Episode 494

September 11th, 2006 | Uncategorized

Man. I’ve been trying to get this up since last week. Still having trouble with displaying the large-print version. In the meantime, click here or the image below for the large version on Flickr, and take your chances. Apologies if it doesn’t work with your browser.

dtwof Episode 494

111 Responses to “Episode 494”

  1. Amy says:

    I never thought I would feel this way; I always rooted for these two — but I almost agree with Toni. She and Clarice seem so unhappy together and it’s been that way for years and years with few respites. I’d probably be thinking like Toni if this was me.

  2. JenK says:

    I dunno, Amy. I’m not sure what the problem is … yeah, Clarice is obsessing on politics, but she always has. The impression I get of Toni is that she’s really tired.


  3. Ellen O. says:

    Wow, what a powerful strip, Alison. I’ve never seen you dovetail the personal and the political so seemlessly. Terribly moving and understated at the same time.

    Hey, Happy Birthday! (It’s still Sept. 10th here in Colorado.)
    What a year it has been for you.

  4. fjm says:

    Any chance of a non-traditional break up? My partner and I have just agreed to be a family (living together) but not a couple. The time we’ve spent together since has been the best in years. We’ve got our friendship back having removed the things that weren’t working. There’s a long haul ahead of us I know, but there has to be a better way to separate than the screaming, the tears and the consequent poverty.

  5. ian says:

    OMG!!! The break up of Clarice and Toni? Who’ve been together since almost the first strip? Not that anyone couldn’t see it coming. The signs have been there for a long time and it’s clearly what Raffi’s been reacting to. I think the relationship’s been over since before Toni slept with Gloria. But??? What will Mo do???

  6. shadocat says:

    Wow…I was all excited that a new strip was up (oh and Happy B-day AB),but this…I sorta knew it was coming, and maybe inevitable, but Toni and Clarice are breaking up? Really breaking up? Tomorrow is already the suckiest day of the year, and now this. I need a drink, I really do…

  7. ray says:

    There is some research into psychotherapy outcomes that considers how much couples theraphy simply doesn’t work.
    Time together only works if there is mutual effort on both parties to invest and support the relationship.
    Not continue with patterns that have failed in the past.
    Maybe that incentive only arises after loss.
    Or maybe lesbian couples like Clarice and Toni simply can’t develop enough positive support for the next step of their relationship. Being an institution is isolating.

  8. mabel says:

    I just don’t understand _why_ they are unhappy. Maybe it’s just my undertanding of marriage, but aren’t you supposed to be bored and irritated by your partner?

  9. NLC says:

    If you’re having trouble seeing the full-sized strip, click

    This should work on any browser.

  10. Thank you, NLC! I didn’t want to bug you.

  11. Sir Real says:

    Molto congratulations fjm… I love your originality in re-thinking what a couple and a family can be, and I’m so glad you have your friendship back.

    And Happy Personal New Year AB!

  12. Jen says:

    I’m really bummed to see this happening, but on some level it makes sense. When Toni and Clarice made a suggestion of non-monogamy, at first I was thrilled to see DTWOF handle that subject. Allison’s been toying around the edges of it for years, but never really tackled it fully.

    But then I thought about it for a while. Tony and Clarice seemed to think that seeing other people was going to fix something missing in their lives and bring them closer together. But unless the relationship is healthy to begin with, IMHO, seeing other people is only going to distract them from the relationship, not fix it. So, sadly, I don’t see that working for them either.

    Like other comments here, I wish I could pin down exactly why Toni and Clarice are unhappy. It feels like it would bring some resolution.

  13. Suzanonymous says:

    Happy Birthday, Alison! Let us know what 46 is like. I’ll be there myself in a few months. .. chuckle..

  14. shadocat says:

    BTW, when I posted previously, I’d just gotten off shift, so it still seemed like Sept. 10th to me.

    I think Mabel has a good point;does everyone end up being bored and irritated with their partners? And really, what do they (Toni and Clarice) have to be bored and unhappy about? Okay, we’re in a war, and the political situaion sucks, but their problems seems so superficial…They have a great kid, they’re both still smokin’ hot, and I know that Clarice at least makes pretty good money. Toni could too, if she’d pull herself out
    of the kitchen. They’ve gone to therapy, but I’ve never been convinced that either of them were serious about it, and they should be! They have a kid, for Chrissakes. All the hell he’s been through because they were together, and now what’s he going to do when they split? Is that when all this started? When they had Raffi? Was his birth the beginning of the end? I know conflict makes for an interesting story, but isn’t there a way to tell a story about people who are happy with each other and make it work?

