So, before tonight’s airing of Marriage of Figaro, I thought it was time to write up some random thoughts on re-watching Ladies Room.

There’s a deep, soulful emphasis when Joan says “That sandwich is making me sad.” I really think that we’re going to learn more about Joan. (File that under Season 2 Speculation: I think Joan gets major backstory and I think it’s going to be full of sadness.)

In the realm of general sexism, we have Don telling Betty, “Leave the dishes for the girl.” “The girl.” Because, y’know, she’s a thing; specifically a thing that does dishes. “The girl,” by the way, is eight. Not to young too be the maid or anything. Yeesh.

But this is mostly Betty’s episode. When she’s with Mona in the ladies room and she can’t hold her lipstick, her remark is “It’s hard to hold onto anything these days.” The first time I saw this episode, I didn’t notice the “hard to hold onto” connection. The psychological meaning of Betty’s numbness is even clearer than I’d thought.

(By the way, anyone know the name of the actress who played a ladies room attendant; who said “If their purses get any smaller, we’re going to starve”? She reminded me very much of Yvette Freeman (Haleh on ER), but it’s sometimes hard to recognize actors through the period clothing and hair. IMDb and TV.com both come up blank, so if you know who it is, PUH-leeze tell me.)

Later, Betty talks about her fears regarding the accident: She’s not afraid of death, but of loneliness. If Sally were scarred, she would never marry and live her life alone, and this is what Betty can’t bear to consider. Loneliness. Not having a man. Not having a perfect appearance. Shit, I’m in Roberta territory here, stunned at what goes on behind Betty’s facade.

And one more thing about Betty: In the psychiatric session, she takes off the watch Don gave her. You know: The watch to make her happy, the now-you-have-everything-you-don’t-need-a-shrink watch. That watch.

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“‘Ya know I can’t believe I even thought about getting back together with you! We are SOOO over!”
~Rachel, re-breaking up with Ross on Friends (Episode 4:01; The One With the Jellyfish)

In a discussion about the possible origins of the term ‘self-worth’, Rondi commented about the anachronistic “1960, I am SO over you“.

First of all, Rondi, don’t second guess yourself. This one is absolutely undebateably out of step with the era. Is it POSSIBLE that a woman in 1960 could have put those words together in that sequence? Sure, it’s technically possible. But it screams Today. It screams it so loudly that I wonder if it was deliberate. (more…)

Weiner just talked about a technique he uses to keep it real, which is to ensure that Betty has a closet. Even though she shops a lot, he says, you will see the same outfits repeated.

He said that she wore the same dress for the family portrait that she wore to her first day seeing Dr. Wayne; it is what she would choose. Sunday best.

I would just like to point out that the only other time I have ever seen this (with the exception of a particular pair of earrings on a soap opera years ago; I’ll come back later to describe them) was on thirtysomething, a show that I loved as much as I love this one. Hope had a very specific wardrobe that rotated and she always looked good but never too good, like an overwhelmed young mother with a hippie streak would really dress (also with some favorite pairs of earrings). I had never seen that before or, or since, until now.

We’ll keep an eye on Joan, but I do suspect Joan would spend a lot of money on new dresses all the time. And I’m sure she has lots of sources of income to support it.

Addendum:

Okay, so a hundred years ago, there was a character named Megan on One Life to Live, played by Jessica Tuck. She has giant blue eyes, round and really an incredible blue. The character frequently wore a pair of earrings with big round blue sparkling stones that sat close to the ears (as most earrings on soap operas do). I was mesmerized by the effect; how they reflected her eyes. And the directors obviously were too, because soap operas never ever EVER (at least back then; I don’t watch them anymore) repeat wardrobe elements. Ever. But these earrings next to Megan’s face were magical.

On a personal note, around the same time period I met a young girl who was just a really hot young thing, and she had my coloring, with bright round dark brown shiny eyes. And she had a pair of earrings with round black stones set in silver, and it had a similar effect.

It took me years to find the right earrings for myself. I do have a pair now, and I’ve never pulled it off quite the same as Megan or Stephanie, they certainly do make my eyes pop.

The episode title “Babylon” is more oblique than many. What does it mean?

Over lunch, Don asks Rachel about Judaism and Israel. She says the Jews have always been exiles; first in Babylon, and then all over the world. She tells him “Zion” is just an ancient word meaning “Israel” (Don is a little threatened by those “Zionists”), and that she has no interest in living in Israel, but it’s important to her that it exists.

It seems that, if there’s a Homeland, she is more at peace with living in exile. Don, too, lives in exile—from himself—and we see the first flashback to the childhood of Dick Whitman in this episode.

One thing that’s interesting about Don/Dick is that he has no education. Dirt poor, abused, neglected, Dick joined the Army and then began the life of Don Draper. Betty tells him what she learned in “first year Anthropology,” and Rachel tells him the Greek meaning of “Utopia,” which she learned in college; he is hungry not just for these women’s bodies, but for the knowledge they have. And that underscores his outsider/exile status.

Later, Don meets Midge, longing to satisfy both hungers. He grabs her passionately (right after seeing Rachel…) and then she shows him a beatnik underground in which he is an alien. It is there, at “The Gaslight,” that Midge and Roy’s friend sings a version of Rivers of Babylon (at least, I think it’s Rivers of Babylon—it might be one of the other songs based on Psalm 137).

And, finally, Joan and Roger. He is alienated from his wife and daughter. Which is clearly his own fault. They are in a hotel, which is a no man’s land, a place between, a territory for the homeless that reminds Joan uncomfortably of a hospital room (suggesting some back story there, I think). It is also a waystation, a place where they can find comfort in each other. In the final seconds of the episode, as the song plays, Joan and Roger are apart from each other, and leaving the hotel. Leaving Babylon? Or leaving Utopia to return to Babylon?