There was a dry eye in the house at the end of Mad Men.
Mine. Both of them, in fact.
I thought I might lament. I thought my sentimental well would gush at the ending prepared for each member of the cast.
It would be like a shrink session for the mere cost of my cable bill.
I've benefited from many of advertising's innovations from that era: The laissez-faire attitude toward business (yes, I once had a full-size pool table in my own office and didn't turn up to work for four months); the wine, the lunches, the wine, the dinners; the absurd joy that a single idea concocted in a few minutes of wanton panic could affect a company's image, profits, and self-esteem for years.
However, I'm troubled that too many critics believe that last night's farewell was a triumph of the human spirit.
Roger Sterling met his match, married her, and then referred to her as his mother. (An analyst could write a whole book about just that one sentence.)
Peggy Olson decided that the hairy hippy was the man for her--seemingly because she was so stunned at his declaration that she was the woman for him.
Joan Harris set up in business, a decision that loses her a man who really seemed quite good for her and liked her for who she was.
Pete Campbell got the job of his dreams in, um, Kansas.
These are all triumphs of the human spirit?
And then there was the fate of Don Draper. This larger-than-death character, hewn from American self-salesmanship, a symbol of how today's neurotic nation became that way.
We were supposed to believe that he'd found serenity. In a hippy commune where people came to find a new self and leave the second-hand one behind.
We were supposed to believe that Don finally felt compassion for a fellow man--and this one happened to be a crushing dullard.
I so wanted to believe and to feel. My sentimental well has no cover. It's always ready.
But then there was the penultimate scene. Don allegedly saluting the sun--or whatever excuse they had for getting up at ridiculous times of the morning in those days--cross-legged and muttering "Ommmmmm."
The next scene was Coca-Cola's seminal "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" ad. The one where people of all races--and possibly creeds and sexual predilections--sung about perfect harmony, while all holding a Coke bottle.
Literalists have already wondered whether the implication was that Don, having seen the light, went back to his ad agency (I'm sorry, it's very difficult for me to write the words "McCann Erickson") and somehow created this apogee of brilliantly cloying insincerity.
At heart, though, we were supposed to believe that he'd finally found happiness.
But no. What he'd surely found was a temporary reprieve from the fake he really was. Just as we are largely fakes who acquire too much of our self-image from the images of others and try to find our reprieves wherever we can.
Do you really think that Don Draper stayed more than another couple of days in that commune full of hippiness and dippiness? Lord, no. It would have driven him insane(r).
He'd have been back on the streets and in the bars, trying to find the next escapist buzz. Just as we all find our escapist buzz in consumption and faux-cheeriness. (Well, we Americans at least.)
We actually allow ourselves to believe that the sharing of a sticky-sweet liquid will turn us into better, if sticky-sweet, people. Why is that? Because we wade through our imperfections each day in the hope that some outside agency will help us like ourselves a little more.
You think this has changed since the days of Don Draper and the whole of humanity trying to teach each other to sing, while buying each other a Coke?
I bring you a headline from Coca Cola, dated April 14 2015: "Share a Coke 2.0: The Hit Campaign Is Back, and it's Bigger and Better Than Ever."