DTWOF episode #520

February 5th, 2008 | Strip Archive

520 detail

Okay, remember I ran 521 out of order already. So here’s 520.

184 Responses to “DTWOF episode #520”

  1. longtime lurker says:

    Despite being a longtime lurker, I’m lured by the possibility of being the first to comment. It’s good to see Stewart branching out with the localvore diet.

  2. byrdie says:

    STUART is ready to have another baby? Good grief, no wonder he got out the wine for Sparrow.

    Also, I thought that Gloria and Toni had already been hanging out, or was that only when both kids were present?

  3. Isabel Archer says:

    Toni and Clarice are so painful to watch. Are they doomed to be forever out of sync?

  4. Cadence says:

    Smegmaface? That’s a new one! Oh, where did their innocence go…

  5. vicwa says:

    Everyone must be following the election results. Wow! Toni backpedaling while Clarice is feeling the first signs of spring fever…and will rhubarb wine be able to sway sparrow? Everything must change.

  6. Cealygirl says:

    Your interpretation of the complexity of relationships are SOOOOOOOOO much more compelling than the insipid, trite, badly written “L” word. Thank you Allison.

  7. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Luckily, Stuart is not the one with the womb (although you’d never know it to hear him talk.) And since Sparrow works for NARAL, she can no doubt find a good place to get her tubes tied with discretion.

    How bout’ them caucuses? Go Obama, go!

  8. Anonymouse says:

    I still think we’re seeing something happen in the Stuart et al household that doesn’t exactly involve Stuart. Mostly because it seems like Stuart has deinvolved himself. Is he even paying attention? o_O

    I sort of like seeing Toni being dubious about Gloria. It never felt like she and Clarice split because of Gloria, really; the Gloria affair was just a symptom.

    Sorry, Gloria.

  9. Ellen O. says:

    I love how Stuart is getting ready to tell Sparrow he wants another baby, while Sparrow is working to fund abortion. Great dichotomy.

    I also like the contrast in the 5th panel, where the gay dad and his daughter (from Strip 488) are happily together, while Gloria and Toni are falling apart.

    Plus J.R. with a straw up her nose.

    I just finished caucusing for Clinton, surrounded by Obama supporters. In addition to be biased against people with kids and those who have to work in the evening, the caucus was crowded, chaotic and confusing. (I live in Colorado.)

    The two hundred of us pressed into a classroom tallied votes by raising hands and counting off. This from an “advanced” democracy? (Or maybe those quotes should be around the word democracy…)

  10. BlueWingedCoyote says:

    Been reading for years and years and this is the first time commenting… mostly to just say hi. If I got started about how much the story and the art means to me I could take up half a page. Love it, love the details in both art and story. I have Funhome as well.

  11. j.b.t. says:

    Thank you Allison, for the fab strip – and I wish you the best in your new romantic endeavor!

    I, for one, have been watching the returns – anxiously. It’s not even the Dems that are worrisome (I would be o.k. with either candidate, though I prefer Obama – and rock on Minnesota for such a large margin!), it’s that McCain doesn’t seem to have that much of a lead, and now people are talking about a McCain/Huckabee ticket! … I wish we could get away from billionaires and crazy Christian fundamentalists and have some old school “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” Republicans back leading the party. At least they wouldn’t be eroding our civil liberties and trying to return us to the dark ages.

    I do feel hopeful about the enormous turn out, though. And hopeful that either way, the democratic nominee will be a change from the usual politics.

    Back to the strip… Maybe Lois can take Clarice out for some looking around! That would be fun!

    Thanks again,
    J.

  12. Abigail Garner says:

    The parents think they are shielding their kids from complicated dynamics, but the queerspawn already have it figured out. Classic!

    http://www.FamiliesLikeMine.com

  13. Ianscot says:

    New excuse, along with the taxes: “Think of the Kids/Children.”

    There’s nothing like that moment when you recognize that, while you’ve been talking up your kids, they’ve been snurrping something up their noses with their straws. That’s some real parenting, there.

  14. Ginjoint says:

    I wonder if Sparrow will hit Stuart over the head with that bottle of “wine”.

  15. ladiesbane says:

    Woo-hoo! Current events resoundingly echoed in the delicious dish. I love this strip! LOVE IT! (Not just this episode, but most beautifully including it.) Like shining from shook foil!

  16. Cynthia-Symp says:

    For a moment there I was afraid that JR’s Utilikilt-pulling was going to result in a display of Stuart’s baby-making tackle. (Guys who wear Utilikilts follow the Scottish rule of eschewing underwear under kilts, right?)

  17. Daniel Ted Feliciano says:

    Great as always.

  18. str8davie says:

    If Stuart had a clue he wouldn’t be providing a handy weapon (the wine bottle) to Sparrow when he tells her he’s ready to have another baby! Ha! Alison you’re living proof that liberal social/political cartoonists (AB in particular) are the among the few great (largely unrecognized) literary beacons of our time. As the “war economy” implodes this strip remains one of the few bright spots in an increasingly bleak landscape. Wow that sounds morose. Wait, it’ll get worse.

  19. Kommishonerjenny says:

    i love that i can’t tell whether raffi and stella love or hate each other. means they’d be perfect siblings.
    thanks for another great strip!

  20. DeLandDeLakes says:

    hiya j.b.t.-

    actually, the word on the street is that our idiotic dickhole scumbag of a governor (aka pawlenty) is going to become McCain’s veep candidate. so they can appeal to the no-tax, pro-crumbling infrastructure vote, I guess.

  21. Jaibe says:

    Clarice & Lois! One night stand!!!

    McCain and Huckabee! *No one* would vote for them!

    (although I campaigned for Joe Lieberman with Al Gore, so I guess others might compromise their values too…)

    Weirdly I was having fantasies last night of McCain saying in SC “You’re right to have voted for me this time, and you were wrong to trust that lying b**turd last time. Did you see what he did to me? Now he’s doing it to the planet.” Though what that would achieve I don’t know.

  22. Josiah says:

    “Smegmaface” — has Stella started watching Red Dwarf? (Or is there a difference between “smegmaface” and “smeghead”?)

  23. shadocat says:

    Something tells me Stuart will get to have that wine all to himself tonight….

  24. Ide Cyan says:

    Is J.R. doing a waterboarding experiment? Or drinking through her nose?

  25. AnnaP says:

    I wish I could vote, it would only be fair because of USA`s world domination.

    Tried to convince my ex who is american to vote but he could not afford a train ticket to the capital where the embassy is, lousy excuse but what can you do.

  26. Mabel says:

    Absolutely fucking marvellous! I love this strip so much.

  27. laura says:

    Feel so sorry for Stuart: I thought Sparrow has said she WON’T be home tonight for dinner? and am also afraid she’s going to finally tell him she’s dumping him. I can only empathize with him (must confess that it has happened to me as well to turn a blind eye on significant others’ needs and change).

  28. Rachel says:

    Clarice’s sense of freedom and possibility seems to be in sync with AB’s…

  29. Patti says:

    Having been a mostly SAHM for 10 years, I really sympathize with Stuart. He had a fun moment with JR that he was proud of (the Chinese flashcards) and Sparrow totally blew him off with her comment. (I don’t have time to check your blog every 20 minutes sweetie). Could she be more patronizing and dismissive?! Its tough being at home with little kids all day. The real world doesn’t care about your struggles and triumphs, that’s for sure. And when your partner doesn’t either, it really is so demoralizing.

  30. tHe LaTeNt LeNs says:

    AB……..as an artist i often find that my creative work experiences peaks and valleys in and out of relationships…..now that I am in a loving and stable relationship…i often think about the drama and anxiety ridden days with former partners which fueled a massive fire storm of dark-toned imagery………sometimes i miss that kind of work..but can do without the drama. How do you work it?

  31. Robin B. says:

    “Nether Heights Middle School”… Hee hee hee.

  32. Kim says:

    Now that I’ve read Patti’s comment, I’m torn between sympathies for Stuart and Sparrow, whereas right up to that moment I was totally on Sparrow’s side.

    I think if she hadn’t followed up her snappish “every twenty minutes” comment with an explanation of what was keeping her so swamped, I’d feel for Stuart. (Plus he just strikes me as the type who has already made a similar phone call four times that day). But by forgetting her big event in the course of his own wants, he’s also being dismissive of her work.

  33. laura says:

    I would LOVE to go check Stuart’s blog for the Chinese flashcards video. Would please anyone explain what they are? and also the Nether Heights Middle School? sorry for asking for “translation”, but I need it.

  34. Maggie Jochild says:

    Why is Daddy a dodohead? The mention of another baby or the Chinese flashcards (why not Korean?)

    And Stella’s relegating Raffi to “Harry Potter” status, i.e., the cupboard under the stairs instead of a real room, is very clever. Likewise the comparison of attempts to shove us into another war (with Iran) to the deceits of the Vietnam era. They don’t even try to make it look really different, counting on a combination of memory loss and apathy.

  35. tHe LaTeNt LeNs says:

    hmmmm come to think of it…..I quess I will read about how you balance art and relationships in your next book……..

  36. barbara uk says:

    love the idea of clarice regaining her youthful outlook. a fling should be around the corner for her. and no wonder toni is ambivalent about the insipid gloria – the woman is practically see-through. definitely not the gloria that inspired the patti smith song.
    but toni and clarice back together? surely not – too trite.

  37. Kaptain Equinox says:

    Oh God — Candy’s dandy but local rhubarb wine is quicker? You can drink all the rhubarb wine in Costa Ricker …

  38. Lisa (Calico) says:

    Funny-we’re snarking on Jeffy from FC at joshreads.com today-he has a problem with his gross little nose as well.
    Eurk!
    #520-exceptionally well played, Alison.
    Enjoy the time with your new belle! : D

  39. dzieger says:

    I just clicked on the “SNURRP” detail at the top of the page, expecting to see just that (a closeup of the detail) on Flickr, as usual. What a pleasure to be able to view the entire strip at the “original size” (3655 x 4720, which, on my mointor, is rendered larger than I gather AB’s original drawings ctually are).

    It’s such a revelation to really pore over the details of each panel. The technical details like the use of crosshatching and the remarkably evocative postures of the tiny silhouetted figures in the background are fascinating; but above all I’m struck by the facial expressions. So much is communicated, with so much nuance, in a few strokes of the pen.

    Even if you’re not into analyzing the artwork on hat level, I recommend viewing the full-size version. On my first reading at normal size, I didn’t even catch Clarice’s leer in panel 9, which is actually quite vivid 😉

    link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zizyphus/2245777158/sizes/o/

  40. Cat says:

    Cynthia-Symp, Utilikilts have a privacy panel that snaps across the crotch area. It reminds me of my parochial school, where we wore gym shorts under our uniform skirts in 7th and 8th grades due to boys with a yen for flipping up the skirts as we walked past.

  41. NLC says:

    Concerning Sparrow and Stewart’s potential dilemma:

    Just wondering: Are there any adopted children in the D2WO4s’ inner network?

