrophobic, it doesn’t have to be inefficient.)

In this scene I wear a sinful-green, figure-hugging dress and sip a High Ball out of a thermos in Central Park. I’m in leopard skin gloves and hat. And coat. In fact I look a lot like a leopard. This confuses the ducks on the pond, who are alternately aggressive and fascinated.

This is also the effect I Have On Men.

I chew on a Cross pen between guzzles of High Ball, and write in a spiral notebook I balance on my lap. I am transcribing my thoughts on the tyranny of dusting when I notice the bench creak. I finish my sentence before I look up.

I see:

The handsome and enigmatic Don Draper (founding partner of innovative ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce), dark-suited, rain-coated. Opening a sandwich from a brown paper bag.

We barely smile. We are New Yorkers. I continue to write.

He is, however, intrigued by my gloves and the ducks, one of whom is attacking the back of my head with the persistence of a pneumatic drill.  Don raises an eyebrow:

Don:               Is that bird bothering you?
Me:                (not looking up) What bird?

He smiles, appreciating my concentration, and returns to his sandwich. The duck calls over a few of her friends who increase the assault beyond bearing. With a frustrated sigh I throw the exclusive, $500 hat into the pond. Don watches the birds try to kill it.

Don:                Your husband’s not going to like that.

I glance at him and keep writing. Don eats.

Don:                You’ve put me in an awkward position. If I were a gentleman, I’d wade into the pond and rescue that hat.

I put my pen down, cross my elegant, fur-booted legs (it’s January) and look at him.

Don:                Which would mean leaving you alone here on the bench, open to the advances of other demented wild fowl.
Me:                  Those aren’t the advances I worry about.


Don:                You’re not worried.

We exchange eye contact of such intensity that all activity within half a mile of the bench ceases: nature and traffic are silenced. He offers me some of his lunch.

Don:                Are you writing a poem?
Me:                  Yes. (I look down) For another bite of your sandwich, I’ll read it.

He hands over the bag. I clear my throat.

Me:               (reading) Time present and time past
 Are both perhaps present in time future,
 And time future contained in time past.
 If all time is eternally present
 All time is unredeemable.

Long pause.

Don:                I’d like you to read that again.

He leans back and closes his eyes. I examine my French-polished nails.

Me:                  Now that you’ve fed me, I feel I should say – it’s not an original poem.
Don:                (eyes still closed) It’s original for somebody.
Me:                  Maybe you want to buy him lunch.
Don:                (opening one eye) If he shows up I’ll give him a dime.

I smile. I keep reading.

Cut to:

My office. Christine (yes, I’ve suckered her into my televisual fantasy too) is Francesca Ponti, editor extraordinaire, offering me encouragement in writing my novel. (Note to Matthew Weiner: aren’t these great ideas? Are you lovin’ me yet?)

She has stopped at my desk.  We look like this (i.e. women in very tight foundation garments):

Francesca:       I’m sorry, do you mind if I lean? Here?
Me:                 No.
Francesca:       I can’t actually breathe.
Me:                 You look cold.
Francesca:       This dress has cut off circulation to my vital organs.
Me:                 I’m chilly too.
Francesca:       Really? Even with that snappy scarf?
Me:                 Francesca, I met a man in the park.
Francesca:       Another one?
Me:                 He was sober.
Francesca:       Where have you put him?
Me:                 He took a cab. Somewhere uptown.
Francesca:       Write him into the novel. He’ll show up.

Cut to:

Me walking swiftly down the hallway outside the ladies' powder room of the Algonquin Hotel. A hand reaches out from behind a potted fern and drags me into the foliage.

Me:                  Damn this coat, can’t anyone leave me alone?!

I find myself looking into the troubled and intelligent eyes of Don Draper. Again.

Don:                I found out where you work.
Me:                 (squirming) I’m nowhere near where I work.
Don:                I followed you from the office.
Me:                 (pulling away) I left the office hours ago. I went to my mother’s for tea.
Don:                I know. I stood outside and waited.
Me:                 It was raining.
Don:                I have this  - stylish  - hat.
Me:                 (touching his face) Oh you determined and troubled man, what do you want?
Don:                I want to hear more of your writing. I want to hear about the claustrophobic lives of women in suburban America.
Me:                 Really? (defiant) Why should you care?
Don:                I think my wife may have been the kind of woman you’re writing for.
Me:                 May have been? Is she dead?
Don:                No, but she hasn’t appeared as much in this season, that’s for sure.  (pulling me down amidst the planters) Read to me. I want to understand.
Me:                 I don’t believe you. I’m writing about dust. You want to sell furniture polish.
Don:                (kissing me while he shrugs) And this is wrong how?

I don’t know how Don Draper, from the mid-west, has suddenly developed the speech patterns of someone whose first language is Yiddish but if you’re looking for verisimilitude, I’m probably not your model-beautiful –leopard-skin-wearing girl.

But Matthew Weiner might be your man.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Marnie, Don Draper will never change. Do take care of yourself!