Lately on Mad Men, the most fabulous show of them all, there has been a running commentary on how the sexes perceive each other. Even though Don Draper is in love, one can’t help feeling like heartbreak is just biding its time.Two weeks ago, Joan Holloway said, “Men don’t take the time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.”

Damn, Joan! Say it out loud, why don’t you?

Then this last week, that douchebag Peter Campbell gets spurned (he’s a tool and deserves it, but still), and crestfallen, he ponders, “Why do they [women] get to decide what’s going to happen?”

He looks so forlorn that what’s-his-name, the head of tv advertising, says, as if acknowledging some undeniable truth like gravity or peristalsis, “They just do.”

The thing that I like so much about these little exchanges is the acceptance of uncomfortable truths and the complicity that comes with the acceptance. Engaging in these painful, one-sided relationships provokes misery and suffering, and yet we all still engage – hell, we jump on the chance to ride the wave, even as we watch it crash to the shore. It’s a form of doublethink, the simultaneous acceptance and rejection of fact and fantasy. We push back the truths  for the hope that the outcome will be different from that which we know is inevitable.

Awesome! Thank you, tv, for making impending spinsterhood and celibacy not only seem like a choice, but the smarter option!

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

I am going to write a series of vignettes called “Along the Way”, about stuff that happens along the way to somewhere else. Maybe if I start it here on the blog, I will actually finish it, though I think this may be just another act of willful deception. I’m a much bigger starter than I am a finisher. A mile wide and an inch deep, I am.

Anyhoo, it all starts out with a high school teacher’s literary nod to the classic stories of the Greek hero, which, as you probably remember, are very formulaic. Look it up if you have forgotten. I don’t get paid enough to not be able to teach you in the same manner I am unable to teach my own students.*

Thinking about the hero’s journey reminded me of Guillermo Del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth, which was very cool for many reasons, including that the classic hero was a pre-adolescent girl who was given to hallucinatory fantasies.

Thinking about that made me think about Pan. He was the half-man, half-goat Greco-Roman god of the wilderness, of all that was savage and beyond man’s control. His man half enabled him to be a wise prophet, but his goat half made him a wildly lecherous prankster. Here’s Pan actually doing it barnyard style with his better half.

My kind of dude, but I digress.

Not much is known about Pan, but one theory of his birth is this:

When the famous Greek war hero, Odysseus, returned from ten years of the Trojan War and ten years of sailing around the Mediterranean, he had to deal with a bunch of dudes who had moved in on his still decidedly hot wife, Penelope. After all, it had been 20 years. Odysseus was not completely cool to her, as he was distrustful and hurt by her supposed lack of loyalty. Penelope, though, was a model of fidelity. After all that time, she still loved Odysseus and held out the hope that he would return to her, so she devised all these clever plans to stave off her suitors, who wanted her land and kingdom, Ithaca, as much as they wanted her.

Odysseus still didn’t trust her. Perhaps this is because while he was gone, he lived for several years on the island of this goddess, Circe, who fell madly in love with him, and who later, after he ditched her to go make sure his wife hadn’t cheated on him, gave birth to his son.

Needless to say, lady poets are not big fans of Odysseus. While he was out frolicking with sorceresses (who, coincidentally, also liked to do the wild thing like the wild things, according to lore), Penelope was long-suffering and ever-hopeful for a reunion with her true love, who it is said she married at age 15. Here is what Dorothy Parker had to say:


In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor’s knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.

Dorothy Parker

But again, I digress.

One of the theories of Pan the goat boy’s birth was that Penelope was eventually seduced by the strongest of the suitors, Antinious, and that she later bore “hornstrong, hairy Pan.”

Hornstrong. Heh, heh!

Another theory is that Penelope got it on with ALL the suitors, and the result was the randy goatgod.

I don’t know what I want to believe more; that Penelope was virtuous and pure while Odysseus was a superheroic hypocrite, or that she was fierce and free and practiced a twenty-years-is-twenty-damned-years: bygones, bastard, bygones! kind of ethos.

Get you some, Penny! Life is short, so live it, girl!

But again, I digress. None of this is what I wanted to talk about at all.

However, this all makes sense, and does have a rambling kind of logic. Men will be men, women will be women, goats will be goats. We are all proverbial scorpians and frogs, stranded at the edge of the lake of life, hoping that a ride from a stranger will turn out to be an adventure, instead of a tragedy. We hope we can find someone to love, who will love us back, and who won’t damage us too badly. We hope we can come to agreements and compromise that take our natures into account and still allow us to love completely and satisfyingly. Even though a television series set in a cynical time doesn’t dwell on it, I do believe that adventure and enlightenment is as likely to be around the next corner as dismay and disappointment. I think we can all get along. I think that the lion can lie down with the lamb, or to be a tad more topical, the goat with the gorilla.

In fact it all reminds me of a joke, but I only remember the punchline. That happens to me a lot. It’s a real funny one, though. The punchline is, ” A good goat’ll do that for ya!”

It’s hilarious if you hear the whole thing.

Sadly, now I don’t feel like writing my “Along the Way” series. Bygones, bastard, bygones. Maybe next time.

*Speaking of not being able to teach your students, check out the film Monseiur Lazhar. So good!

A HUGE congratulations shout out to KB, for becoming the deputy, which is much better than the sheriff! After all, in the words of Bob Marley and Eric Clapton, “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.” It is safer and every bit as cool. I am so proud! Bravo!!!!