..So much has been lost since ...when men wore hats with sly little feathers, and women wore dresses that looked ready to twirl on a music box. And what have we gotten in return? Oh right. My job. Feminism. Civil rights. Pilates. Is it worth the trade off? Here's a look:
MEN IN HATS: Why oh why have these gone the way of the cha-cha-cha? Men looked better in hats — taller, richer, smarter. They looked great taking them off, too, as a sign of respect. What simple gesture can men do now to show their respect to a woman? Unlock the car door using their key-chain remote? Oh boy. I'm swooning.
WOMEN IN HATS: We looked better too.
THE BRILLIANCE OF BRILLIANTINE: The only men still slicking back their hair these days are the villains in action movies. And yet, even the dweebiest guys in "Mad Men" look polished because their hair is polished. It shines. It stays in place. And when it doesn't, it gets put back there several times a day. The results of an informal survey of the men in my office disclosed exactly how many of them even carrying a comb? Zee-ro. And yes, these are guys who still have hair.
BRAS THAT DID ALL THE WORK: Exercise all you want, ladies, we will never look as good as the women in Mad Men. They're so shapely, it's as if someone taped party hats up there. "Those were firm bras," Nancy Deihl, a historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology, explains. "If you had the bust, it got shaped. If you didn't, there was lots of structure available, padding (not just from below, like our Wonderbra), concentric circles, batting." Let's hear it for concentric circles.
STATION WAGONS: How did we ever decide these weren't cool? How did we ever decide chunky, clunky SUVs are? In SUVs, the back seat faces forward. Sorry about that, kids.
POSTURE: They had it. We lost it. Ms. Deihl, the professor, again explains what was going on: "Posture was really emphasized in the beauty magazines of the '50s and early '60s. Think about the movie stars — Cary Grant, Gregory Peck: tall and lean." Carrying yourself right was more important than working out back then. It still is — guys just don't know it.
MEAT: And here's the secret women today don't know: Meat is important, too — on them. The "Mad Men" women have some meat on their bones, an extra 10 pounds they'd be working like crazy to get rid of today. A little roundness made their skin look young and their legs look nice. In the show, at least, everyone also always seems to be eating meat — steaks sizzling with fat or home-cooked roast beef, and no one is talking about cholesterol. Not even the doctors. Of course, they're weren't talking about the rampant alcoholism, either. But still. It would be nice to eat more steak.
VESTS: Nowadays, they make a guy look like a lawyer. But when everyone was wearing them, they just looked great. Same with cuff links. Same with a smirk.
LUNCH HOUR: Imagine a time when people actually took off a whole hour to eat someplace else. They felt they deserved a little break, and their boss agreed. Even as I write this I am picking at the chicken kebab next to my keyboard.
So what have we gained?
THE PLUS SIDE
POST-LUNCH SOBRIETY: When you're eating a chicken kebab at your desk, you're not going out for any three martini lunches. I guess that's progress.
A SMOKE-FREE WORK ENVIRONMENT: It's great we don't have to smell cigarettes at work. Now we can smell the kebabs.
PANTYHOSE: Whoopee. We've got 'em, the women in "Mad Men" don't. They all seem to be wearing stockings held up by garters. How do we know? The drunk guys are always trying to paw them off. (See cable TV, above.)
SELF-SERVICE ELEVATORS: I'm really relieved no one is pressing the buttons for us anymore. Also relieved we get to grab our own paper towels in most bathrooms, too. But I'm kind of sorry we have to pump our own gas, at least when we're not in New Jersey.
CELL PHONES: No longer do we need an operator to place a call. No longer do we even need to be in the office to make that call. The phone is wherever we are. So is our office! And our work! And — oh wait. I meant to put that in the "lost" column.
EQUALITY: Women, men, blacks, and whites — we're all better off. We just don't look as good.
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