  42. Mer says:

    Wait wait wait…. what ever happened to Sparrow’s “no booze in the house EVAR!” rule? Was a time, one beer in the door would cause the poor lady to spin out of control!

  43. Xena Fan says:

    I don’t think rhubarb wine will put Sparrow in the mood….Can you imagine what that would taste like?

  44. Alex the Bold says:

    Why does Stewart need to tell Sparrow he’s ready? Shouldn’t he just tell her that she has to provide him with another baby? I mean, she is just a portable gestation unit, right?

    Oh, wait, the Feminism101 subroutine just kicked in.

    Stewart’s a dead man. I wonder where Sparrow will hide the body. Will she go John Wayne Gacy and use the crawlspace, or will she go for the shallow grave off the interstate?

  45. Alex K says:

    “God, I’m an idiot.”

    As soon as you have what you want… well, we know about you not wanting it any more; but how about when it doesn’t want you?

    TONI AND GLORIA: THE END OF LIMERANCE.

  46. Zahra says:

    LOL @ Iranian speedboats!!
    “Daddy is a dodohead”, hehehe… =D

  47. The Cat Pimp says:

    Whoa. Upheaval indeed. The kids are going to have an upheaval all right and not the one they expected. I agree with J.R. – Daddy’s a doodoo head. Sparrow’s what? 43 or so? Pregnancy’s no picnic for a younger woman, let alone someone in her 40s who already had to be sent to bed rest. He must think she’s a vending machine.

    Lois and Clarice! Yes! Lois is BACK in the saddle again. I was really missing her old self.

  48. Karen says:

    > Tried to convince my ex who is american to vote but he could not afford a train ticket to the capital where the embassy is, lousy excuse but what can you do.

    Sign him up to Dems Abroad — http://www.democratsabroad.org/. It can be done online!

  49. Karen says:

    > Wait wait wait…. what ever happened to Sparrow’s “no booze in the house EVAR!” rule? Was a time, one beer in the door would cause the poor lady to spin out of control!

    That’s because at the time she was with June, who was a recovering alcoholic.

  50. Jana C.H. says:

    I love rhubarb wine! And I get it locally.

    Hoodsport winery: http://www.hoodsport.com/wines/ruhbarpg.html

    Whidbey Island Winery: http://www.whidbeyislandwinery.com/whites.htm

    Speaking of caucuses: ours is this Saturday, and we’re expecting a huge turnout. I’m still voting for Edwards, at least on the first ballot. Depending on the situation in my caucus, I might switch to Hillary. I really don’t like Obama. Tonight us die-hard Edwards supporters are meeting at Snoose Junction Pizzeria for wine (no rhubarb, alas!) and strategy.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Will Cuppy: In America everybody’s conscience is unusually free. If it isn’t, we fix it. We’re funny that way.

  51. Les says:

    I love DTWOF.

  52. xiaojie says:

    the flashcard JR is not paying attention to is pronounced ‘an’ in mandarin chinese and it means safe, calm, quiet or peaceful. I’ll be extra nerdy and say that that character is supposedly written that way because it shows a very rudimentary woman under a little roof. there’s argument about exactly why that’s supposed to be peaceful, but one dictionary I have says ‘the rules of decency required that proper women spent most of their lives sequestered in the home’. Did AB know this or is it another lovely bit of serendiptiy?

  53. ready2agitate says:

    Um, not Friday night, I gotta do my taxes. Indeed.

    Hard to recognize Sparrow sometimes, huh? I wonder how many New Age’rs are now hard-core nonprofit executives verging on workaholism?

    I used to despise Stuart, but I kinda get his “I’m ready for another baby” thing. AB’s just flipped the gender roles. Loads of women go through this craving, even into their 40s as their little toddlers get bigger. His meaning comes from being a SAHD and thus, to me, his yearnings are logical. For whatever reason, he doesn’t come across to me as a patriarchal privileged prick. Go figure.

  54. Saskia says:

    I agree with ready2agitate. Sparrow and Stuart are embodying fairly common roles (albeit with some gender changes) and experiencing the lack of connection that can easily happen between parents of a small child. I know — I’m living it right now. (And if you’d told me 10 years ago that this is where I’d be now, I would have struggled to believe it!) It’s sometimes annoying, it’s sometimes amusing, but if handled well, it can also be just a stage — one chapter of a long, evolving and generally contented relationship between partners.

  55. Colin says:

    Stella and Rafi are going to date, right? Reminds me of how I used to flirt with girls’n’boys in middle school, minus chasing after them with bugs I caught.

  56. mjoe says:

    Maggie Jochild, it’s Mandarin becaue Sparrow is Chinese-American. Why would it be Korean? “Daddy is a dodohead” because JR is 3 (or 4?). Last night my 4 year old screamed so loud I was afraid the neighbors would call the cops “AHHHHHHHH YOU’RE HURTING ME YOU’RE HURTING ME!!!!” because he *imagined* I was getting shampoo in his eyes.

    Ok, since someone brought up adoption, I have to interject an impassioned plea.

    Alison, I know from this blog that you are a compulsive researcher, so I probably don’t have to tell you this, but if you do bring an adoption into the storyline PLEASE research thoroughly the perspectives of adult adoptees and birthparents. It is wonderful that adoption is so openly accepted and discussed these days compared to just a generation ago. BUT IT SUCKS that that acceptance and conversation pretty much takes place only on the adoptive parents’ terms. I say this as a birthmother, and as a friend and ally to many adult transnational adoptees. Our stories and critiques are rarely heard – they complicate things. Transnational/transracial adoption in particular is intense. We’re talking about a minefield of imperialism, capitalism, militarism, misogyny. I cringe to see so many white queer couples entering into transnational/transracial adoptions without any critical analysis of their power and privilege in the situation or how their kids are going to carry all this. Add the Brangelina trend and…

    Ok, said my piece on that.

    Don’t intend to start any debates about it here, don’t have the energy for it and there are plenty of resources out there if you care to look, just wanted to make sure it was on the radar.

  57. NLC says:

    xiaojie wrote:
    the flashcard JR is not paying attention to is pronounced ‘an’ in mandarin chinese and it means safe, calm, quiet or peaceful.

    Thank you. I was wondering what that glyph meant (but I had trouble figuring out a way to google it…)

    […] Did AB know this or is it another lovely bit of serendiptiy?

    I think it’s safe to say that –at the very least in regards to the strip– AB knows everything

  58. Anonymous says:

    I drive a school bus, & the middle school kids are my favorite ones- Stella & Raffi are so much like the lil doofs I have on that run- is he in 7th or 8th grade? ( I will say 8th ) Have they experienced other people bullying them for having two same sex parents?

  59. Anonymous says:

    I forgot my name- JJ FLAP

  60. Lily says:

    How do we know that Stewart is going to propose getting the next baby the old fashioned way?

    I never thought I’d say that but I also feel a little sorry for the poor chap in this one. Then again I grew up with a workaholic mom who snubbed most attempts we made at connecting too, so I might be biased.

  61. Nurse Ingrid says:

    I think Mer is right. Sparrow has been clean and sober in the past. She was always going to 12-step meetings (I assumed that was where she met June), and the beer in the house was definitely an issue for her. Nice call on the continuity error! (or is it that she’s off the wagon now?)

    In either case, I doubt that the rhubarb wine is going to be enough to convince her to have another kid. She was ambivalent enough about the first one.

  62. JenK says:

    I thought we saw Sparrow and Stuart drinking wine in the strip where they ran into June? And going to 12-step meetings with June would be rather Sparrow 🙂

  63. April says:

    Ambivalence is sort of a euphemism here surely. Stuart was pretty much begging & weeping for her to keep it, as I recall. And that was after the fait accompli.
    Plus, that paint-stripper ain’t gunna do much convincing… Poor Stuart. Poor, poor Sparrow. Their dynamic is so eewww.

    Great strip AB.

  64. Rosa says:

    Hey, Ellen O, you’re right about the caucus being hard on parents (my biceps are sore from holding my 2 year old in the 25 degree weather while we waited to get into the caucus site last night) but we had so many people last this year, the kid thing was actually easier than usual – last time I caucused I had the only baby and it was a real problem.

    This time me there were enough kids and parents that we could just leave the kids together and pop in and out watching them. Three of the parents last night became delegates. Except the 11 month old kept making a break for the stairs, so she got held a lot. But there were enough trusted neighbors there that it wasn’t just her mom holding her.

    Another thing that was nice was that our caucus was moved to a church, so there was a “crying room” where you could hang with the kids while watching to see if anything was actually happening in the big room. I was anti having it in a church because I know some of our neighbors wouldn’t go, but as a parent it was really nice.

    I do feel for Stuart. It’s so hard to get any adult attention when you always have a little one with you, and then there’s that time when they don’t need you so intensely and you think “maybe we should have another one…” I’m glad my partner’s horror stopped that impulse cold – the feeling of loss went away a lot faster than another baby would have.

  65. Maggie Jochild says:

    Well, live and learn. All this time I’ve thought Sparrow was Korean-American. I must have conflated her with Margaret Cho (rather an appealing image, actually).

    I went looking through the Cast Characters on the site here, but nobody’s ethnicity or class background is mentioned, dammit.

  66. JimB says:

    re the Chinese heritage: On page 144 of “Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms To Watch Out For” it states that Sparrow’s father met his wife-to-be while he was stationed in Taiwan.

  67. Anonny Mouse says:

    >>>is there a difference between “smegmaface” and “smeghead”?

    I wasn’t sure, but so it would seem:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smegma
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smeg_%28vulgarism%29

  68. shadocat says:

    I don’t feel sorry for Stuart at all; whether he wants to adopt a baby or have one the “old fashioned” way, he’s going to TELL her HE’S ready—not ASK her if she’d like to have another child, or how she feels about it. He hasn’t even considered the posibility that she wouldn’t want to “loan her uterus to him”, or she may not want the additional expense, stress, etc. of another child. It seems Sparrow’s feelings on this subject are pretty insignificant to Stuart.

    I wouldn’t be suprised if Sparrow ended up having a little office fling; reconnect with her Sapphic side…

  69. Anonymouse says:

    I don’t feel like Stuart’s awful, patriarchal, or whatever here. I just feel like he’s totally out of touch with his home-life’s actual reality. He’s seeing what he wants to see.

  70. Str8 But Not Narrow says:

    Another vote for Colin’s theory that the folks dating will soon be Raffi and Stella. Now that’s an inspired turn of events. Love it!

  71. Ed says:

    Hey it’s Lois! Hi Lois! I’ve missed her as she seems to pop up only for gatherings and holidays nowadays, kind of like Bob and Kim Hughes on “As the World Turns.”

    Has AB hit a wall with Lois?

  72. ready2agitate says:

    Hear hear for bringing the complexity of adoption into the strip. I would love that. Mjoe, would be curious to know if you think the book “The Family of Adoption” does a good job representing multiple perspectives for prospective adoptive parents?

