Becoming Donna Reed

Season 1: Episode 22 – Love Thy Neighbor


Donna and Alex are getting ready to go out for the evening. Donna, of course, looks stunning in a printed cocktail dress. She asks Alex how she looks and he tells her she looks good without even looking. She calls him on this. They discuss the evening ahead of them. They have been invited to dinner at the Wilgus house to help the couple celebrate their 20th anniversary. It seems that Mr. and Mrs. Wilgus consider the be the Stones to be their closest friends.

At the Wilgus house there is a squabble occuring. Mrs. Wilgus feels that Mr. Wilgus’s secretary was being rude to her and she wants Mr. Wilgus to fire her immediately. Mr. Wilgus does not want to fire her. Mrs. Wilgus is jealous of the secretary and feels that the woman has designs on her husband. The Stones arrive and the argument is paused for the time being.

The two couples have a lovely dinner and then retire to the living room for coffee. They begin to discuss the present that Mr. Wigus is having delivered for his wife. He is very excited about it and feels that it is the perfect token of his love. The couples decide to play a game of bridge. Over cards, the tension between Mr. and Mrs. Wilgus resurfaces. The doorbell rings and it is the delivery man with Mr. Wilgus’s present to his wife. She excited tears open the box to reveal a magnificent, sparkling meat-slicer. Her face registers extreme disappointment, Donna’s shows shock, and Alex’s amusement. Mr. Wilgus is oblivious to the reactions. He waxes on about how this will protect his wife’s delicate hands from the perils of slicing meat by hand. He goes to get some baloney out of the kitchen so that they can try the machine. Mrs. Wigus dissolves into tears and leaves the room. Donna follows to help calm her down. Alex stays to watch Mr. Wilgus use the slicer. Once Mrs. Wilgus regains her composure she and Donna return. The night quickly winds down.

Back at the Stone residence Donna and Alex discuss the evening as they prepare for bed. Donna has Alex promise to never buy her a meat slicer. The doorbell rings and Mrs. Wilgus is at the door in hysterics. She comes in and pours out her feelings of jealousy towards Mr. Wilgus’s secretary. She is convinced that this woman is trying to steal her husband. She makes Donna promise to go check out the secretary and see if anything is amiss.

The next day Donna goes to Mr. WIlgus’s office. They have made lunch plans. Donna questions the secretary who is very prim and proper. She does not seem to be one who would be carried away on a wave of passion. Donna is satisfied.

She and Mr. Wilgus head to lunch and he asks her why she wanted to see him. Donna tries to be subtle about her concerns about his secretary, but she is so subtle that it sounds like she is confessing her own feelings for Mr. Wilgus. He tells her there is no other woman for him but his wife. Lunch ends.

Mr. Wilgus shows up at Alex’s office to get Donna’s “confession” off his chest. He tells Alex that he and Donna had lunch and is shocked to discover that Alex knows all about it. He finally directly states that Donna is in love him and Alex bursts out laughing. Before the matter can be cleared up they are interrupted by Donna and Mrs. Wilgus. Mrs. Wilgus’s fears have been cast aside and she embraces her husband. They leave and Alex teases Donna about the woman who was in love with with Mr. Wilgus. He says he can’t tell her who this woman is but there was one; Alex says he is sworn to secrecy.

A few days later the Stone and Wilgus couples gather for cards. As they play Mr. Wilgus confesses that he believed Donna was in love with him. She is shocked and Alex has a hardy laugh.


Subtlety and directness are like sugar and salt. You need to make sure you are using the right one or the recipe will be a disaster.


In this episode we had two very different women with two very different problems. For Mrs. Wilgus, the problem was jealousy and for Donna the problem was a lack of clarity.

Popular wisdom tells us that jealousy is always a bad thing. While I believe that is true of unchecked jealousy, I am not willing to rule out the benefits of the occasional little blip of jealousy. I believe in moderation. While consuming pounds of sugar is sure to make you ill, a little nibble now and then sweetens the day.

From time-to-time I find another woman looking at my husband and I feel one of those little blips. A little of that is my own insecurity, which I have discussed before. However, I believe the largest part of it has to do the the fact that after 12 years of marriage I still believe my husband to extremely handsome. I expect other woman to notice, how could they not? These blips are a bi-product of fierce pride.

If I obsessed over him leaving me or tried to keep him locked in the house, then we would have a problem. That isn’t the case. In truth, it’s kinda nice. It’s an acknowledgement that while he could certainly have another woman, I know he has chosen me. That’s a great feeling. Viva the blips!

Now on to the issue of clarity. I have often praised Donna’s ability to use subtle suggestion and a light hand to remedy a troublesome situation. However, as this episode clearly depicts, subtlety does not work in all situations and with all people. In fact, misused subtlety can actually confuse the issue more. I believe I am often guilty of this as well. I tend to sugarcoat what I say and I worry a lot about being rude. As a result I am often misunderstood.

One of the ways our world has changed since the days of Donna is that today people tend to be much more direct. There is a real “say it like is” mentality. I do believe this probably saves time and cuts down on confusion, but I miss subtlety. There is poetry in subtlety, a dance of words. Meaning reveals itself then hides away. I like that playfulness. It forces you to be engaged.

Other cultures are better at separating work and play then we are. We tend to be a one-size-fits-all culture. We think what works in one area of our lives will work in all areas. I value directness in the workplace, but when I come home I want some subtlety.

My husband gets this. We talk directly when we need to, but we also still flirt. We still woo each other. I know he’s a catch.

When the woman sitting across from us on the Muni checks him out, I give his knee a little pat and smile.

Plan Of Action

Smile through blips. Blend directness and subtlety into a tantalizing cocktail. Sip with with satisfaction.