Dear Don Draper, It’s a Wonderful Life

Adam Wilson in The Paris Review:

AshtrayDear Don Draper,

Birthday greetings from the year 2012! Adam Wilson here, writing to tell you that things will be okay!

I know life looks bleak right now, Don. You just turned forty. You’re feeling it. Your frown lines tell the tale, your smoke-seasoned cheek skin, the whiskey jaundice blooming in your beautiful eyes. The way your manly body slumps and crumples, finally flaccid after decades of tumescence. It’s 1966 and everything’s orange and yellow, plush and furry, groovy, heady, already psychedelically aglow. At the end of last season you were smiling like a lobotomized monkey, gaga over Megan the secretarial sex machine, offering love and financial security in exchange for a peek at her abs. Now you’ve got the spoils of that horny dream and it’s not a pretty sight: an open plan apartment accented by white rugs and cream-colored decorative pillows; a wife whose sexual liberation extends outside your bedroom and into the public salon where she’ll embarrass you in front of your coworkers, strutting her silky stuff while a band of blond surf bros play anesthetized hippie pop; daughter Sally quickly turning Lolita; your son Bobby all but unrecognizable from last year (it’s not your fault—they changed the actor); baby Gene with his creepy, beady eyes; plus the possibility of even more unwanted children!

Don’t worry, buddy. It gets better. You know how, in It’s a Wonderful Life, that angel arrives to show Jimmy Stewart the future and convince him not to kill himself? I’m that angel, Don. And I’m telling you to quit smoking and slow down with the drinking, and maybe get some exercise and cut carbs, because the future’s coming—and you’re gonna like it. The quitting smoking part’s tough, I know. I’m going through it now myself. I’m on day two, and I can feel the missing nicotine like a great void at the center of my being. My fingers twitch and my armpits drip. I’m itchy and irritated and finding it hard to focus. But we can do this together, Don. We have to. Because frankly I’m not sure I can go through with this quitting thing if I have to watch you every week, guiltlessly enjoying your cigarettes, blowing billows of smoke into the stale office air.

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