    Oh, and can you BELIEVE that AB never came round to relieve us of our querying over the recharge my feret thing?! Has she got a life or something beyond our nutty blogosphere?!

    And Shado, sorry to disagree, but I just don’t see telling one’s partner one is ready for something (polyamory, child-rearing, adoption, relocating, getting married, etc.) necessarily meaning that you’re telling them/demanding that it’s time to do it. You’re just declaring your own desire for it. And he knows he needs the rhubarb whatever b/c it will surely make for a long night w/his SO (significant other)!

  73. Rick says:

    I’m with Ed: The strip needs more Lois. Or maybe it’s just us who need more of her… Whatever the case, it’s always a thrill to see her.

    I’m rooting for Toni and Clarice to find their way back to each other, so I was quite excited to see Toni’s exchange with Gloria.

    Stuart, meanwhile, is starting to worry me. “I’m ready to have another baby”? Like he’s the one who will actually carry another one for nine months? I can understand that he might want a brother or sister for JR, but he seems to be completely unaware of how Sparrow actually feels. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen that many panels where Sparrow is doing any parenting. She’s coming across as a very cold, uninvolved parent [which doesn’t surprise me, quite frankly, for all her New Age pronouncements, Sparrow has always struck me as singularly un-empathic toward anyone].

  74. Dr. Empirical says:

    Everyone is assuming that the wine is to soften up Sparrow. I think he expects to celebrate after his “announcement.”

    On the other hand, we’re also assuming that Sparrow will be hostile to the idea. I don’t recall her expressing an opinion on the subject. Maybe she’s been waiting on Stewart.

  75. j.b.t. says:

    Hi All,

    I don’t think Stella and Raffi will ever date – I think there’ve been studies done on kids in the same kibbutzes or communal living / close familial relationships and they turn out more like siblings.

    DeLandDeLakes – I thought you moved to Oregon (despite the moniker)! Well. Glad to have you here on the frozen tundra. 🙂 Pawlenty??? Great. Maybe bridges will start crumbling in Washington.

    Love, J.

  76. Public Health Vet says:

    This is an especially wonderful strip. I love how you tied everything together. I laughed aloud at “sweetie, use your words,” followed by “Daddy is a Dodohead.” It’s also great to see so many characters in one strip, with such substantial glimpses into how everyone’s lives are evolving.

    Thank you Alison! What a gift (and what dedication) you have!!

  77. Public Health Vet says:

    Also, I’m not inclined to come down hard on Stuart. He loves being a stay at home dad, and he wants another baby. He’s intensely domestic and I’m quite sure he’d carry the fetus himself if it was biologically possible. He and Sparrow obviously live very different lives right now. But I don’t take that as his being uncaring or assuming he has rights to her uterus, any more than I take Sparrow’s response on the phone as totally dismissive or uncaring. Rather, the strip suggests to me that Sparrow and Stuart are equally out of touch with each other’s lives, and still love each other and fundamentally support each other. I don’t find that dynamic gross, patriarchal, etc, just realistic. Couples go through phases like that, regardless of their gender(s). Some couples come through it, others don’t. Like any great storyteller, Alison leaves things open-ended enough that we get to see what we want to see… just as the characters do.

  78. j.b.t. says:

    I’m with Public Health Vet on the Stuart/Sparrow dynamic.

    J.

  79. Suz says:

    Do we know that Sparrow drinks now, or is this just one more example of Stuart not seeing beyond what he wants?

    Can’t say that I sympathize with him all that much.

  80. Maggie Jochild says:

    Don’t you want to know what Gloria is leaning in to say (angrily, from the silhouette) to Toni in panel #7?

  81. Anonymous says:

    Smegmaface? Does Stella know Raffi is uncircumcised?

  82. Anna says:

    I hope Stella and Raffi are not going to start dating one another. They might end up having an accident and raffi would be a single dad, like some of my male friends have.

    Wait,this is what I dreamed about last night..newer mind

  83. emaline says:

    Yeeaahhh!!! I love more babies.
    As long as I’m not having them.
    Also- congrats on the dating. I’m sure that we will all deal if you spend more time away from the blog (some of us might even leave our computers and go out in the sunshine).

  84. Elizabeth says:

    Actually, Sparrow is Taiwanese-American, which is not the same at all if you ask someone from Taiwan. They do speak Mandarin though.

  85. Grisha says:

    I think Stuart and Sparrow really ought to look at adoption. Think of how much fun a social workers home visit would be.

  86. Xena Fan says:

    If Sparrow agrees to another baby (which I don’t think she will), is Stuart willing to go back to work to support the family? I don’t think he thought about it.

  87. Scotia says:

    Stuart is a prime example of what happens to many culturally aware and critically engaged adults who choose dedicate themselves entirely to the raising of small children. They get out of practice with the discursive give-and-take of public life and become solipsistically fixated on their values and principles (the very good values and principles that led to making this choice); in short, they become fanatics. This is because they are faced with a terrible paradox: (a) what they have chosen to do is vitally important, and (b) what they have chosen to do is incredibly boring.

    Remember, it wasn’t until relatively recently that those responsible for raising children (women) were encouraged to participate in public life, and those few who were privileged enough to do so usually paid less privileged people to care for their children. (This is still the case: day care work and babysitting are neither prestigious nor remunerative labor.)

    Stuart is a particularly stark example of this phenomenon because he is male and he shares his household with other adults, but it’s something that happens to a lot of people who leave intellectually engaging work and isolate themselves with small children.

    [a disclaimer: I tend to read these characters as being wittily perceptive manifestations of the phenomena of contemporary culture rather than as individuated personalities, though they are that, too.]

  88. Andrew B says:

    On the Stella/Raffi thing, do we even know if Stella is (sexually/romantically) interested in boys? If so, I missed it. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing we should prejudge, in either direction.

    The Raffi/Stella exchange in this episode is kind of weird. I’m not sure how much of that hostility was just joking — I mean, I’m really not sure. Stella’s comeback is clever, but by making it she puts herself in the role of Harry Potter’s obnoxious and ludicrous muggle cousin. Is that significant?

    On Sparrow and Stuart, note his response: “Damn, I forgot about that!” In other words, she told him she had a commitment and he made plans anyway — not, he made plans and she found a way to weasel out. It’s the opposite of the Gloria/Toni exchange.

    I sometimes wonder about Alison’s insistence that having kids has to conflict with work. Of course, every major commitment conflicts with every other major commitment in the obvious sense that there are only 24 hours in a day. But there have been two kids whose family life has been depicted in the strip. In each case, one parent has taken an exclusively maternal role (Toni didn’t work outside the home for several years) and the other parent has withdrawn almost entirely into work. At least in Clarice’s case that was consistent with her personality prior to the baby, but as others have pointed out it represents a substantial and not clearly motivated change in Sparrow. There’s nothing natural or necessary about that dichotomy and I don’t understand why Alison insists on it. It’s ideologically associated with the sort of people and positions she usually disagrees with.

  89. iara says:

    I think Public Health Vet and Scotia raise some very good points.

    One of the many wonderful things about the DTWOF strip is how the characters are so well fleshed out and all sides of an issue are there if you want to look for them. I guess that is what makes great fiction, in general. It also makes for lively discussion among us who see completely different things.

    When I read this strip it made me wish that my balding guy had not taken so long to decide that he was ready for another baby – by then it was too late for the traditional method, hard as we tried. And, unlike Stuart, he wasn’t offering anything beyond half of the childcare. Regarding the uterus asymmetry in heterosexual couples, I think a little perspective is in order: pregnancy can be a lot of fun and even when it is not, its challenges (like its joys) pale in comparison to those of raising a child.

  90. Kat (who has lately been lurkin) says:

    Alison’s depiction of JR in this strip is so perfect. I think she must have secretly researched the kids at the school where I work. Supposed language geniuses all, but half the time, communication is screeches and name calling…..

    Andrew B, I think that Alison is pointing out that relationships are rarely completely egalitarian. Regardless of the gender make-up, it seems rare to find parents who absolutely equally divide time/responsibilities. Also, her characters are very human, and most of us don’t manage idealized lives/relationships.

  91. Kate L says:

    Ellen O says:
    I just finished caucusing for Clinton, surrounded by Obama supporters.

    Ellen, I can relate. I caucused for Clinton in a state bordering Colorado. We were surrounded by and blown out of the water by the Obama supporters. Also, did you notice a bimodal age distribution like we did? Most of us Clinton supporters were older, most of the Obama supporters were younger.

  92. Saskia says:

    I take mild offense at Scotia’s comments above; please, let’s avoid making sweeping, negative generalizations about what stay-at-home parents and parenting are like. (It’s pretty condescending to consider it incredibly boring or un-intellectual, for instance.) There’s enough public animosity between stay-at-home parents and parents who work outside the home as it is (the hideously named “mommy wars”), and much of it ends up being pretty misogynistic.

  93. April says:

    IMHO the mommy wars are largely a media construct, like biological clocks. I have never actually witnessed hostility or condescension between parents who worked and those who didn’t. I am/was a SAHM and yes, it can be duller than ditchwater, AND it has moments of being highly rewarding BUT I refuse to ennoble my choice with false romanticism and moral superiority. I don’t know of any parent (except on TV) who does feel superior about working in/out of the home.

    Just my $0.02.

  94. Alexis says:

    wow I am so sick of talking about stewart all the time!! We went through this last strip!! I bet if you searched, his name would come up more times that anyone elses in the stip….

    Toni is really being boring. Taxes vs. sex, hmmmmm. seems a no brainer. She must be hitting menopause. That’s when I basically gave it up.

  95. Fatigues says:

    “Mucusoid mouthbreather” sounds, for some reason, very american. I mean it sounds like american kids speaking. Very fascinating.
    Now you know what I think.

    Oh, and I think Cynthia and Toni will work out, by the way.
    I don’t know why. I just do.
    Subconscious desire.
    Universal understanding.
    I don’t know. I just do.

    Almost a poem.

    Good strip. Love.

  96. Silvio Soprani says:

    I was a stay at home mother for about 8 years. I also continued to read, listen to public radio, design clothes, network with other vegetarian mothers, play music (although I did morph from “original music” to kids music; just logistics, really). In spite of (or because of ) all this, I found every moment home with children totally interesting and satisfying. Yes, I was busy 20/7 and never slept 8 hrs in a row; yes, I was at the mercy of an almost pavlovian response to my babies crying; did that matter? no.

    I remember in the early 80s, I used to read a lot of OP ED pieces in the Washington Post written by former career-gals-turned-stay-at-home-moms. It always seemed to be a lament that on the rare occasion they could go to a cocktail party, having found a baby sitter, some wonder gal on the fast track would ask them that Washingtonian question: “So what do you do?” and the “stay home” answer would stop the conversation flat.

    I could never understand that. I have always had a zillion things to talk about and they were NOT about diapers or feeding schedules or pre-school waiting lists… gimme a break!

