Lloyd Dobler vs. Don Draper

I finally started watching Mad Men this week. For years, I have listened to my friends tell me it’s the best show ever and swoon over Don Draper. It is a great show, but as I was watching it, I suddenly realized: Don Draper is THE EXACT SAME CHARACTER as Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey. And they are both the EXACT SAME CHARACTER as Mr. Big from Sex and the City.

Yes, there are minor differences. But the key characteristics are the same:

Super handsome (lip bitingly!), super rich and powerful, and super NOT THAT INTO YOU.

I thought this was such a brilliant connection that I Googled “Don Draper and Christian Grey” and immediately found an article in The New York Times called, “50 Shades of Mad Men: What Don Draper and Christian Grey Have in Common.” I was just this close to publishing an article in The New York Times!

Anyway, I may not be the first person to realize this. But then I started thinking. OK, these men are supposed to represent the American woman’s ultimate fantasy.

The fantasy being:

There is an extremely handsome, powerful and wealthy man and he is emotionally shutoff. He is a womanizer and treats all women badly. Then he meets you and treats you badly at first, but eventually realizes how special you are, falls madly in love with you, and emerges a changed man. He marries you and is faithful ever after.

The problem is, that’s a total fantasy. Those guys don’t generally change. And if you take away the handsome, rich, and powerful you would probably see right away that he is just a jerk.

I’m definitely not judging, and I have gotten swept up and dated a few Don Drapers, but I was miserable the entire time. I filled volumes of journals with my anguish. I could barely eat or sleep. I analyzed every nuance of our relationship. But looking back, I realize they were just jerks.

So what’s the solution for a woman looking for a healthy fantasy relationship?

Lloyd Dobler. Yes, boombox carrying Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. For me and my friends, Lloyd Dobler was the ultimate fantasy guy. He was funny and kind and loved you more than anything. I think in the back of my mind, I was always looking for my own Lloyd Dobler.

I finally found him. He was funny and cool and the kindest person I had ever met and he was devoted to me. For the first time in a relationship, I wasn’t stressed out and miserable. I was happy.

After 15 years of marriage, I can definitely say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. If I had married a Don Draper, I would probably be an alcoholic working on my 10,000th edition of my journal trying to figure out what was wrong with me. (We would also be divorced and he would be remarried to a 20-year-old.)

The current fantasy may be obsessing over a guy who makes you feel terrible about yourself, but I hope when my daughters are older there will be more Lloyd Doblers in books, TV, and movies and fewer Don Drapers.

Of course, they don’t really need to look to books, TV, or movies to find an example of a good man. They are lucky because they have their dad.

Sarah Knight is the mother of two young girls, the of co-founder of Mamas Against Drama, and a long-time fan of John Cusack. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahsknight

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