  15. mlk says:

    Toni’s been looking tired for a long time, now — almost like she’s another person. I’m wondering if she’s unhappy because she and Clarice don’t really share too much except Raffi — and parenting a teen is pretty wearing. both Toni and Clarice have been pouring themselves into separate causes for years now. these two just don’t have much time for each other, much less energy to support the other in the big picture work that they’ve undertaken.

    maybe they’re unhappy because they’re isolated from each other?

    interesting that Toni’s the one who raised the possibility of separating (let’s not jump the gun here, folks! Clarice considered throwing in the towel when she was depressed and decided not to) because Toni’s the one who’s held things together for so long. wonder if this will jolt Clarice into action . . . or is she really so ambivalent about her family that she’ll allow it to fall apart?

    maybe this is a phase that the family’s going through. a very tough one. young parents are exhausted all the time from lack of sleep — that’s a phase — and it seems that midlife can be just as exhausting. I don’t know because I’m not there yet, but don’t things let up some once the kid(s) are grown? isn’t that a time when couples (sometimes) rediscover each other and fall in love again?

  16. shadocat says:

    Yeah wouldn’t, THAT be nice-rediscover each other and fall in love all over again? I tell you, they’re throwing it all away for some stupid reasons like “were not communicating anymore”, or “I’m bored”. OK, Toni cheated. So did Clarice back in the day. Have a big fight about it, deal with the reasons behind it and move on. It’s not like either one of them habitually cheat. Let me tell you I was once in a relationship that lasted many years, but eventually broke up for good. Here’s why:

    1. My partner was a man.
    2. I realized I was a lesbian.
    3, And(most importantly) he was SATAN!

    Now those are reasons!

  17. Anonymous says:

    … so opposites attract but don’t work out.

    I’ve just had a relationship end this way. At first you think that someone who’s different will be able to handle the things you can’t, and vice versa. You think you’ll learn from each other. But then you wonder, as it wears on, how much is external and how much is internal… and when living with that person makes you lonely, discontent, misunderstood, even hostile… what else can you do?

    Career-driven people, of all orientations, are damn hard to live and love with, and fearing their distraction (or worse, seeing it) is the worst thing you can experience.

    The real horror is the thought, “Is this as good as it gets? Could the relationship get better? Will the next one be better, or will it ever come?”

    Divorce is worst on the children. Again, something I know firsthand.

  18. Anonymous says:

    DYKES RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    greetingz from austria!!!

  19. Joe Code says:

    FJM has a good idea.

    My aunt and her lover broke up, but neither of them moved out. After a year of not speaking to each other they finally settled their differences and remained close friends for about 35 years. Both shared the same house, but the not the same bed, until my aunt passed away three years ago.

  20. firenze says:

    I think it’s really up to Clarice…I feel like Toni’s been trying, and Clarice has just been taking her and the relationship for granted and pouring it all into her job (which we haven’t even seen much of lately) and into her political rants (which don’t ever seem to translate into actual action, besides yelling at the radio). Maybe Clarice is so disillusioned by the complexity and labyrinthine nature of reality that she can’t commit to anything real. She just wants to be able to yell and be done.

  21. smooches! says:

    ya know, it’s pretty funny that:

    clarice as read as not trying and taking her family for granted but toni is read as “trying” [how? when?]

    an unhappy relationship is viewed as preferable to an unhappy one [they are CLEARLY not happy but there are those who would want them to stay together instead of being apart…as though “family” always means living in the same house.

    there’s no mention that raffi might actually be HAPPIER if his parents were.

    i love this series, have since, oh, 1901…but, frankly, i’m tired of toni and clarice…there’s no passion, there’s no connection, there’s no romance, there’s no joy…and in MY opinion, those things are necessary…i’d rather have a needle in my eye than to live in a sexless, passionless, joyless relationship…and i imagine that my partner would, as well…

    i’d love to see alison bring back passion to these characters…they deserve it…

  22. Becky Asrai says:

    I’m surprised so many people are confused why they would break up when they haven’t had sex since Clinton (said in one of the strips ages ago). I am a firm believer that if you don’t have at least semi-regular sex it is going to kill a relationship. I don’t know if it’s just the endorphins or whatever, but your partner always seems so much better and more wonderful after sex.

    Plus, Toni never really forgave Clarice for Ginger, and remember when they were moving into the new house together Clarice was thinking of moving on? It’s alright to have doubts, but it seems like Clarice has always been all doubts, and Toni is more committed to the relationship than she is.

    I would be happy to see them break up. I think it’s time. They’re making each other (and Raffi) miserable with their endless sniping and battling.