    I really did feel like Margaret Mead on a sabbatical, watching my child recreate all of evolution by learning to speak in a two-year period.

    I learned about human relations, peace, communication, and non-violence from doing my stint at the co-op pre-school and having to intervene in sandbox conflicts, which I may add, was probably the best training I ever had for the workplace, because trust me, most adult american men have never really transcended those sandbox territorial wars…(although most of the men on this blog are incredibly evolved compared to men I have worked with over the years. something about art elevating mankind, no doubt.)

    Anyway, my oldest daughter, after getting her college degree and earning a living for about 10 years decided to go the stay-at-home mother route. (luckily she lives in a part of the county and has a working husband that both make this possible.) I briefly wondered if she was selling her “career” short, and then recognized I myself had taken the same route.

    I think Stuart is not terrible empathetic, but I could say the same of Sparrow. We have never gotten much of a glimpse of their personal, emotional relationship (at least not lately.) So I am reluctant to cast stones.

    But I will bet that if Raffi and Stella every “date,” I will also win the lottery, get a mortgage, and fit into a size 2 pair of fashion jeans. Not terrible likely.

    And my prediction is that someday little JR will give Janis a run for her money!

  97. Silvio Soprani says:

    I meant “terribly” not “terrible.” (Since many of us here are “most terrible particular,” to quote Mrs. Tiggy Winkle.

  98. Silvio Soprani says:

    )

  99. LondonBoy says:

    Another great strip. Raffi and Stella: it would be like incest, as I’m sure they instinctively know.

    Cynthia-Symp ( and various others with bizarre ideas ):
    No, no, no ! Real Scots always wear underwear under their kilts. This whole idea that there’s nothing worn under the kilt ( … “it’s all in perfect working order”… ) is a myth put about by the English, and continued by people who only wear kilts to weddings and New Year parties. My family are Scots ( though with strong links to London, hence my nick ), and we all wear underwear under our kilts. I wear kilts in one or other of my sept’s tartans pretty regularly, and it would never cross my mind to go commando. Think about it this way: a real kilt is bloody expensive, requires careful hanging, doesn’t wash easily, and costs a fortune to have cleaned properly; would you take the risk of skidmarks ?

  100. shadocat says:

    Silvio–what you said! I often feel like those years I spent at home were some of the most productive and creative years of my life.

    A bit OT, but anyone care to give this a go?:http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html

    funny, but in the end, I came up with the same caidate I decided on w/o the quiz…

  101. shadocat says:

    un, that’s canidate.

    I’m going to try to post that link again; here goes-

    http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html

  102. shadocat says:

    Yay-it worked!

  103. Maggie Jochild says:

    Re Stuart and the Utilikilt, the Cast Biographies on this site state under his name:
    Sex Appeal: Goes commando under the UtiliKilt.

    And for all you ESL folks who don’t relentlessly watch the TV show friends, “commando” is how the character Joey describes going without underwear.

  104. Silvio Soprani says:

    Shado,

    Good site. The three candidates I was most seriously interested in (Obama, Clinton, Edwards) scored in inverse order to the one my conscious brain is leaning toward. And Dennis Kucinich, whom I never seriously considered even though I knew I agreed with everything he stood for…came in at 100%!

    I will confess that something I never expected to happen to me is happening. Thirty years ago I probably would be a “Barack Star” too. (In my day it was “Neat and Clean for Gene [McCarthy].”)

    Even though logically speaking, Obama says all the right things, and it’s long overdue to make history for African Americans, the truth is, in my gut it is long overdue to make history for women, and I identify more with someone my own age. Yes, I think age more than gender is what is operating for me. (And of course, political stance. I am sure there are more subtle things going on, but I know there is an element of wanting to vote for “my own kind.”) Demographics are more than grist for polls. It really operates in the psyche.

    And LondonBoy, I sympathize about the kilt. Back in Catholic girls’ school, our uniform was a pleated plaid skirt that cost 17 cents per pleat to dry clean (in 1967). With 30-something pleats, it was highway robbery even then.

    But I have this wonderful book about the history of knitted socks and it has a drawing of some ancient Scot laying out his blanket in folds and lying down on it, then standing up and wrapping in around like a kilt.. (Too complicated for me to put effectively into words.) There was probably a time in the way back when people had not invented underwear yet, and no doubt that is where the “bizarre ideas” spring from.

    I bet the kilt looks awesome with the leather jacket.

    One of my fondest kilt memories is the time I saw David Byrne of the Talking Heads in Baltimore. He changed costumes more frequently than Stevie Nicks, strangely enough, but the 2nd to last outfit was a kilt with florescent pink threads running through the pattern, worn with an army-olive drab t-shirt and matching knee socks. A vivid memory to this day.

  105. Kat says:

    Shifting over to the topic of kilts, when I was in grad school, in London, one of my friends was a real, live Scotsman. When every other male singer was putting on their recitals in boring suits and ties, Ross would do his in a black kilt, black dress shirt, black vest (waistcoat) and bright purple tie.

    It was awesome.

    He agrees with London Boy, btw, about the underwear.

  106. Daniel says:

    I’ve been following you since the Village Voice was carrying your strip, Alison. Keeping up with this strip is like checking in withthe family for me.

  107. Cynthia-Symp says:

    LondonBoy, I’m ashamed of having fallen for that Sasenach nonsense. The skidmark logic is unassailable!

  108. markmaker says:

    mjoe-

    could you talk more about the issues you see with white parents and transracial / transnational parents? It’ll help me understand more if you can use specific examples. I’ve always assumed the issue was a matter of How one raised the children and not If one raised them, but maybe you’re saying there’s no way around the problems you see? Help me understand.

    re: rhubarb wine
    I suspect it’s simply a symbolic gesture of love and romance. He’d have picked her local flowers if it weren’t winter, but with the same meaning: I adore our family.

    Love is subtle and complex,
    m

  109. martinet says:

    I think Korean is one of the Asian groups who actually hasn’t had representation. Sparrow is Chinese (Taiwanese?). June was Filipina (I remember seeing her on a float for Filipina lesbians at a Pride parade, and was amazed; I don’t think I’ve seen any literary character elsewhere identified as such, let alone in a comic strip!). And some years back there was a minor character (Ginger’s student/Lois’s fling) named Yoshiko, who I can only assume from the name was Japanese.

    I continue to be hugely impressed by Alison’s commitment to multiculturalism. If only the real world were as well-represented.

  110. mk says:

    My impression of my friends who are stay at home parents is that whether you are bored or not depends a lot on your personal likes and dislikes – some people find the years from 0-3 to be very boring, others find it fascinating. Some people just enjoy thier children more when they are older. I am often surprised by the number of parents I work with who have thoroughly enjoyable lives with their teenagers, and that say they never see this reflected in the media and feel sad about it – that the majority of images of teenagers are alienated parent-haters.
    I also agree with those who defend Stuart – telling Sparrow he’s ready is not the same thing as demanding a child. Sometimes I feel like we put down Stuart and Sparrow’s relationship because they don’t use “therapuetically correct” language to talk about things.

  111. shadocat says:

    well if Stuart were my partner and told me “I’m ready to have another baby”, I would be inclined to reply, “Oh yeah? I wasn’t aware you “had” the first one.” I mean it’s her middle aged body. He should at least be respectaful enough to ask how SHE feels about it.

  112. shadocat says:

    sorry–“respectful”. I can spell; just can’t type too well.

  113. azraela says:

    Josiah, I was wondering the same thing! Has Stella been watching “Red Dwarf”??

    I think Gloria is being a real bitch. I can imagine she’s getting pretty impatient — but I think she really just wants to get laid at this point. Maybe I’m completely wrong…

    And ohhhh crap, Stuart would get a smack from me if I were Sparrow!

  114. Alex K says:

    @Londonboy: The images of the kilted Scotsmen lowering the British flag in Hong Kong for the last time — when a gust of wind caught their tartan petticoats and whirled them high — are still very much with me. Bare arses, two for two; the sun may never have set on the British Empire, but that day a double moon caught the Chinese eye.

    Perhaps military men don’t give a toss about skidmarks.

  115. Alex the Bold says:

    Okay, instead of trashing Stewart, I’m gonna dump on Sparrow. And Stewart.

    As someone mentioned, Sparrow seems somewhat distant/remote with JR. This really comes across to me like this:

    Stewart is hyperinvolved with the baby, almost to a pathological level.

    Sparrow, who already gets enough of Stewart and his ways (trading the car without consulting her, quitting his job because JR swore, etc.), is simply not willing to fight him about getting time with her own child. Remember Stewart with the glass of milk when Sparrow was pregnant? That kind of passive aggression wears you down fast. And a 40-something pregnant woman isn’t going to start laying down the law with her adult child of a husband.

    Add to that, Sparrow has to work because Stewart pretty much unilaterally decided to quit his job. Sparrow’s work, also, might be the only thing she has that doesn’t have Stewart’s overly earnest fingerprints all over it.

    Stewart is a very skillful, passive manipulator. I wouldn’t be surprised for a minute if he manages to harass Sparrow into giving him another baby. Perhaps if she stops acting like his mother and giving in to all his whining, she wouldn’t hide at work all the time.

    I would love to see the strip where Sparrow finally snaps and tells Stewart to stop living in his fantasy world of kilt-wearing subversion. God, his blog must be the most awful thing in the world to read. Parents, news flash! Only you find your children interesting. When you start providing movies of flash card performances, please be humane enough to provide sterilized razor blades for the audience.

    It’s a child, not your entry in a competition.

  116. Deena in OR says:

    As to Stella’s language…been in many middle schools lately? That’s actually a pretty restrained and intelligent putdown.

  117. Alex the Bold says:

    CLARIFICATION: On “And a 40-something pregnant woman isn’t going to start laying down the law with her adult child of a husband.”

    I’m not saying 40ish pregnant women can’t be strong, independent, etc. I’m saying that for Sparrow — at least my take on her — the time for sitting her husband down and telling him to institute major corrections to his behaviors, is NOT when she’s knocked up, with her job still waiting, a kid that needs tending, and her body aching and aging.

    Confrontation — which is what Stewart needs to have happen if he’s ever going to stop being such a, well, tool — would simply be too much for Sparrow in that condition, unless she’s really, really into masochism.

  118. I miss Lois too. More Lois coming right up.

  119. Duncan says:

    But then, Alex, nobody *has* to read Stuart’s blog — except maybe Sparrow, and she seems quite able to set her boundaries. If someone wants to blog at vast length about their child’s every burp, they should go for it. The “audience” isn’t captive; in fact, the audience for a blog is quite active and has to decide to type in the URL, then decide to read it and to go on reading. It’s not like being made to watch home movies when you’re at someone’s house for dinner.

    mk, “Sometimes I feel like we put down Stuart and Sparrow’s relationship because they don’t use “therapuetically correct” language to talk about things.” Eh? Both Stuart and Sparrow are epigones of the “therapeutically correct.” Sparrow’s 12-step-program addiction has been a running joke of DTWOF for years (decades?), and Stuart fits with her very well in that department. If anything, *that* would be why I’d put down Stuart and Sparrow’s relationship if I were going to put it down, but it seems to work for them better than, say, Toni and Clarice’s style did.

