A Man of his Word


This morning, as a little Sunday morning treat, I watched the penultimate episode in Series 3 of Mad Men. Mad Men is my all-time favourite TV series – I love it for the writing, the acting, the attention to detail, but most of all for the way nothing seems to happen of consequence, and yet there is a seismic emotional shift that catches the viewer off-guard in almost every single episode. (Look away now if you haven’t seen the series and want to avoid a spoiler). I had seen this episode before – and yet what caught me off-guard this time is how annoyed I felt at Don Draper as he is told by his wife Betty that, after enduring his philandering and lying one time too many, she doesn’t love him anymore. What did he expect? I raged inwardly. He broke a vow, a solemn promise over and over and over again – just before this point in the episode, he is about to take off for a few days with his new love interest, until Betty disarms him with this revelation. In the light of all his affairs and secrecy, how could he be surprised?


This is where I think inter human politics between the genders become most interesting, and it is an issue that I haven’t quite figured out myself yet. As a person, in my everyday life, if I give my word, I keep it. No ifs, ands or buts. But I have often been disappointed by members of the opposite sex, who tend not to see their word as their bond. I would be a millionairess by now if I had £1 for every time I have been let down by a man who “forgot”, “didn’t think it was that important” etc. It used to crush me every time it happened; and even up till recently, when it happened with a male friend to whom I was particularly close, I was surprised at how upset and infuriated I was. My rationale is: “Why say something if you don’t mean it?” Surely it is better all round, and less hassle if one only makes promises that one can keep? 


Here’s what I have learned over the years, formed out of sleepless nights and endless tears of “Why did he do this to me?”, “All men are basterds”, “Maybe it’s me”, “Am I not good enough for him?”: Only trust what a man does, not what he says. I have no idea why it works like that; maybe the male of the species is always programmed to test boundaries, to see how bad he can be before Mommy won’t love him anymore. Maybe there are some men out there who can shed on the subject, but to the outside and female eye, this is the only conclusion I can draw presently.


Interestingly enough, I started a meditation course today, and one of the things I learned is that in Tibet speech and the written word is considered to be sacred. Traditionally Tibetans do not say what they do not mean; they also would never dream of using even newspapers as covering for fish and chips, for example, or any other menial tasks. Maybe it is different now, but by tradition words are precious and promises important. As I walked away from the class I realised how much we in the West have to learn from Eastern philosophy, and how much I want to disengage from the dramatic narrative that seems to be inherent in heterosexual relationships in the West by finding the elusive man of his word.

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