    Or they could *finally* just have some mind-blowingly (though modestly draped) sex, and the happy hormones will help them remember what they liked about each other in the first place…

  23. Juliana says:

    Dear Allison,

    I’ve read DTWOF since I was in college. Toni and Clarice were my favorite couple, and I was so happy when they had their baby. And I was happy that Rafi was being raised by two people who loved and respected each other. Now he might have to grow up with a split family like I did.

    And I know it’s stupid to project like this because Rafi isn’t even real, he’s a drawing, but the immature side of me is saying, “These things don’t work out in real life, but just once it would be cool to see the ‘my parents love each other again’ fantasy come true, even if it’s just in a comic strip.”

    Please don’t break up Clarice and Toni. Please let them learn how to work it out.

  24. pd says:

    I’ve seen Toni’s unhappiness for quite a while in her face and then I stepped back and thought, “This is a drawing” and that I can read such emotion in a simple pen-and-ink comic strip says something about Alison’s skill.

  25. Alexie says:

    I think that toni and clarice have really lost their joy, and its getting to be a real drag. also, raffi is such a pain. Even teenagers have some positive moments! Where’s the love?

  26. Rachel says:

    Alas, Toni & Clarice (and Alison Bechdel) are the only ones who can resolve their problems. Divorce is lousy, but long-term unrelenting unhappiness is no good either. To me (especially after reading the other postings) it doesn’t look hopeful for Clarice & Toni.
    Let me add my great respect and affection for DTWOF. I found DTWOF in 1991 & read it for about 3 years, then rediscovered it online circa 2003. It’s fabulous cartooning & social commentary. It’s also well-drawn and filled with vibrant characters. I don’t know if I’m AB’s typical reader (I’m straight, married, a mom & religious) but excellent work transcends all boundaries. P.S. Mo’s my favorite. I still chuckle over the “antiwar militia” episode. Happy Birthday Alison Bechdel and may you enjoy years of health, joy and creativity.

  27. shadocat says:

    Amen Juliana!I’ve been reading this strip since 1994; First from bar rags I would snitch and hide under my mattress; then I bought the books(atill under the mattress) then on Planetout (more open), and now here on the blog.

    Clarice and Toni represented something special to me; that a lesbian couple could raise a family, support each other during the hard times, and still love and want to be together.

    And yea my reasons are selfish, and here’s why: If Clarice and Toni”divorce”, one of them will eventually fade away…,
    Oh sure, they’ll agree on joint custody, but someone will end up with the physical custody of Raffi,and the stories will gradually shift to just the two of them. My money’s on Toni, since she’s the bio mom. Clarice will soon be reduced to the week-end parent role, and we’ll only see her picking him up or dropping him off. And eventually, Clarice will be sent away to “Cartoon Character Limbo” where she will be cryogeically frozen and left to float in a weightless room, along with the likes of Harriet, Thea, Jezanna, and the like–only to retrieved for a limitd cameo appearance at a barbeque, or some stupid parade.Then she’ll be taken back to “Limbo” where it could be years before we see her again!
    And I don’t want any of them to go away!

    Oh, and I have a bone to pick with Bechdel: Do ya think you could have posted this strip on a better day??—Say 9/12, or 9/13 or9/14? 9/11 is just the worst day (especially for those of us that lost someone) Ya know, the whole day’s a bummer, you try to get away from things by going home and reading your favorite comic only to discover that your two characters are breaking up! That’s just frickin’ great ain’t it?

  28. JanW says:

    Ugh, to see Toni and Clarice go through this. Clarice hasn’t been physically or emotionally available to Toni for years, and I think not to Raffi either. She can be angry and judgmental, but seems to be unmotivated to change anything about the relationship. Toni can’t handle it anymore, and it’s not a big surprise that she was the one to first say something about breaking up.

    I feel bad for Toni and I’d like to see Clarice get her head back together again so that I can start liking her again. Hasn’t she even considered trying another anti-depressant so that maybe she’ll have a sex drive?

    The other relationship that I’m concerned with is Mo and Syndey’s. Sydney has always been a game-player but I think she may have crossed the Rubicon when she told Mo to back off when Mo confronted her about blatantly arranging a tryst in front of her. Mo seems like the kind of person who won’t allow herself to be pushed past a point, and this might be too much for her. She can be unfazed and focused in the face of Syndey’s obfuscations when she’s motivated enough. I think she needs to lay the hard word on Sydney, because Sydney won’t respond to anything else at this point.

    While I can give Clarice a break for having problems that she isn’t entirely able to handle, Sydney needs to get over herself, now more than ever.

