03/27/2012 11:33 am ET

Redefining "Wife Material"

During a long train ride with an acquaintance, my female friend was recently paid the ultimate compliment by a friend. Comparing her to a woman he was casually seeing, he looked deep into her eyes and said, without irony, "But you, you're wife material." It was the ultimate compliment - assuming we're on the set of "Father Knows Best."

I thought this antiquated expression had gone the way of "arm candy" and "trading up" as part of the second-wave agreement that likening your lady to something you consume or drive is just not cool anymore. But perhaps even in 2012, our "Mad Men"-fueled nostalgia-fest is making us nostalgic for an era of clear-cut sexist distinction, when wives were wives and mistresses, mistresses. The AMC show's fifth season premiere explored this dichotomy, as Don Draper's secretary-turned-wife Megan bridged the divide separating working women from their marriageable counterparts.

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