By Mir
August 26, 2008

When I was in middle school, there was a boy I sat near. I always knew where he was and what he was doing and—perhaps most importantly—what grades he’d gotten on any recent tests. I’ve always been attracted to brainy types, you see, and that JERK not only got nearly perfect grades, he used to GLOAT about them.

“I beat you. AGAIN,” he used to say to me, even if his score was only a single point higher than mine.

“Shut up,” I’d mutter, stuffing my test into my backpack and giving him a look intended to melt his face off.

He often brought up things or asked questions in class that even the teacher couldn’t answer, and then sat there in smug satisfaction at having stumped the supposed expert. He talked about things no one understood. He seemed mysterious.

I was hopelessly infatuated with him, of course. Had you asked me at the time, I would’ve told you that I HATED HIM with the fire of a thousand suns, but secretly? Totally crushin’ on him and his perfection.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. Aside from the grade gloating, he really WAS a jerk in many ways. The teachers found him trying. Very few boys in our class liked him, and none of the girls could stand him. Or maybe they were all secretly in love with him, like I was. Even at twelve, I think I knew that I was drawn to him, but I couldn’t have told you why.

It turns out that not much changes as the years pass—this guy surfaced a few years ago out of the blue (maybe he found me on Classmates? I can’t remember) and after the perfunctory hellos he put me on a mailing list for his new company, which, of course, he went to great lengths to tell me all about. It’s fabulous! and successful! and hot! and THE NEXT BIG THING! and I felt that long-forgotten disdain creeping in as he went on and on about how great he is and how many famous people he knows.

This time, at least, the attraction wasn’t there. Thank God.

Of course, I’ve always been a very monogamous sort, and I’m very busy pining elsewhere, right now.

People. I need help. I mean that I need serious assistance, here. Because this is DRIVING ME CRAZY. Someone PLEASE tell me: Has Mad Men become completely confusing this season or is it just me?

Last Spring, I started watching it in reruns and became completely hooked. I counted down until the new season started, and now we record each new episode (as early school mornings and old age prevent me from staying up late to watch it air) and I pester Otto to sit down and watch it with me as soon as possible.

I’ll be absolutely riveted, the entire episode. And then when the credits roll, I’ll turn to Otto and say, “But. But. Wait. What happened? WHAT IS GOING ON?”

Oh, Mad Men. Every week you make me wonder if I love you because you’re awesome or if I’m just infatuated with how you stump the classroom and piss everyone off and waltz away with a smug little grin. Why can’t you just love me back? Why can’t you tell me what the hell is happening or why it’s important? WHY MUST YOU TAUNT ME SO?

It’s getting to where I’ve been telling Otto that I think maybe the producers intend for you to drink as much as the characters do, each episode, just to follow the storyline. Or not care that you can’t follow the storyline. Either way.

I can’t stop watching, but I’m pissed off every single time an episode draws to a close. I feel like I’m back in middle school, perpetually one point short on The Big Test.

Is Mad Men just too cool for me, or is Mad Men turning into a pretentious jerk? I just don’t know anymore.


  1. Megan

    I only just re-joined the Greater American Cultural Co-Prosperity Sphere by bringing pay-tv back into my house (after nearly five years away – why have none of the ads changed??) so Mad Men is one of those phenoms I have missed. However since I’ve seen it referenced four times in two days I can safely say that a) few people watch it but b) those who do are all the COOL people. Now you say it’s become a pretentious jerk? So do I join in and crush on it embracing its pretentious jerkiness? Or do I become even more of a pretentious jerk by loftily declaring myself above it all?

    So torn… so very torn…

  2. Leandra

    Haven’t watched so I can’t say. I think shows go through a growing period though, where they try to get too cool for school. They’ll probably come back around for the third season, if everybody can hang on that long.

    And that guy? Oh my lord, you just described one of my classmates to a T!! Even down to the successful! new! business! email list. I can never decide if I hate him or just feel sorry for him.

  3. SoMo

    I think second seasons are bound to disappoint in some way, especially when the first season drew you in so hard. I am feeling the same way about Dexter, even though it is on it’s 3rd season, we are catching up. I am so sick of the is this the time they are going to catch him? Oh no, they are going to get him in this episode. Yeah right, if they catch him then the show ends. I think they need to go back to the killing of the first season.

