As time's wingèd chariot bundles inexorably towards the onset of my maternity leave, I find myself wondering what I'm going to do with the acres of free time I'm going to have for the next three months or so.
(What? Surely changing nappies and breastfeeding can't take up 24 hours of the day, every day! That would be madness!)
I'm gingerly testing the waters of the imminent lifestyle change by stepping up my television viewing. Not real, as-broadcast television, we don't have that at the moment, but DVDs and stuff.
And what better place to start than with Mad Men, a programme that not only is 'the nearest to genius television can get' (Metro), but in which several of the protagonists also have the same job as me - to wit, advertising copywriters.
This is where the similarities between me and the dramatis personae of Mad Men end, though, because after having viewed six episodes of Season One, I can confirm that there are some significant and probably insuperable differences in our working lives. Allow me to enumerate.
1. Office. The Mad Men office is chock-full of rich young men-about-town, the occasional silver fox and a horde of impeccably-coiffed fashionable secretarial ladies, all of whom spend their working day smoking, drinking cocktails, ravishing each other in well-appointed hotel rooms and making barbed comments about each other's dress sense, literary achievements, etc. In my office there's just me and the cat, and the cat is definitely the better groomed.
2. Client Meetings. In Mad Men, all client meetings go on for five minutes and unfold in exactly the same manner: the advertising team (who are all hungover) tell the client they don't have any ideas, the client gets a bit miffed, one of the advertising team berates the client for being female/stupid/Jewish/out of touch, and the client storms out in a huff. Later, someone has to save the account either by taking the client out to a strip club, or by sleeping with them, or both. By contrast, my client meetings are all at least an hour long, involve very long, very tedious powerpoint presentations littered with technical jargon and three letter acronyms, and end with the client requesting that I find some kind of common lexical ground between a photo of some peas and the notion of activity-based costing, which moreover must be expressed in a 'punchy' and 'compelling' fashion.
Fig. 1: Copywriting in the 1960s. Note reclining position, lack of clothes, absence of laptop, etc.
3. Desk. The desks in Mad Men are furnished with a) a phone, b) an ashtray, c) a bottle of spirits and a number of elegant spirit glasses. My desk is furnished with a) a phone, b) a printer, c) a laptop, d) several vast, unwieldy piles of printed-out powerpoint slides littered with technical jargon, three-letter acronyms and scrawled notes about 'key messages' and 'calls to action', e) any number of unfinished cups of peppermint tea, f) the cat, g) clumps of discarded cat fur, h) a leaflet about breastfeeding, i) dust, j) crumbs and k) a load of pens that I stole off the lovely Mr BC and promptly lost the tops of.
4. Office Hierarchy. In Mad Men, the copywriters (who are all men) have fashionably-attired lady secretaries to type up their copy (although I've yet to see anyone really produce any copy) while they set about playing practical jokes on each other, drinking whisky and ravishing successions of women in well-appointed hotel rooms. I, on the other hand, spend my day not only thinking of copy, but also typing it up on the typey-typey keyboard and emailing it to the client. Yes! I am living proof that women can think as well as type, something that in 1960s New York was apparently unheard of. On the downside, very little ravishing goes on in my office, possibly because I am eight months up the duff. (Yes! I am living proof that a woman can think, be pregnant and type all at the same time, despite what Theo Paphitis would have you believe.)
5. Remuneration. Despite the dubious business model outlined in point 2 above, the directors and account directors in Mad Men are all filthy rich and able to afford summer houses in the Hamptons, expensive clothes, successions of mistresses for ravishing in well-appointed hotel rooms, etc. Curiously, despite spending most of my working day actually working, as opposed to bitching and drinking cocktails, I have a lower salary than some of my teacher chums and a wardrobe composed almost entirely of cast-offs from eBay. (Despite this, my Granny has taken to informing her friends that since going freelance I've become 'a millionaire again', but that's a story for another time.)
So there you have it: Mad Men 1, Patroclus 0. Anyone fancy a martini?