    I think it’s pretty obvious, given the conventions of narrative, that Alison is setting Stuart up to take a fall. I did find it funny when some readers here were complaining that Stuart was “taking over the strip,” when he only appeared in a couple of panels. It reminded me of men who claim that women are “taking over” when there are two of them in a group of twelve or more men. I don’t think Stuart’s evil, just self-absorbed, but no more so than the rest of the DTWOF gang have been at various times. The venom he’s drawing (“adult child of a husband”? pleez!) seems disproportionate to me.

    As for Toni and Gloria, I’d taken for granted that they were making the beast with two backs until I reread some recent strips and saw that they weren’t at that time (the one where they’re shopping together and Gloria says that they might as well be sleeping together since everyone else assumes they are). But I don’t think Toni’s clueless; she’s trying to create distance between them — clumsily, but maybe she’s trying to sort out her own feelings. Since she did lust after Gloria for years, it must be a surprise to find that she’s not all that interested now.

    Raffi and Stella. Well, first, “smegmaface” doesn’t imply that Stella knows that Raffi’s uncircumcised. If the term has any real meaning, it implies that Raffi’s been taking someone else’s smegma in the face. But I doubt Stella is being that specific, it’s just a generic kid insult, like “penisbreath” in E.T. AS to whether they could eventually date each other, I don’t know. It’s a cliche that people have a built-in incest taboo toward people they’ve grown up with; but if that were always true, there’d be no need for the *cultural* incest taboo. Why forbid what people don’t want to do anyway? It would please me immensely if those two ended up in bed together, which wouldn’t mean they are fated for each other. Geez, people are so serious!

    I’ve run on past the 10-line limit, but I’ll add that I haven’t looked much at the issues around adoption, especially transnational/cultural adoption, but what I have read by Korean-American adoptees has a disturbing amount of racism lurking in it, the assumption that somehow “culture” is biologically programmed into us by “race,” so children are somehow deprived if they aren’t raised in the culture into which they were born. I’ve been reading up on biological determinism again lately — see http://thisislikesogay.blogspot.com/2008/02/wont-get-fooled-again.html if you can stand more — and that’s not an innocent assumption. Peace out.

  120. Deena in OR says:

    I think, I hope, I believe that Raffi and Stella are too smart and too practical to end up in ‘Juno’ territory. (shudder) Think how that (or even a scare) would slap Toni, Clarice and Gloria into reality.

  121. NLC says:

    Just a couple points concerning Stewart/Sparrow:

    1] To paraphrase[*] AB from an earlier thread, I don’t really see Stewart as any more annoying than any of the characters[**]. In this, he’s right in step with with most of the rest of the cast.

    2] For my part I’ve always read the Sparrow/Stewart/JR saga as a clever play on the standard sitcom trope:

    The self-absorbed dad who is in the hopeless position of catching an endless amount of flak for being remote while (because of?) being completely responsible for the support of the family. And the self-absorbed mom who is in the hopeless position of catching an endless amount of flak for being isolated while (because of?) being completely responsible for maintaining the home and raising the kid(s).

    For me the only real twist is a rather brilliantly executed gender twist.

    3] And speaking as the one who first broached the subject (at least in this thread) I think it’d be pretty interesting –at least in terms of the storyline– to explore the adoption route.
    (Hmmmm… maybe the posters here should chip in, buy a bottle of locally Vermont-made rhubarb wine, and send it to AB with a note that we’re ready to have another baby in the strip…)

    [* A word which here means “I can locate the original quote”.]

    [** Except Harriet. I really miss Harriet.]

  122. NLC says:

    Sigh… My clever Lemony Snickett allusion blown all to heck…

    That should read:
    [* A word which here means “I can’t locate the original quote”.]

  123. Iris says:

    Why does the dtwof-crew never go to the dentist? That is not fair 🙂

  124. siena says:

    eh, even harriet got annoying towards the end.

    my take on the characters is that they all have annoying quirks and are pretty self absorbed, but only in the way that most people i know are, and, also like pretty much everyone, are lovable despite, or even because of it.

    both toni and clarice have had extramarital fantasies throughout the strip, but they really do seem more to be about feeling trapped by their current relationship than about genuinely wanting to be with other people. this time it’s gone so far that clarice has moved out, but it looks like toni’s realizing that she doesn’t want gloria that much, after all. i wouldn’t be surprised if they found their way back to each other, although hopefully in doing it they could repair some of the problems they were having, or at least truly come to terms with the fact that their relationship isn’t going to be fully satisfying, but that it’s better than being apart. i just feel sorry for gloria – she never seemed happy with ana (what did she see in that woman in the first place??) and i think she genuinely does want to start over with toni.

    i think stuart gets on sparrow’s nerves sometimes, and they’re kind of at different places right now, but if they were seriously having problems, sparrow would bring them up. i don’t think stuart’s going to get his wish for a second kid, though.

    AB seems to focus a lot on the difficulties of long term relationships, and not depict the good parts that make it worth it, or at least not as often. but i don’t think that means the relationships are actually all negative (save for ginger and samia, they seem pretty happy. and maybe lois and jasmine?) just that we’re seeing the difficult parts of them. or noticing them more? i think it’s easy to see annoying traits in people and wonder how anyone could be in a relationship with them, forgetting that you don’t love someone because they’re perfect.

    since i’m delurking i might as well also say something that’s been on my mind reading the strip for the last year or two: we’ve lost the fat/chubby characters (except for stuart, who maybe doesn’t have to be skinny and attractive cause he’s a guy??). and the handicapped one. what’s with that?

  125. (Sir Real) says:

    Hmm, to niggle; the characters aren’t wearing many clothes in the 64 degree thermostat house – is there a `global wierding’ heatwave going on?

  126. Deena in OR says:

    Siena-

    Discord and drama *do* make for a more interesting and compelling storyline than predictability and harmony 🙂 But I get what you mean.

  127. shadocat says:

    Sir Real–maybe they’re all in peri-menopause and having hot flashes.

    And to Alison; Hooray to more Lois! I miss her so!

  128. Rosa says:

    Sir Real, since we keep our thermostat around 58 (I do bump it to 60 when the outdoor temps stay below -10 for more than a few days, like they did in January) turning it up to 64 for guests has us all taking off our sweaters and wool socks, esp. if we already have longjohns on underneath. In fact, my SO complains bitterly of the excessive heat when my parents visit.

    It really is possible to be comfortable at 64 degrees, I swear.

  129. geogeek says:

    Re: Toni; although I share almost none of her life circumstances, I do have some sympathy for what looks like a hesitation to make her former fling into a more serious relationship right after truly separating from her long-term S.O. She probably hasn’t thought about it all that consciencely (sp?!?), but if I were in her shoes I’d be sliding away from anyone who I felt was trying to grip me… Even the most sexually deprived of us simetimes want peace and quiet (or at least, just the well-known tribulations of the kid we’re bringing up) more than having to negotiate a new sex life. Bring on the vibrators!

  130. Andrew B says:

    Maybe Lois will open a toy store, like she said she might when Madwimmen closed. She could be a terrific businessperson, with her hard nosed seductiveness. But here’s what enquiring minds want to know: if she does open a toy store, will she sell strap-on antlers? Or is that pretty much a Vermont-only item?

  131. Maggie Jochild says:

    Here in Texas we have strap-on longhorns.

  132. Straight European says:

    I seem to remember a panel with JR’s 5th birthday party, which I thought would belong into #520, but it doesn’t. Does it mean that Alison was teasing us with a panel from the story at the end of the forthcoming book? When does the new book come out?

  133. Scotia says:

    I’ve been wondering what had become of Lois. Has she been working at B&N all that time? It would seem that someone of her abilities would have advanced there. Is she a manager (shades of “Ellen” in the ’90’s)?

    I hope Raffi & Stella don’t start dating. But should an unplanned teen pregnancy become part of the storyline, it would be refreshing to see someone make the difficult decision to have a safe and legal abortion, recognize that it was the right choice for her, and get on with her life. Supposedly progressive and “edgy” films like “Juno” seem like crypto-anti-choice propaganda to me.

  134. Susan Schewel says:

    Regarding the sign on Sparrow’s bulletin board at work, for more information about the Hyde Amendment and abortion funding, check out the website of this important national campaign, http://www.hyde30years.nnaf.org. Thanks for the plug, Alison!

  135. Luciene says:

    I am constantly amazed by kids’ fortitude… I don’t believe Tony has reasons to be worried about them. On the oher hand, Gloria seems to have plenty.

    As to Stuart, can’t wait till he tells Sparrow the good news. =)

  136. ksbel6 says:

    As a huge Lois supporter (she came up as my number one match on the quiz we all took some time ago), I’m pumped to see her back and hear there is more to come.

    I also thought “Juno” was pretty much anti-abortion hype. The chance that a teenager can just randomly find a happy middle class/rich couple wanting to take her child so easily is nil. If adoption was such a well executed practice in this country, I would support outlawing abortion for those who are just too caught up in the moment to think about birth control. The problem is that adoption is a mess (legally) and the woman almost always ends up shouldering the entire burden of the child. I’m sure my daughter won’t have any problems with that as I have made it very clear that there will be no boyfriends until she is 36…and we all know teenagers do exactly as their parents wish 🙂

  137. Ginjoint says:

    I would support outlawing abortion for those who are just too caught up in the moment to think about birth control.

    WTF?!

  138. Duncan says:

    I think it’s interesting that everyone seems to assume that if Raffi and Stella have sex, they won’t use contraception. Of course they are Americans, and we Americans (including queers, it appears) don’t believe in teenagers using contraception, because it would encourage them to have sex, which could lead to pregnancy; and of course a teen pregnancy or a scare would be a plot twist, but if I had *my* druthers, I’d rather see them be smart. Alison (I make deep obeisance here) will decide. Her ways are not our ways.

    ksbel6, perhaps you were trying to be funny. But contraception, however conscientiously used, does sometimes fail, and abortion — safe, early, legal, and preferably free — had better be available as a backup. (And do I have to mention unpleasant possibilities like rape?) Since you’re tying it to adoption, I’d also point out that a pregnant woman might not *want* to carry an unwanted fetus to term; preganancy is not a minor inconvenience.

    It’s parallel to the ‘natural incest taboo’ thing: if contraception were 100% effective and always used, there’d be no need to ‘outlaw’ abortion, because no one would be asking for it anyway.