    Now on to Mad Men, I am following the storylines. I think they are trying to leave us hanging from show to show. I am not as excited as I was with the first season. All the men seem to have no ounce of compassion and all the women seem to be hell bent on bedding them or wedding by just using their cunning as females. The wives don’t seem to have a brain in their head. I know, I know, it is the end of the 50’s, beginning of the 60’s, but geez even in shows made during that time it wasn’t this bad. I think the whole looking at the past with the eyes of the 21st century is killing me. So much judgement and how much further we have come. Maybe I am voting for jerk, but a jerk I secretly have a crush on. ;)

  4. Sheryl

    I’ve had this same problem with Mad Men lately, and I think? There is no story line. Nothing connects from one episode to the next. Maybe you have to view each episode individually, instead of as a serial drama. At least that’s what I’m going to do until I figure out where they’re going.

  5. Karen

    I haven’t seen this show. Now I’m curious though. I may have to start watching.

    The one thing I know, is that men love to taunt women. They start at birth and I have a grandfather that still likes to fire up my grandmother just to watch what happens. Why is that? I’ve been married to the same guy for years and I know he does this to me. You would think I would not get worked up over stuff when I know he is just looking for a reaction, for his entertainment purposes. Not sure this entirely explains the “Jerk” or “Mad Men,” but maybe it’s a start.

  6. Mandee

    I always turn to Alan Sepinwall at What’s Alan Watching to explain things like Mad Men and the Wire and Lost to me.

    By the way, Don and Betty Draper are both following me on Twitter. I hate to disappoint them; I mainly lurk on Twitter.

  7. Katie in MA

    I have no time for television (well, aside from The Office), so I’m afraid I’m more than one point short of you on that score.

    But there was this boy. I moved away from my total-asshats phase in junior high to actual standards in high school. This one guy I was crushin’ on – he was the one who taught me that the real guys didn’t mind looking smart in front of their peers. He loved to read, he was very competitive in our classes, and he was also the coolest guy in school. We were great friends, but I still think it was too bad he didn’t know a good thing when he saw it. Ah, high school.

  8. Anna Marie

    I’m confused too, but I CAN’T STOP WATCHING IT. I keep thinking that the NEXT episode will be the one that explains everything. It sort of like watching Twin Peaks (did you ever watch Twin Peaks?) There’s the surface story, then there’s all the stuff swirling around just below the surface that totally messes with your head.

  9. MomCat

    Mad Men definitely requires wine. The only shows I watch without benefit of liquid plot enhancer are House and The Tudors.

  10. MomCat

    Oh, and that boy you were crushin’ on? I married him. The gloat never goes away.

  11. jenn

    I totally know what you mean. Love the show, can’t look away, but it’s so frustrating and crazy-making. Kind of like the movie No Country For Old Men (I got it from Netflix back in June and it sat on top of the DVD player for two months before I watched it, and when it was over I almost threw my shoe at the TV. This is supposed to be the best movie of 2007? It was well-done, but the ending sucked.)

    I think you could make a drinking game out of on Mad Men, every time someone smokes a cigarette, you take a drink… every time someone sleeps with someone who’s not their spouse, do a shot. I hate how they make smoking look cool, but somehow they do.

  12. Randi

    I’ve never watched Mad Men – I’m addicted to enough TV shows, I don’t need anymore LOL.

    As for the old friend, there are some I’d like to see again. I ran into one snooty girl from HS who saw the ring on my finger and exclaimed, “You’re MARRIED?!” – if you read between the lines it sounded like this: “Someone actually found you attractive enough to haul your ass to the alter and MARRY you?!”

    No. I drugged his ass and paid a priest to marry us w/o his consent. Now I’m living a double life as Randi/Hannah Montana!

  13. Flea

    I’ve never seen it. Sorry. But I can relate to the loathing/attraction for the brainiac in school.

    And then there was this line:

    fire of a thousand suns

    I mistakenly read:
    fire of a thousand nuns

    What exactly would that mean?

  14. Dayna

    I got hooked on the show during a Mad Men marathon. I keep hoping that with each episode all my questions will be answered. Of course, why would I keep watching if there was nothing else to learn?

    It is frustrating — the not knowing, the chauvinistic men, the brain dead women. But I keep watching anyway.

