I must think of a way into your heart.
There’s something both poetic and sad about Don searching the creative archives for the proper words necessary to present Sylvia with a plea for forgiveness and love. Don uses his words to sell oatmeal, soup and Chevys, but when Don creates the copy he’s thinking of his life; he’s selling his heart. When Don’s heart breaks he roots through what he’s successfully sold, reshapes it, and sells it again. He just needs to get a foot in the door. He just needs the person he’s pitching to sit quietly and please, just listen.
Don sells his heart plainly; it’s why he sells ads so beautifully. It was delightful to hear awkward little Dick Whitman respond to the prostitute’s flirtatious question: “Do you like this?” with a patented Don Draper compliment: “I do.” Quiet admiration paired with a simple affirmation.
When Don is ill, or very high, we watch him delve into the part of his psyche that he only visits on a surface level during moments of health and sobriety. Don has successfully turned his poor Midwestern childhood and service in the war into dinner table anecdotes, little bits of spice that he peppers into conversation when he’s feeling verbose. It’s only when Don’s defences are down that he allows himself to recall abuse, or the inception of his issues with women, wealth, and esteem.
What is Don looking for? Does he stand outside Sylvia’s door aching to be mothered; gathered to her breast, petted, fed and soothed? When he was deeply lonely and living inside a bottle and he hired a prostitute to slap him, was he aching to feel something, anything, or did he feel he deserved abuse? Does Don want punishment for his libido? Does Don’s libido exist because he was raised around libidinous men? Did Dick, existing in the subservient role, somehow learn to be a whore? Does Don sell himself? Does he use advertising as a conduit? Is the creative archive at SCDP just a series of declarations of love from Don to one woman or another, reshaped and slightly altered to sell products to strangers?
Sally said to Don, “I realized I don’t anything about you”. Nobody does. Don’s heart lives inside a cold storeroom lit by buzzing bulbs, trying desperately to remain lit.