  139. Jessica W says:

    It’s so hard trying to convince your partner to have another baby when you really want one and they don’t. We “discussed” it for two years (i.e. lots of tears on my part and frustration on their part). Finally we agreed on a second one. I normally don’t back Stuart b/c of his totally arrogant personality but on this one I feel badly for him because I know how much it sucks to be the only one in your relationship that really wants to expand your family! Plus, he would probably be doing most of the post-baby work (gee, I didn’t even convince myself as I wrote that…It never works out that way, plus she’s got the milk factories….I guess I’m just trying desperately to rationalize him asking Sparrow for another baby!!!)!

  140. Silvio Soprani says:

    This discussion is reminding me of all the shame surrounding unwed pregnancy back in the 60s when I was a teenager in an all-girl Catholic high school. Although much of this phenomenon now seems to have disappeared (for instance in the public high school I taught in, so many young women would get pregnant and act like they’d just won an Oscar, whereas in my day, they would have been spirited away and no one would talk about them–still not sure which is worse)…however, I think the abortion debate brings out that last bit of residual shame in others.

    I have not seen JUNO, so cannot discuss it. But when “the public” derides women who seek abortions, they project an image of wanton immorality upon them. But no one directed that image upon Angelina Jolie, Katie Holmes, or any of the myriad of other movie stars who have had babies without marrying their boyfriends first.

    Even in the workplace I think a single woman can be pregnant without mass stoning or rotten egging, for the most part.

    But let someone wish to get an abortion –especially a young woman who prefers not to be vulnerable to getting the signature of a violent parent, and she immediately is seen as a jezabel.

    I once went to a worshop with Starhawk back in the late 80s and she asked everyone to imagine they lived in a world where every mother could depend on her community for shelter, food, and safety. In that mythical place, she suggested, perhaps none of us would need an abortion. Someone else would take care of the baby if we did not choose to, and we would not be forced by adverse circumstances to make an impossible choice.

    I remember thinking, it’s not the pregnancy or even the mother-role that is the burden in an “unintended” pregnancy; it’s the survival issues really.

    I remember when Lauren Hill came out with her first solo album and I think she dedicated it to her child. I thought how in the hell did she manage (initially as a 16-year old) a hip hop career, doing gigs at night, traveling, recording. Who took care of her kid?

    And I realized some of us have mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends who watch our back, and some of us are all alone. It makes a huge, huge, huge difference.

  141. ready2agitate says:

    I went to an event last night and someone was wearing a kilt. Hmmmm, I thought, is he or isn’t he? Wow the blog has infected my mind! (kidding : ).

  142. hetero genus says:

    I wasn’t going to enter my 2¢ this time, but changed my mind. Once again, too real to just be a fantasy. But i have suggestions too, which should be ignored, like everyone else’s: I am inspired though. How perfect for “eco-boy” to be wanting to add to population growth. wBut a good parent should, on some level, believe their child is the most perfect being in the world. Certainly better than those who regard them as inconvenient boors that were consequences of careless sexual gratification. And it wsn’t in all fairness made clear whether Stuart is in fact considering adoption. A sibling for cranky, self centered(not that there’s anything wrong with that at her age) JR might be a good thing for her, and a good thing for some kid who needs a family (race be damned, gender too). Hey, Lois seems pretty good with kids, we can really make this interesting! As far as Stella and Raffi go, they already display some healthy sibling like boundries. I bet you could stick them in the same bed and they would sleep rolled away from each other, fully dressed. Just a sense i get that neither would feel comfortable revealing intimate emotions or the vulnerablility of sexual openess. They also have been depicted as having grown up aware that they are in control of their destinies and bodies, so if they did become sexually intimate, an they might decide to keep any resulting pregnancies, and maybe even become right to lifers, or maybe they would give the baby to Stuart to raise. More than likely they would develop interest in each others’ friends. Or….maybe Toni and Clarice will reuinte, pissing Gloria off, and Stella and Raffi will miss the bond they have formed with each other.

  143. ksbel6 says:

    Didn’t mean to push the abortion button…I am completely supportive of abortion being legal. I worked in a school district (in a very small town) where over half of each graduating class of girls had either had a baby, or had an abortion. I often have the subject brought up in class (who knows why because I teach math) and I always say you have to have a choice. The 10 year old who is raped by her father should have the same options as the 17 year old who’s contraception fails. I also say it is a very small step from outlawing abortion to outlawying birth control pills. And I’m well aware of the numbers of sexually active teenagers. I live in Missouri and had a complete melt down/fit at school this fall when stupid Matt Blunt signed a law stating we are only allowed to teach abstinence (no more condoms on bananas from a Planned Parenthood specialist). I immediately went to my softball practice and told all of my players that contraception is not only the best preventor of pregnancy, it is also the best preventor of disease. He didn’t say I couldn’t teach that stuff during practice 🙂 Anyway, I just think the entire situation is very sad and I wish we lived in the perfect world where the child could be born and raised in a healthy, happy home. That was what I meant, yet typed very poorly. Sorry.

  144. Ellen O. says:

    ksbel6 wrote:

    >

    And it’s a small step from outlawing abortion to forcing it on women. I feel the larger issue is about those in power controling women’s bodies in whatever way suits their present need and present greed. This is why the term pro-choice makes sense, allowing women to choose when and if they want to have children.

  145. Ginjoint says:

    Thanks for the explanation, ksbel6. You are really in the trenches, aren’t you? (Especially in a conservative state like Missouri!) I can sense your frustration with not only the teenagers who don’t use any birth control, but also the adults who fail to teach them not only about birth control but also the advantages of avoiding pregnancy at such a young age. I can understand this frustration, too, since you’re in the front lines.

    Maybe the reason the subject comes up in your class, even though you teach math, is because you relate well to your students and they know they’ll get a straight answer from you, Matt Blunt be damned. Good on ya.

  146. Silvio Soprani says:

    ksbel6,

    Another reason your students ask you these questions of their math teacher may be because you coach sports.

    I have observed that the most successful teachers in a high school are often the ones who also coach sports. They don’t have to re-invent the wheel in their academic classes to establish respect and discipline because they have already established human bonds with their students on a playing field.

    People can “be themselves” more easily in a context where they can burn up energy, don’t have to shut up for long periods of time, and don’t have to been confined to a chair in a room not of their choosing. Talk about “the right to choose!”

  147. LondonBoy says:

    Even though I’m incredibly busy and just passing through, I have to take issue with Silvio Soprani’s comment. Maybe other people’s experiences are different, but in my experience the sports teachers are by far the least successful, both at teaching sport and, notably, at teaching anything else.

    In the UK sports teachers who have to teach an academic class will generally teach either geography, introductory maths, or introductory history. And that’s about it. This seems to be so common as to be virtually proverbial, at least in my circle of friends. Their general level of teaching ability seems to be generally recognised, at least on this side of the Atlantic, as very poor.

    ( The same, of course, may not be true of female teachers, but I don’t have any experience of those. )

    To say that a sports teacher has “respect” seems to me to be virtually crazy. I’ve never observed a sports teacher who is respected, except by other sports teachers.

  148. Kate says:

    I love how Stuart is getting ready to tell Sparrow he wants another baby, while Sparrow is working to fund abortion. Great dichotomy.

    There’s no dichotomoy between supporting safe, legal, easily available abortion and wanting and having kids.

  149. an australian in london says:

    Hi London Boy,
    I don’t think Silvio is talking about PE teachers. I think he is talking about teachers of other subjects who happen to coach a sport after school. (In fact, having read back, I am certain of it).
    That said, I work in a 6th form college, and the PE teachers are VERY successful, work damn hard, and lead their students very good results. And teaching PE does not mean just running around the basketball court – it means intensive theory and serious exams for the students. Most of their time is spent in the classroom teaching their subject, and to reiterate, they do it well.
    And they work with some difficult students – ADD, Dyslexia, poor literacy, you name it. And these kids DO respect them, and it probably does have something to do with the fact that, outside the classroom, they lead them in sports, at which they can be successful.
    Here I go into some wild assumptions, this not being the first attack on an entire breeed of teachers I have witnessed: Just because a person hated a subject at school does not mean they should take out their ire on all of the diverse, hard working human beings who teach that subject.

  150. ksbel6 says:

    LondonBoy, just to defend myself, I teach honors geometry and algebra II. My degree is in mathematics, I have over 20 hours of graduate level mathematics on my transcript, and published a paper as an undergrad that still gets referenced occasionally (it is in coding theory). Softball happens to be my passion. I played DII (and coached DII for a year) before deciding that the high school level was the right place for me. In 2006, my team finished 3rd in state for the first time in school history (1 of 3 team sports to ever make it that far) and we haven’t had a losing record since I took over the helm in 2004 (we have also won 2 conference championships in those 5 years).
    So, you can rip on me for my comments about abortion, but don’t try to rip on me as a teacher and a coach.

    Oh and thanks to Silvio and Ginjoint for the very positive responses and the understanding about the inability to completely express one’s thoughts while typing 🙂

  151. Maggie Jochild says:

    Hey, ya’ll, wanna see a current photo of Alison? Up at Liza Cowan’s excellent blog, See Saw

  152. LondonBoy says:

    (Apologies in advance for the long post)
    Australian in London, Ksbel6:
    For clarity, let me say this:

    I was careful to “own” my statements by making appropriate remarks such as “in my experience” and “in my circle of friends” and “seems to me”. I was not asserting a general law, but I am calling things as I see them. And what I see now, and have seen in the past, is sports/PE teachers who are never better than second-rate, either academically or in their own discipline. There may be a few who aren’t, but I certainly haven’t encountered them. I want to specifically exclude teachers who specialise in other subjects, but who dedicate their non-teaching time to the supervision of sports: in my experience some of these are good, and some are bad, but they are not “sports teachers” ( Ksbel6, this is where I would place you. ) Nor do I wish to comment on teachers who specialise in teaching matters of physical co-ordination to those who would benefit from such things: I wouldn’t call those people sports teachers anyway, but something closer to physical therapists.

    What I do want to comment on are sports/PE teachers who dedicate their lives to the subject. We all know them, and a quick couple of phone calls this evening to friends in the teaching profession suggests that they are just as common now as they were when I was trying to avoid kicking a football around: sports/PE teachers appear to be regarded by the rest of the staff room as having ( in the words of one person I spoke to earlier ) “muscle between their ears”, and the general view is that they are a “necessary evil”. Certainly, I didn’t enjoy sport/PE at school, but surely, by the laws of probability, I should have met at least one good sports/PE teacher in my educational career – someone who, even if they didn’t turn me into a sports star, could at least have created one positive experience for me in their lessons. I found teachers capable of doing that in every other subject, and so did my friends ( some of whom were keen on games ), but not one ever mentioned an inspiring, inspired, respected or respectful sports/PE teacher ( including those who were keen on sports ). Rather the reverse: sports/PE teachers suffered virtually universal ridiule.

