Betty Draper and my Grandmother

Jon Hamm finally won an Emmy for his portrayal of Don Draper. I was very happy, I cheered for him from my living room.

I love Mad Men.

I learnt a lot over the course of 7 seasons, but the most interesting discovery was how my grandmother is so much like Betty Draper. To start with, they were both born in the 1930s.

My grandmother is quite grandmotherly, indulging all of us at every opportunity, taking our side when our parents thought our behaviour insufferable. Turns out she wasn’t very maternal though. In fact, if my mother has one consistent complaint, it is that her mother was almost always cold and emotionally unavailable to her children.

Grandmother is obsessed with perfection (on the surface). The maid must be on time. Cooking, cleaning and washing must all be completed. Things should run according to their schedule, without unannounced visits and unexpected disturbances. She is efficient. But what is she thinking? Nobody really knows what goes on in her mind, beneath that calm exterior.

She was a great beauty in her time, they tell me. Her looks still mean everything to her. She laments that we have to see her with wrinkled skin and artificial teeth. It annoys her that she has to live past her glory days, and she feels upset that we might end up remembering her as ugly. She might have been a trophy wife. Educated, but not working. Striking to look at, but what of it? A grudging domestic goddess maybe, going about her duties like clockwork, always feeling dissatisfied but never knowing the exact reason. She was terribly proud of her tall, fair and handsome husband though. She enjoys reliving the moment when her friends looked at the pair of them with envy. “You landed a lucky prize!” Every time we ask her what he was like, she starts off with “good looking.” She was a bit too obsessed with her daughter’s looks, taking her to dermatologists even if so much as a tiny white spot appeared on her face. She is still a little more than obsessed with her granddaughters’ looks, telling us off when we get tanned or worrying (more than what must be a reasonable level) when we get a pimple.

Maybe she is a product of her times. I’m not sure. But it sure is fascinating to think about this.


5 thoughts on “Betty Draper and my Grandmother

  1. Loved the storytelling in this.

    Haven’t yet jumped on the Mad Men train, still heavily breathing from season one of Gotham.

    I think grandma’s thought process is a product of the times but it still exists in the mindsets of today’s generation too. Ironically they are more insecure about physical appearances than before, in my opinion, which makes it more self defeating considering how much they run towards the bonfire of their own vanities (social media).


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