  15. wafelenbak

    I haven’t watched Madmen but I am cracking up about middle school boy. I had one of those too…my rival, my love…
    I think he went to homecoming with my best friend just to piss me off. :p

  16. anna

    I like Mad Men, and I haven’t really been confused by it . . . they just jumped ahead in time and then every couple of episodes there will be a flashback that kind of explains how they got from point a to point c.

  17. susan

    Mad Men is my favorite show right now. Once you get past the fact that they jumped ahead like 18 months from the end of season 1 to the beginning of season 2 and occasionally have to go back and fill in the blanks, it gets easier to figure out.

  18. Meg

    Love Mad Men! And yes, I do feel like I should drink cocktails while I watch it. I was disappointed by the first few episodes of season 2 but I thought the last one was the best (of the season) yet. I think there were more storylines started in season 1 than I realized while I was watching it. I didn’t expect them to go back and address every single one of them because some seemed so minor, but it seems like that is what they are doing – and sometimes out of sequence, or sometimes holding back parts of big storylines longer than I would have expected (i.e. Peggy’s flashbacks this past episode were what I exected and wanted to see in the first episode of the new season, but now that some of the holes in that story line did finally get filled in I am glad they waited to show us what happened.) So, I am following, but they are definitely jumping around, and I think they are showing us some things very explicitly, and letting us guess (based on the way the characters are behaving) other things that have happened in the 18 months that have transpired since the end of season 1.

  19. Meg

    Back again. Realized I didn’t really answer your question. I don’t think Mad Men is a jerk, a bit of a tease maybe, but not a total jerk. And underneath the tease, is real quality and talent!

  20. shannon in oregon

    So far I’ve loved this season. The endings kill me too, but in the tease sense, like meg mentions above.

  21. jennielynn

    Lord, I need to start watching this show.

  22. Karen

    I rarely watch TV so I have no clue what this show is about. And after reading this, I doubt I would ever watch it in the future.

  23. Shannon

    Ah, middle school. I remember agonizing on how the boy I liked did not like me because I was the one beating him on tests.

    P.S. Mir…you emailed me some months back about pregnancy loss and struggles. I just wanted to let you know…I am finally pregnant again. :o)

  24. Brigitte

    I was invisible to my mad, brainiac crush (8th-12th grade, how sad is that?). He was geeky and weird in 8th grade, but had become rather popular and obnoxious by 12th. Then I heard a couple obnoxious things about his early post-highschool life. I sometimes wonder if he’s matured since then (but don’t want to actually SEE him, as I’ve gained 100 pounds).

    Maybe Mad Men is just going through adolescence, and will mature? Though I have to say, it hasn’t bothered hubby and me. We just sit back and absorb whatever the show wants to tell us, and file things in the back of our heads. I think “Lost” has us well-trained in that department.

  25. Jenn

    Hello, I am the only person on Earth who has not only never watched Mad Men, but I had never even HEARD of Mad Men until earlier this month.

  26. tori

    I feel that way about Lost. You described it perfectly.

  27. D

    Jenn – nope, never heard of it, never watched it, have no idea what it’s about — you are NOT alone. But I know less than you – GLOAT! :-) [couldn’t resist].

    Mir – uh, classmate – about five years ago, I was at a meeting with a speaker. Guy was a jerk – braggart, pompous, know-it-all, and his info was really useless. I had to introduce myself as I was writing up something for the group’s newsletter – guy was condescending and then flirted with me – suggesting we do lunch to discuss the article I’m writing up [“Every contact you make is a food in the door to a new adventure.” Wink]. Jerk. My editor [hubby] reads the write-up and says, “I went to school with the speaker.” I blinked and said, “Of course you did. He’s SUCH a product of your College Prep School. Why didn’t I see it? Ego the size of Cleveland. Classic sign. Only you and your best friend escaped that by-product of telling everyone just how smart you are.” So, hubby contacts him via email – guy goes ON about successful at that, this, and the other. We should do lunch. We should reconnect. Hubby writes back “I don’t do lunch with guys who hit on my wife.” LOL! I’m still savouring that moment … :-)

  28. D

    make that “FOOT” in the door [I must be hungry … food?] Where’s my editor?

  29. ImpostorMom

    This is exactly how I feel about Lost and Battlestar Galactica. When it’s over I look at my husband and say “I hate this damn show!” and then I begin the countdown to the next episode.

  30. LiteralDan

    Can’t it be both?

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