Sons of Mad Man

Crede Calhoun, WW2 vet, father, attorney, sailboat racer

Crede Calhoun, WW2 vet, father, attorney, sailboat racer

On Saturday May 16th, the Hawken School Class of 1972, gathered 22 of its men together for a reunion men’s circle on the same weekend the school celebrated its 100th birthday.

On Sunday May 17th, Mad Man, the AMC show about Don Draper, and company men, and their racing between 1960 and 1970 came to a conclusion with the ‘OM Moment.’ In it, the protagonist of the series, ad man Don Draper, chants the eternal mantra.

Mad Man is the only TV show I have ever faithfully watched for which the show’s cultural temporal location made a substantial difference in my viewing. In the show’s back story, Dick Whitman–the actual identity Don Draper discarded–was born in 1926. My father Crede was born in 1924. Having stolen Don Draper’s identity in a violent incident during the Korean War, the newly minted Draper marries his first wife Betty in 1953. Betty was born in 1932. She was a Bryn Mawr graduate, class of ’53, while my own mother, born in 1927, was a Bryn Mawr graduate, class of 1947. My parents were married in 1949. My father and mother were both glamorous in the way the TV show pictured ‘professional class’ glamour.

Don and Betty’s daughter Sally was born in the story’s timeline the same year my twin brother and I were born: 1954.

My own father never got his OM moment, never got near it. Because of this fact, I strongly endorse the hopeful and positive side of Mad Man’s series’ ending dialectic, that Dick/Don had found an entry way onto the path of self-recognition and self-acceptance, even if the other side of the dialectic, the collective appropriation for marketing purposes of the post-modern values implicit in the self-realization movement of that era (and spelled out in the iconic hippie soda commercial,) was the work of some ad man. My own projection–what else could it be–is that Dick/Don never walks into an advertising agency again.

For my all male Class of 1972, it has always been the case that we remain the sons of fathers born to the greatest generation. Our men’s circle has its critical second rule: what is said there, stays there. Although this necessarily extends also to reflections after-the-get-together, it is enough to note the general psycho-socio-cultural ground for all men in all privileged* classes of 1972: it is that there was not in this generation of these men’s fathers a strong impetus toward self-recognition and introspection, let alone sounding OM. As the male progeny of this generation, we often came to reflect, and next pose our own reaction.

It is in my own generation that the ability to feel intimacy may come to be a point of strength.

* privileged meaning: upper middle/upper class, professional fathers, mostly white, striving.

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