    The funny thing is that when I went up to university I had no plans to engage in any sport, largely ( I now see ) as the result of my school experiences. But there was a really cute, nice guy who had the same tutor as I, and he persuaded me to go along with him when he tried out for the lowest and most amateur rowing team in the college. I went along to keep him company ( and admire him in shorts ), but somehow I got selected. Long story short: a couple of years later I was “stroking” ( that is, captaining ) the college “First Eight” ( top rowing team ). Sadly, cute-nice guy dropped out of rowing, but by then I had other reasons to carry on with it. There’s still a six-foot long photo of me and my team at “Eights Week” on the wall in my parents’ house.

    The key thing is that no teachers were involved in the experience: as students we had to make it all happen ourselves. There were coaches, sure, but we had to arrange them ourselves: the college was an academic institution, not there to support games and pastimes. I came to enjoy the sport through the interest and enthusiasm of others. Maybe for others it’s different, though the anecdotal evidence I have heard suggests not, but I can categorically state that no teacher ever made me enthusiastic about sports. Sorry, but that’s just how things seem to me.

  153. Silvio Soprani says:

    LondonBoy,
    I have no doubt that you were speaking from your own experience; your posts always exhibit sensitivity.

    I too was speaking from my own experience here in the Northeastern United States. In the urban high schools I have taught in, while there is a class in Physical Education taught during the school day and staffed by a “phys ed teacher,” the coaches I was referring to are academic teachers who supplement their income by coaching a sports team after school. These teachers have already put in a 6 to 8-hr day, and then they spend an additional two to three hours coaching basketball, American football, softball, or hockey.

    I have seen some British movies that portray the pressure put on (mostly male) students to excel in sports. I don’t think American schools approach it quite the same way. In my experience, (especially) urban low-income students often feel oppressed by the academics, and value the sports more because a game like basketball or football is already something they excel in and it is a way to express their excellence in an academic environment where they already feel disenfranchised.

    So when I was teaching 9th grade English to over-large classes of children who would rather have been earning money at their MacDonald’s job so they could make their car payment and buy nice clothes (sad but true), the time they spent on the basketball court, with a coach who respected their athletic skill was a far more desireable environment from their point of view than my English classroom,, where they they were compelled to sit still, and where they really were not interested in reading Shakespeare or writing an essay.

    I have never been athletic, and I also felt very intimidated by some students insulting comments upon my gender [by the way, Australia in London, thanks for your comment, and fyi I am female in spite of the “o” in silvio…]and sexuality [I had short hair; I MUST be a dyke…and of course that’s bad…] so I confess I was no “To Sir With Love,” regardless of how easy those movies always make it look to be a teacher of tough cases…

    So sports were a refuge for our students.

    ALSO, I must add, the “real” PE teachers tended to be women in my school, and they were wonderful. They were the ones who also taught sex education, driver education, HIV/Safe Sex awareness, etc, whether it was officially in the curriculum or not.

    Maybe the weather in Maryland is more conducive to outdoor sports than it was in your area, LondonBoy. At any rate, I am no longer a teacher, and quite happy about that, and I have nothing but respect for the teachers I worked with, especially the ones who endured, because I did not have the fortitude to go to work and be hated and insulted every single day.

    But I observed other teachers,’ classes from time to time, and that’s how I noticed the coincidence that the sports coaches seemed to have a much better rapport with their students.

  154. Alex the Bold says:

    First, to reply to Duncan: “But then, Alex, nobody *has* to read Stuart’s blog — except maybe Sparrow, and she seems quite able to set her boundaries.”

    I think we’re on the same page, but different lines. I see an aspect in it that you might not: Stewart calls up Sparrow, at work, to talk about JR and her flash card prowess. I offer this “translation” from Stewart’s subconscious (I don’t say it IS what he’s thinking, but I bring it up):

    “Hey, Sparrow. Yeah, I could have simply brought this up when you got home, but it’s more effective for my strategy to ru(i)n your life by bothering you at work. See, now that I’ve asked you to check the blog, because you’ve said you’re too busy, I can file that away for later use in the old ‘You never make time for JR, the most precious, perfect thing in creation’ folder.”

    Stewart, for all his “enlightenment” is pretty damned manipulative.

    As for someone else’s comment on the 16-year-old musician who had a child and did the music tour and recorded an album, etc. I don’t want to get a flame war started on this, but I really have a little trouble with this.

    I don’t think any parent should be trapped (I use the word deliberately) into sacrificing their entire life for 18 years to raise a child. Everyone is entitled to non-child pursuits. But there should be a line, shouldn’t there? What’s the point of having a child if you’re going to hand it off to your mother, your sister, whoever, to do the raising?

    Am I missing something? I’d be thrilled to be shown how I’m not “getting” it, but I don’t see much of a difference between a mother handing the kid off to someone else (even if they’re willing) and a father who knocks up his girlfriend and then disappears over the horizon.

    Again, I’m really not trying to start a screaming match on this, I just, honestly, do not get where this whole “have the entire cake and eat it” mindset comes from. And the same thing holds true for the fathers. Some guy who can pencil in 20 minutes for his kids every other day ought to get worked over with a sock full of doorknobs.

  155. Ginjoint says:

    Thanks Maggie – from that link, I learned about the new book, American Photobooth. I want to buy this. I’ve worked in many photo labs, doing both custom and minilab work, and I have to admit I never thought about the technology behind those machines. I’d love to see the inner workings of one. Plus, like many others, I’m charmed by the photos themselves.

    And Alex the Bold – a sock full of doorknobs? A mean part of me likes that!

  156. geogeek says:

    On “handing the kid off” to other relatives: in middle-class white America this may be seen as negative, but it’s not _always_ seen that way in some other parts of American culture, and certainly not in some other parts of the world. My experience in this is not large, but when I lived in Albuquerque for a year there were a couple of people I know who had kids young (but not brutally young, 19-22) and whose parents or aunts and uncles adopted the kids. In both cases the genetic parents were Chicano/a, and I have heard second hand of similar cases in the Italian part of my extended family. Although it was sometimes uncomfortable for them to explain the situation to others, the situation itself worked out pretty well, with the children fully informed about their parents. I heard years later that one of the girls was sent off to her genetic father (the parents had not married) in the agony of early high school, and they did quite well together, sort of the way I see kids sometimes sent off to a favorite aunt or uncle for a couple of the difficult summers.

    While I do not claim that all instances of non-parent- family-rearing work well, it’s a common practice arouns the world that does frequently work well, and happens in the US with some success.

    On a different topic, it’s not just in the UK that some coaches are crappy teachers. Some are great, but my personal experience was that most of the teachers who coached in high school took the most negative parts of team participation values with them into the classroom and belittled and humiliated unpopular, individualistic, or non-athletic students. The students on a team would frequently take most of their classes together, and a coach teacher would treat them preferentially, leaving out the other students in that class session. There was one great basketball coach who was able to work well with “loners,” but he was the exception rather than the rule.

  157. iara says:

    Alex the bold,
    Since you ask, allow me to explain. The expectation that women wait until they mature (as in being fully grown up) to have children and/or that a mother gives up her work in order to raise a child beyond the first year or so is a rather recent western invention. Most children in most societies have been raised by relatives – usually grandparents. Has the image of the happy 50s family with the stay-at-home mom gotten under our skin to such an extent that even as we reject it, we inadvertently accept its underlying assumptions? -eg, that it is bad for the children if someone other than their mother raises them and that the only reason that one would want to have children is to experience the joy of raising them.

    The involved father is another wonderful recent development. I think the involved parents are really lucky to enjoy their children. I personally feel very lucky to count myself among them, but recognize that this is just my choice – and part of how lucky I feel has to do with having had this choice.

    ok, I hope you realize that it took a lot of guts for me to flame back against someone armed with a sock full of doorknobs, so please be gentle!

  158. Dr. Empirical says:

    I don’t see Stewart as manipulative, just clueless. It honestly didn’t occur to him that Sparrow wouldn’t want to hear the flashcard story right away. Sparrow corrects him, but is also supportive “That’s great sweetie.” Looks to me like they’re doing fine.

    I still dislike Stewart, but I think he’s being unfairly interpreted here.

  159. Lily says:

    Maybe Stuart called his partner at work because he was lonely. He may be obnoxious but surely he’s not an evil mastermind ALL the time, right?

  160. mlk says:

    if Toni (or Alison) want to traumatize Raffi, she should reunite with Clarice!

    it’s kinda sad to see so many coupled characters reading from different scripts. I don’t agree, though, that Sparrow is an uninvolved and distant mother. we’ve seen the family out together and playing in the yard (when
    Ginger was first looking for a house). and Sparrow’s conversation with Stuart was quite genial.

    I somehow doubt that many stay-at-home moms would call the breadwinner at work and suggest that he check out their blog, though . . .

  161. Pam I says:

    How can you write off games teachers when Meg Christian’s Ode clearly tells us how we need those dyke icons: “She was a big tough woman, the first to come along, who taught me being female meant that you could be strong….” Perhaps it’s different for boys.

  162. Silvio Soprani says:

    Pam,
    It probably is different for boys. Meg’s song sure clarified a lot of things for me about my gym teacher.

    But allow me to point you to Romanovsky and Phillips’ “OUTFIELD BLUES:”

    “Well sometimes I’m hopin’
    That my bones will get broken
    Just so I can be excused
    From all the harrassment
    That I get from my classmates
    Who always blame me when they lose”

    But back to the topic of mothers who have families who watch their back (and their kids) so they can have a “life;” I have been thinking about Mary Catherine Bateson (child of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.) She has written at least one memoir about her unique childhood: Mead(who had split from Bateson by this time), provided financial support to a close friend to raise Mary Catherine. Mead went off to Samoa and elsewhere to do her anthropological research, returning once or twice a year to visit her daughter.
    If you were looking for an example of a mother who was not wracked by guilt and who carried on her life quite productively, and still had the gall to stay in her daughter’s life on her own terms, I think this would be it.

    It’s been a long time since I read Bateson’s memoir; I forget the title of it, but it came out back in the 90s I believe. My recollection is that she was not angry at her mother and did not feel scarred for life; her tone is remarkably “adult,” considering that most people who experience pain in their childhood seem to retain a wounded air that does not heal with age without a substantial miracle.

    Of course, in what I understand as the “British model” (look at Kipling and any number other famous Brits) parents deposit the child in a boarding school at a young age and are considered sensible to do this. ( I could not do it, but i was raised American where mothers were expected to be on location most of the time..) If these children missed their mothers (and indeed fathers), I suppose it was seen as a character weakness. (But I only think these things from reading books like Orwell’s “Such, Such Were the Joys,” and other dystopian autobiographical horror stories about growing up male in boarding school.

  163. Dr. Empirical says:

    My most vivid memories of gym teachers is having them scream at me “WHAT the FUCK is WRONG with YOU?” They get no empathy from me.

    I wasn’t even one of the wimpy kids. I could climb a rope, do a backflip or take a soccer ball to the face without flinching. I just didn’t see the point. I had no fear of heights, water or blood, but no enthusiasm for running, jumping, or shoving a damn ball through a damn hoop.

    I remember being forced to play (American) football. the coach divided us into teams, tossed us a ball and said “Play Football.”

