Every decade or so there appears on television, an iconic
mother character: June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Roseanne Barr, Wilma Flintstone and
now, Betty Draper Francis. Betty is the coldest, least likable of these
mommies, but I find her simply fascinating. She lives almost completely inside
her own head—in her own reality. This fascinates me so, because I am the
complete opposite. I am the Roseanne to her June.
Betty and I are a study in contrasts. Let's take a look, shall we?
Betty Draper Francis: Cigarettes, coffee and orange juice
Jenny Brulé: Bowl of bean soup
Winner (tie): Betty
wins for keeping a svelte figure and looking über mommy chic in the morning,
but I win in the "better breath" and "less-likely-to-develop-lung-and-colon-cancer" categories.
BDF: Quiet and smoky. Boys are politely seated at the table, in
their monogrammed shirts and starched trousers, eating Cream of Wheat. Maybe they dare to look up at their
mother, as blue smoke romantically rings around her, but she doesn’t see
them—she's lost in thoughts of how her life could’ve
been. Then, Henry, her (soon-to-be New York State Attorney General)
husband swoops in and kisses her cheek, awakening her to the gorgeous reality
she lives in. She stiffly smiles and tells the boys to finish their juice.
JB: Mind-numbingly loud. A lot of yelling. Me yelling upstairs for someone to throw down a pair of socks for
one daughter. Yelling between my teenage daughters about who owns which skirt.
Yelling from yet another daughter, sitting on the kitchen floor, for me to "look" because she’s taught the dog to drink from her cereal bowl at the same time
that she’s eating the cereal. And yelling from my husband that there is too
much yelling. Every morning at 7 am, when they all scoot out the door, there’s
an almost barometric shift within the house, as the noise and frenetic energy
is sucked out. Sometimes the change in pressure is so pronounced my ears pop.
Winner: Betty sweeps
this one, in all categories, easily.
BDF: Do I even have to say it? Amazing. For so many reasons. A)
She is surreally beautiful; like an ethereal (scary) fairy. Really, sometimes
it hurts to look directly at her. B) Betty’s got coin and dresses accordingly—she
oozes Main Line money and breeding with every silk taffeta skirt she wears.
JB: I change out of my PJs just before picking the girls up from
school at 2 pm. In my defense, I sleep in a t-shirt and shorts, so it’s not like
I am walking around in a frilly nightgown. When the UPS guy appears at my door,
it’s almost convincing that I meant to dress like that.
Winner (tie): Betty
wins for beauty and style. I win for comfort and
BDF: Betty employed Carla the housekeeper, who was loyal, sweet
to the Draper kids and had Betty’s back. So Betty fired her.
JB: This is a picture of my kitchen counter.
Winner: This is a
toss-up. Betty wins for cleanliness, even though she did none of the cleaning.
I win for Karmic cleanliness—there’s no bad juju here.
Field Trip Chaperone
BDF: While on a field trip to an idyllic farm, no matter how cute,
how well-behaved, how dotting of a son you are, do not trade Betty’s sandwich for gumdrops. Consider this fair warning.
JB: A month ago I also went on a field trip to a farm. My
daughter’s 3rd grade teacher admonished me for getting to close to
the pig pen. The kids loved me because I freely admitted that farting was
Winner: Betty didn’t
fare so well. I own this one.
BDF: Honestly, I’ve never seen the Draper family or the Francis
family eating all together. The viewer sees the children eating, (the usual
classic, meatloaf and mashed potatoes) and Betty is always there; just not so
much interacting as smoking.
JB: I have four children with the following dietary derivatives:
1 vegetarian, 1 non-dairy-just-because-it’s-gross, 1 omnivore (thank God for
her), 1 mildly OCD picky eater. The one meal everyone is happy with is cheese
pizza. I can’t make cheese pizza every night, so instead (in a sort of
culinary-self-flagellation) I make three dinners. Every. Night. I’m on my
second glass of wine by the time dinner plates skid across the kitchen table, just before bedtime.
Winner: Betty. She’s
able to retain her ice-cold demeanor. By 8 o’clock I am a worn-out bitch (at
least I come by it honestly).
BDF: Sunday morning, Henry dresses the boys and marches them into
Betty’s bedroom. He’s carrying a tray with a breakfast of scrambled eggs,
bacon, toast and coffee and a thin vase with one, perfect rose. The boys
dutifully stand next to Betty’s bed and give her their handmade cards in turn.
Henry hands her a box containing a delicate gold watch adorned with tasteful
diamonds. Betty is 67% pleased.
JB: Exactly like that, except not at all like that, and messier.
But, I’m thrilled they remembered Mother’s Day! And horrified because it is at
that moment that I realize I forgot to send my mother anything.
Winner: Betty wins because
even though her mother is dead and even though she didn’t like her mother, she
would have sent the perfect gift and it would have arrived on Saturday.
So, Betty wins. She’s the better mother. Even so, she is convinced
that all her children grow up to hate her (and she’s probably right). I feel
okay about losing, though. I know that my daughters won’t hate me when they're grown up. However, they may not want me around their adult friends because no
matter how old I get, I will always think farting is funny.