Letters to Joan: A New Advice Column by Mad Men's Wisest Woman

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Apr 07, 2012

"Letters to Joan" is a new advice column penned by the wise office manager at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, who needed something to occupy her time while on maternity leave (you know, other than the kid). Like a sassier Ann Landers, she has decided to take up answering letters from those in need of guidance.


Dear Joan,

My daughter has recently given birth to a lovely baby boy, but her attention always seems to be on her work. She’s not a neglectful mother or anything, but all she talks about is how badly she wants to return to her office job. I recently spent some time helping her out because her husband is overseas and frankly, I wasn't sure if she was up to the task of child rearing. She always seemed to be more career-minded to me. She’s still clinging to the idea of being a “working mother.” I tried to talk some sense into her, but she threw me out of her apartment. Frankly, Joan, I think she is making a terrible mistake and I would appreciate any advice you may have to help me sway her.

—(Grand)Mother Knows Best in New Jersey

Dear Grandmother,

I’m sure your daughter appreciates your help otherwise, but if she’s anything like me (and gee, she sounds suspiciously like me), she would have thrown you out long before you started overstepping your boundaries. And you ARE overstepping, Grandma.

Did it ever occur to you that perhaps your daughter has a valid reason for returning to work? Finances aside, maybe it just makes her happy? If the child doesn’t suffer then what’s the harm in it? If your daughter can have her cake and eat it too, you should be supportive of her decision. Offer to babysit, help out with housework or groceries. She would love to have you…if you can keep your mouth shut and avoid bringing random strangers into her apartment when she’s not home.

You know what? Forget it.

—Joan



Dear Joan,

In the span of only a few months, I’ve gained an alarming amount of weight. Medical explanations have been ruled out, my doctor refuses to prescribe diet pills, and I can’t seem to lose the weight on my own. I worked as a professional model in the past and I feel like my confidence is suffering along with my cholesterol. My husband assures me that I look fine but to be fair, I haven’t let him see me outside my muumuu in at least a month. I want to lose the weight, Joan, but I always want to be confident and sexy. You are a shapely woman yourself. What’s your secret to getting the men to fall all over you?

—Rotund in Rye

Dear Rotund,

Alright darling, first of all, there’s a difference between being shapely and being out-of-shape and I’d rather you didn’t get them confused again since your willingness to refer to yourself as “rotund” leads me to believe that you fall into the latter category.

Certainly ditch the muumuu, regardless of whether or not you find yourself successful in your weight loss. Those things are universally unflattering and should be burned. Find a well-cut dress and invest in a good bra. Hold your head up high and get your husband to take you out on the town. Demand to be sexy and you will feel sexy.

As far as actually losing the weight, you might want to skip that second sundae or find something more constructive to do with your day than sit on the sofa shoveling Bugles in your mouth while watching The Andy Griffith Show.

—Joan



Dear Joan,

I’ve built a career out of staying one step ahead of...well...everyone. Some say that I have my finger on the public’s pulse. I excel at understanding how society thinks, predicting how it will respond to stimulus. I’ve been awarded for my efforts and in the past, I lived for my job.

Lately, I find myself falling more and more out of step. I recently married a woman substantially younger than I am and while at first I found her exciting and fun to be with, lately, I find myself annoyed by her. I don’t understand why she sings the songs that she sings, wants the things that she wants, etc. I can’t relate to her and on a wider scope, I can’t relate to society as a whole. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have to work at my job and frankly, I don’t like it.

Any advice?

—Old Man in Midtown

Dear Old Man,

Oh you poor thing, you have to work at your job like every other poor schmuck in the world? I feel simply awful for you.

In all seriousness, Old Man, you sound like you’ve had a period of inordinately good luck and that’s fantastic, it truly is, and I understand that you are frustrated by an obvious change in the world you once knew and clearly took for granted, but it’s a fact of life that people change and as they change, society does too.

As far as not relating to your shiny new trophy wife, maybe you should have thought about that before you married a woman whom you could theoretically have fathered. You know, there was a reason I gave my old boss a repulsive old woman for a secretary.

—Joan



Dear Joan,

Do you think it would be prudent to acquire a beagle to keep the gophers out of my yard? I’ve thought long and hard about this, but find myself unable to make a final decision. Typically, I would turn to my wife for guidance, but she has been endlessly preoccupied with our newborn to the point that I don’t think she even notices if I’m not home. Why, just the other night I returned home from work and Joan, I have a long commute on the New Haven line, and when I got home, there was no dinner waiting for me. Not even leftovers. I would have been happy with leftovers. My wife just doesn’t seem to have time for me anymore and our life has grown incredibly mundane in the suburbs. I don’t understand why anyone would ever even want to move to the suburbs. “Sub” being a Latin prefix meaning “under” or “beneath” or “secondary”—why on Earth would anyone with any respect for themselves willingly relocate to a place that, by its very definition, implies that he or she is of lesser import than their childish, antiquated, bacchanalian superiors?

My apologies, Joan, for that small tangent. My question is this: What breed of dog excels at capturing ground-dwelling rodents?

—Dogless in Connecticut

Dear Dogless,

I think that a dog is a big commitment and if your commute is as atrocious as you say it is, then I suspect it will be your wife who ends up caring for it. Since she is already busy taking care of a child, then you should probably have an honest discussion with her about whether or not she would like to take on the additional responsibility. Furthermore, you seem distressed, Dogless, and it might not hurt to vent some of your frustrations about your move and your job to her. I refuse to condemn her for not preparing a wholesome meal for you after work because I know just how much time the care for a newborn can consume. However, if the changes in your life are causing enough anguish that you are truly unhappy, I think it would do you well to talk about it with the people in your life.

And don’t knock the suburbs, I’m sure they’ll grow on you. I bet you’re one of those city boys who never learned how to drive because he always had the subway at his disposal. Buy a car, learn to drive it, be the captain of your fate...just don’t be an entitled ass about it, okay?

—Joan



Would you have advised Joan's readers any differently?

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