Monday, October 18, 2010

marriage and the price of secrecy

I have been watching the series Mad Men over the past two weeks.  I am now at the end of season 1, and I have already painted my nails in pink to match those of all the ladies in the 1960's.  I wish I were confident enough to do the red lipstick as well, with a dark eyeliner, it looks so romantic!

The one aspect of the series that I cannot understand is the marriage between the main character, Don Draper, and his wife Betty.  They do not communicate.  At all.  Ever.  She smiles and looks sweet when I would react by screaming, and he simply hides everything about himself, his past life, his work, and of course anything to do with his current love affairs which he is having on the sly, one after another.

How can two people be married and live in the same house yet be so far away from each other?  What is the point of being married if you have to hide from your spouse?  I do not think that spouses need to share everything either, but a marriage is a delicate balance between being yourself and being the other half, between sharing and privacy.  These people are so heavily bent towards being private, that they have become strangers to each other.  What a sad, sad case.

Secrecy has a way of feeding on itself.  Once it starts, it tends to escalate, because in order to keep one thing locked, other related things might also have to be tucked away, lest they may trigger cause for suspicion.  To keep a secret, one must always be on guard.  This leads to rigidity and self-censorship, which are always palpable in close proximity.  But for love to grow, two people need to be soft, pliable, and open.  They cannot be rigid, closed and fearful.

Don Draper, who has a series of affairs, thinks on some level that he is enriching his life by going with the flow and falling for women who look like they understand him better than his wife does.  Perhaps he is trying to understand himself through their eyes.  However, the sad part is that he is missing out on the most enriching experience of his life:  his own marriage.  When a marriage goes well and both parties accept each other as they are, without trying to change or improve, simply with love for all there is, it leads to self acceptance and self understanding.

From my own point of view, both MrH and I are somewhat odd people, with odd life choices.  I have felt different from the mainstream for my whole life, and hence self conscious and self critical.  Through his unwavering acceptance of me, however, I started to accept myself more and to feel like I belong here, despite being different.  In time, I started being convinced of the fact that even though my life choices are different and seemingly odd, they are no worse than anyone else's.  We all have our own path to walk, and we have to walk it with courage, exactly in the direction that we feel we must go.  This can be incredibly hard, especially if this path seems so far away from what we initially thought it would be, or should be.  Marriage (or an equivalent relationship) is one of the few things in life that can make the job easier.  All that is required is a loving partner and the ability to share.  Why deny such a wonderful gift?

I guess I'll have to purchase season 2 in order to continue analyzing Don Draper.  I can see a 1960's hairdo in my future...

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