Title: You Oughta Know
Disclaimer: Not mine. Title from Alanis Morissette.
You know exactly how many steps it takes to get from the door to the Ready-Whip. You have chocolate stashed where Henry can't see it and there are days when you go to pick up the kids that you take a detour and stop at a McDonald's and scarf down a burger and fries.
You used to be pretty. Now you are fat. Neither has gotten you anywhere.
Sally and Bobby and Gene go to the wedding and you feign a migraine and make Henry pick them up. She is younger than you are and a brunette and French-Canadian and his secretary and you might start the day with a fake headache, but you end it with very real nausea. You spend the afternoon over the toilet, throwing up the contents of your stomach.
Which is why, at midnight, you're starved and you're smoking in the kitchen and there's leftover wedding cake that Sally brings home staring at you, taunting you, with it's white icing, and you just want it to go away, to disappear, and before you realize it, it's gone.
That's how it starts.
The funny thing is, though, is that you can't imagine it's perfect. Don is Don and you cannot imagine it's serious—he'll be screwing the next girl who walks into the office who is younger and more pliable, because he's Don and Don is Don is Don and he's never going to change. He'll screw her as much as he screwed you—he'll hide his real name and real past and one day she'll find a box of letters, the box of secrets, and she'll realize how much of a farce he is, how that Park Avenue penthouse is built on a pillar of sand.
And that's comforting. Knowing that, even though you lost, even though you couldn't change him, couldn't make him love you (even after you gave up everything for him, gave him everything he could ask for—two sons!), Megan will be as unhappy you were and are because Don does that to women. And she'll suffer plenty.
But while that blunts some of the pain, it's just not comforting enough to make you stop eating Sally's unfinished milkshake and sneaking bonbons in the afternoons.
So that's why what you find on the back of Bobby's picture is such a shock. This is what you don't imagine—the most terrifying thought of all—that Don changed for her.
But you don't believe, can't quite bring yourself to picture the domesticity that you craved bestowed upon her. So you test it through Sally and when Sally comes back and tells you all about the pictures of Anna Draper, you're forced to believe it.
He changed for her. And it hurts more than getting up in front of a room full of suburban women you wouldn't have imagined yourself in front of when you were young and beautiful and modeling furs in New York. This cuts deeper than being betrayed over and over again. He changed for her. He's trying for her. He loves her in a way that he didn't, or couldn't or wouldn't, love you. He's learned his lessons through his mistakes that he forced you to endure. He loves her. He changed for her.
And no new husband or new house or new can of Ready Whip will ever make knowing that palatable.