    I found a kid on the opposite side who also didn’t know, or care, what was going on. We lined up opposite each other, and when the play was called, crashed into each other a few times until the fuss was over. No one noticed.

    They had remedial English for the kids who couldn’t read, remedial Math for the kids who couldn’t add, but no remedial Gym for the kids who had no idea what a “down” was.

  164. Maggie Jochild says:

    I appreciate the different viewpoints about “gym teachers” being presented here, and offer my own experience NOT to argue: Having attended rural and small town schools in states with low educational funding (Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico), it was considered mandatory that even the tiniest school have an “athletic program”, i.e. a boy’s team of either basketball or football, which meant a coach, which meant someone who had majored in P.E. (considered an “easy curriculum” at that time for I believe accurate reasons) also had to get “certified” hurriedly to teach in one or more other subjects so the school could justify the expense of hiring a coach. These teachers were not academic jewels, they were lousy at interpersonal communications (often extraordinarily immature and, frankly, bullies), and in 12 years of being taught by them in over 30 different schools (we moved around constantly) there was only one whom I could now call a good teacher. Turns out, he was the one who had a “real” major (math) who got secondarily certified in P.E. so he could find a teaching job as a coach.

    So, it occurs to me that we may be talking across generations here, and across small town vs. urban, especially with regard to class and race.

    I was severely asthmatic as a kid, and thus experienced the profound disrespect/outright abuse of jocks and jock teachers toward spindly kids firsthand, but at age 13 came into several years of good health and went out for the basketball team. I became captain and tried on being a jock for those few years, suddenly enjoying community and coach regard. I found it boring and shallow, and returned to intellectual pursuit before becoming a revolutionary. Just to own my bias.

  165. VS says:

    How can you write off games teachers when Meg Christian’s Ode clearly tells us how we need those dyke icons: “She was a big tough woman, the first to come along, who taught me being female meant that you could be strong….”

    Well, if you were a geeky, bookish, physically incompetent girl in my schools, those teachers were just standing around while all the other kids were making fun of you, saw no problem with having kids choosing up teams publicly and leaving you standing there while people argued about who had to take you, publicly disparaged your efforts, made you call out the number of sit-ups you could(n’t) do in front of the entire class, and then wondered why you didn’t seem so motivated to participate. So…not different for this girl.

  166. genevieve says:

    How interesting to see Toni acting as we saw Clarice so many times during their relationship, resisting intimacy. I’m kind of indifferent to Toni and Gloria as a couple, but I’d love to see Clarice turn a page and be really happy for a while, whether she finds a girlfriend or not.

    I used to like Stuart, but based on the last several strips he’s been in that I’ve noticed, he now just makes me cringe.

  167. ksbel6 says:

    I sure am glad I don’t teach PE…you guys had some really terrible experiences. I don’t remember much about PE, except that I thought it was relatively boring and I got As. It must be different for guys…high school male athletes believe they are better than the rest of society, often do poorly academically, and probably end up as coaches and PE teachers because they are incapapble of anything else.

    Female athletes and coaches are entirely different. They tend to be very bright (both my high school team and my college team had very high average gpas), as well as good team members.

    As for how I treat my students, I believe I am fair, and when I’m evaluated by students they think I’m fair also. I only have 12 softball players, and I have 150 students, and not all of my softball players take my classes since they are honors level, but I’m almost certain that the ones I have don’t think I give them any advantage over my other students.

    Just one more note…my partner of almost 4 years now is a high school literature/drama teacher who put all coaches into the “asshole box” many years before I met her. She will still shake her head occasionally and say “a math teaching softball coach, who would’ve thought” 🙂

  168. Jeffa says:

    Dr Empirical –
    Remedial P.E. – you’re a GENIUS!!! That’s the most brilliant idea I’ve heard in ages. (Spoken as a teacher AND as one of the physically inept who suffered the torture of one-P.E.-class-for-all)

  169. Jana C.H. says:

    One of the few advantages of being born with brittle bones was that I was completely excused from P.E. from the eighth grade on. Before that it was assumed by everyone, including me, that I would be the worst in the class at every physical activity. I was therefore left alone to BE the worst, which is exactly how I wanted it. After all, it wasn’t as if P.E. were a real class. Real classes were in academics, where I shone. Turn this around and apply it to kids who shine in sports but not academics, and it’s easy to understand their apathy about regular classes.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  170. martinet says:

    Re: “no remedial Gym for the kids who had no idea what a ‘down’ was”

    The most painful thing about PE from elementary school onwards was the fact that the teachers ALWAYS assumed that EVERYONE knew the rules to all the games, so of course they didn’t have to explain anything. I was an only child who lived in a neighborhood with few other kids, had parents who enjoyed spectator sports but certainly didn’t participate in anything, and really didn’t enjoy “playing outside” (my idea of such was to take a book out and read). Where the HELL would I have learned to play soccer? Or softball, or basketball, or football, et bloody cetera. I had no idea what I was doing on the PE field and since no one would bother with anything as mundane as rules and basic technique, I got yelled at for not wanting to go near the ball because I hadn’t the faintest idea what to do with it if I did. (That, and I was very protective of my glasses; I still won’t play volleyball because I really don’t want to be on a field where the OBJECT is to keep the ball high up near people’s faces rather than on the ground where at least if it hits you, it gets your less fragile parts.) Remedial PE would have been a great relief.

    It’s probably all the more ironic that my elementary school PE classes were run by a couple people’s mothers, since I went to a tiny blue-collar Catholic school with no money. If they’d had more money, they’d have been the original soccer moms.

  171. sunicarus says:

    Dr. Empirical~Here! Here! I still shudder to think about P.E. in junior high school. Though I did play soccer of my own accord, I still recall the mandatory gymnastics class. Pure, utter hell. Let’s just say I was no Mary Lou Retton. The humiliation began with the uneven bars. I had to use a springboard to just get on the contraption. Then, we were expected to perform a routine. While doing a flip from the higher bar, I fell. *Smack* on the mat. I walked away physically unharmed but being an adolescent, it was completely humiliating. To add insult to injury, I had to stay after class and do leg exercises so that I might perform without using the springboard. I gained no physical or emotional strength from this experience. It didn’t even offer an aerobic benefit. On a side note, back to soccer. That same year I was tripped by a fellow soccer player and fell. I walked up to the locker room and told the P.E. teacher I thought I had broken my arm. I had a high pain threshold and knew something was not right. My P.E. teacher just looked at me and told me it was probably just sprained. I went to change and to this day don’t know how I did it. When I returned to class the next day with a cast on my arm, the P.E. teacher just looked at me in utter amazement. Wouldn’t it be a revelation and revolution to value academia as much as we do organized sports. Ok. I digress.

  172. LM says:

    Re: The great Stuart debate. It’s probably true that Stuart presents as needy and manipulative. But then, I always thought that neediness and manipulation was the core of all relationships. Ooops. Bad LM. Bad.

  173. j.b.t. says:

    I was kind of indifferent to P.E. and sports in general, but now that I am a mother of a daughter (still too young to participate) I am thinking about them differently – so much data is out there showing that girls that do sports have higher self esteems, don’t do as many drugs, get involved with sex later (not that I’m anti-sex, but I hope she’ll wait til she’s 16 or 17 at least!), and do better in school.

    But now that I am thinking about it, I suppose kids that are involved in art or theater or music probably get the same benefits… maybe it’s just being part of some kind of community that’s important. Hmmm.

    My kid is super active, though, and I’d like her to have a healthy outlet for all that energy. And of course, exercise is important, too….

    On another note, has anyone ever had rhubarb wine?

    I had apple wine for the first time recently and really liked it. And it was made right here in Minnesota! Nice. It tasted like a reisling.

    J.

  174. Jana C.H. says:

    j.b.t. — I posted earlier in the thread about rhubarb wine. I like it.

    JcH

  175. who says:

    hey A. B. we want pictures of your new squeeze!

  176. tiki says:

    Hi Everyone. I didn’t know where to post this, but I thought you all should know this breaking news…I just got a blanket e-mail from Barb Wieser, the owner of the Amazon Bookstore Co-op here in Mpls. (the inspiration for our beloved Madwimmin Books). After 20+ years she is leaving the business and is looking for a buyer. Anyone out there ready to tackle their ‘own-a-bookstore’ dream?

  177. sapphicapuella says:

    Some more breaking news, of more academic discussion of ‘Fun Home’, which is treated in Edith Hall’s new ‘The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey’ (DTWOF gets a mention too). I just got my copy and it’s so good to see ‘Fun Home’ get the sort of recognition from academia it deserves; thought people might like to know, even if it’s not terribly relevant to this thread …

  178. ommanepadme says:

    Wow…i have been reading this comic since the early nineties when i was attending a midwestern big 10 university. it was a life raft for me as i was coming to terms with being christian, african-american, radical womonist, and newly self-identified as bi-sexual. my life has led me down many fulfilling paths of my myriad identities and i am so happy that Dykes to watch out for as always included the true rainbow of our mulit-layered queer community.
    I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart…Thank you! you are a true
    minister and healer in our community. Congratulations on your New York Times
    success with Fun Home. Thank you once again. you are touching so many more than you may ever know. We love you! xoxo! blessings!

  179. Chris says:

    I hope someone in the strip has a baby soon, if only so we can see what’s up with Miriam. Or how about an OLOC triathlon in the background, if there’s no need for her midwife skill?

  180. Thinking says:

    Stay-at-home Stuart is about as appealing as a wet rag. His tired banal character needs to be hung out to dry. Sparrow is probably tired of Stuart’s 24/7 political grassroots that streamline on the hour as consistently as CNN.

  181. Marj says:

    My favourite school report of all time, from age 10 or so:
    PE: Not Interested.

  182. Flossy says:

    Ah, Stuart, Stuart, Stuart! Oh how I wish Sparrow would start missing a woman partner. Stuart has no clue. AB, please save our Sparrow from Stuartitis.

  183. Jjennifer says:

    Alright if we really want AB to shake things up let’s have Stuart receive his rude awakening by having Sparrow kick him to the curb. Stuart, not knowing where to turn runs into the arms of Gloria. Gloria , all confused by Toni’s lack of interest ever since Toni became available, feels vulnerable and succumbs to our Stuart’s charms. Gloria and Stuart would be total magic. They’d feed off each other. Stuart would validate Gloria, Gloria would pay attention Stuart. They’d annoy the piss out of everyone they ever came in contact with. Stella would hate Gloria for depriving her of Raffi. JR would be resentful of Stuart for separating her from Sparrow. Stella and Raffi would elope when they’re 16. JR would grow up and in complete rebellion to all her parental figures, become a Goldwater Repiblican and scholarship pageant contestant. JR’s talent portion of the competition would have her singing an aria from a maoist opera while accompnying herself on accordion. This rendition of that aria would have a distinctive klezmer feel. Whaddaya say AB? I think it’s got legs.