This time last year, everyone was into "Mad Men"-ing themselves. No Facebook or Gchat avatar was safe. Don Drapers, Roger Sterlings, Joan Holloways and Peggy Olsons — the stars of AMC's period drama about white male privilege — invaded the Internet like so many inch-square viruses. After Sunday's finale, my avatar is getting a makeover.
Basically, you go to the network's website and make a series of calculated choices in order to transform yourself into a caricature that could be a cast member. After choosing between "suit" or "skirt" ('60s speak for male or female), you then decide on skin color, body type and even head size. Next you pick mouth (lipstick or cigarette?), clothes (party dress or pregnant), extras (Bloody Mary or matching purse) and scene (bedroom or boardroom).
Most people paint an online portrait that pretty much matches their real features — from the haircut and color to the style of dress. During Season 3, the mod version of me looked a lot like Michelle Obama in a Jason Wu sheath. But after watching this week's Season 4 finale, virtual me will don a blond wig and go as Dr. Faye Miller. Sure, she's white and doesn't exist outside of the small screen (and if she were a real person, she'd be my grandmother's age now), but Miller is a part of a new 21st-century meme that I identify with: professionally single.
Dr. Miller, the psychiatrist-research consultant who seemed way too smart to fall for the office Don Juan, was introduced this season as the only real match for the show's bed-hopping, alcoholic anti-hero. Like Don Draper, Faye is self-made and self-assured. She uses her fancy degree to sell cold cream and slips on a fake wedding ring to stave off office advances.
As does any good ad man worth his three-martini lunch, Faye has the job of predicting the future — what people want and what they'll buy. She sizes people up and, as her title suggests, eventually shrinks them down. When she first meets the newly divorced Don, Faye attempts to comfort him by forecasting his future: "You'll be married in a year." She's right, of course, but that doesn't mean she'll get the guy. Faye is Don's equal, not his foil, and therein lies her fatal flaw.
From a modern point of view, it would seem as if Don could end up with a woman like Dr. Miller. She's compassionate and capable. She knows his dirty secrets, and instead of fleeing, she decides to hop in the trenches with him. Faye is "ride or die" with a good dye job. But that's not what Don — or the men he represents (powerfully insecure) — really wants.
So despite loving Faye in his way, when a 25-year-old brunette with big teeth and even bigger eyes fills in as his secretary, it's only a matter of time before his god complex consumes the both of them. In just a weekend, Don decides to marry his secretary, Megan from Montreal, and ditch the good doctor.
"We need to talk," says Don, calling Dr. Faye from his contemporary corner office. He suggests they meet over coffee. Caffeine and heartbreak. Classic.
"Well, I … met somebody … and we're engaged. I know, I know, it's a surprise. It was for me, too. I fell in love. I didn't mean for this to happen. You've been very … important … to me."
After a few more platitudes from Don and one of the best dump-ee lines ever from Faye ("I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things"), the uncomfortable uncoupling comes to a close. Faye slams down the phone and sobs. For the audience, that's the last glimpse we get of Dr. Miller: alone in a big office.
But as a woman who's been on Faye's side of that phone call, I can clearly imagine what she is thinking. She's wondering what, exactly, she did wrong. Why is someone else better suited for the man she loved? When will she be the "somebody" who gets met?
To be clear, Faye isn't desperate or hopeless. The same day Don asked her to their first dinner date, she was delivering her own "This isn't working" speech to someone else. Problem is, Dr. Miller, like many women like her, thinks she's different from those other girls. She thinks that her ability to think like a man (with her sexual liberation and ladder climbing) makes her uniquely qualified to tame one. She is a lioness, it's true. But plenty of lions like lamb.
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.