  29. Emma says:

    The reason Clarice and Toni are breaking up is because their idea of sex involves a.vanilla ice-cream and toaster waffles or b. intense auras and new wave music (See strips passim) or indeed c. one or both of them fantasising about other people. GRIM! If only they could widen their sexual horizons.
    But how ironic that Mo & Sydney are still more or less on the cards (last strip was surely semi-real at the most) when their relship has always seemed so much less functional. But th en – life is like that. I wonder if this is just like madwimmin closing – it had to happen and it will make us all weep. I do kind of assume that T&C have been happy between the lines though – we just always see the crap bits because it makes better drama.
    By the way – is Jezanna still with Audrey? I hope so. Now they were HOT.

  30. JanW says:

    I’ve never quite understood what Mo sees in Sydney. (Can any of you explain what that might be?)

    I’ve been wondering about Jezanna lately. When was the last time we hear about her or Audrey?

  31. Annika says:

    Exiting, they should have talked about it years ago. I hope, they won’t stay together just because they have a child…

  32. Sarah says:

    From what I picked up in the comics the past couple of years, is that Clarice AND Toni have been emotionally absent from each other for awhile now. Yes, Clarice likes to focus all of her attention on politics and what’s wrong with the world, but Toni didn’t seem to be doing much either, except the occaisional complaint that Clarice’s attention was focused elsewhere while she herself was focused on her job and Gloria. And couples therapy never seem to really work.

    I hate to see them break up, because I really like both characters and it would be nice to see a couple actually work out their problems instead of throwing in the towel because it’s easier. However, poor Raffi having to continue to grow up in a household where his parents become so bitter and weary of each other isn’t a pleasant thing to think about either.

    As for Mo and Sydney, I’m surprised as I read the earlier books that Mo even tries to put up with Sydney. I would dearly like to see Mo tell Sydney to get over herself.

    What DID happen to Thea and Jezanna? Or Harriet for that matter?

  33. Louise says:

    OK, I’d like to put in a good word for Raffi. It’s clear to me that he’s a good kid struggling with a lot of issues, and none of the adults around him have been able to think clearly about him. First of all, being a teenager is a rough time for anyone–you have to navigate your way into a grownup world that doesn’t treat most people well. Add to that his family is falling apart. Add to that he gets a lot of homophobia aimed at him at school. We don’t have a clear picture of Raffi’s sexual orientation yet, but I’d bet he’s heterosexual. This has to be very confusing.

    Who can he talk to? No one that I can tell. So he retreats into his technology (he’s done this his entire life), and emerges every now and then with a scathing comment or a heartbreakingly poignant request. “We could go to Disneyland next summer…” seems to be a desperate plea for normalcy (whatever that might mean).

  34. LondonBoy says:

    Gay male Bechdel fan here… Responses to a couple of points:
    1. I’m something of a Mo, and am going out with a real Sydney. Why? Because (in my eyes) he’s adorable, God knows why. Probably just the pheromones. He’s a cute, viciously abrasive academic, just like Sydney, with a love of expensive toys and selfishness. I’m constantly exasperated… but at least I’m never bored.
    2. I really don’t want to see Clarice and Toni split up. Has anyone here read “Podkayne of Mars” by Robert Heinlein? In the extended edition David Nordley writes eloquently of the need for Podkayne not to die, and I think the same kind of reasoning applies here: we see relationships fail all the time, and in the les-bi-gay-trans community we have very few positive role models (though more than we used to). Clarice and Toni are the only model we have for the “ideal” family that many of us – and many straight people – aspire to, and it would be sad to lose that. If there were lots of married couples in the strip I wouldn’t have the same feelings, but there aren’t. That said, I accept that DTWOF isn’t a democracy, but a benign dictatorship (and anyway as a gay man I’m mindful that I’m not the strip’s target demographic), so I guess I’ll just leave it to Alison’s view of what the artistic integrity of the strip calls for.

    But still I’d like a happy ending.

  35. syd says:

    People talk about how C and T have been together for the whole strip. Sometimes it feels like they’ve been trying to break up for the whole strip, too.

    It’s all very realistic, the boredom that comes from LTRs, grass-is-greener, codependency, complications with having a kid and wanting to make his world OK.

    But it would feel good– like ripping off a band-aid or something– to finally break up C and T for good. Seems like one of them would have to move away for it to work. Has Clarice just been working at the Enviro. Law. place for 10 years? Seems like it’s time for a new job…maybe relocation?

  36. Sir Real says:

    Perhaps T and C should see Cleo Baldershen, guerrilla therapist, for some `silly putty’ relationship-work?

  37. mabel says:

    Clarice and Toni should stay together because _this is as good as it gets_. Okay, maybe it could get a little better. They need to have sex and they need to do something together that is not about Raffi, but seriously, other than that, there ain’t too much wrong with their relationship.

    Also, let’s face it, when you are in a marriage like that one, bad patches don’t last for a couple of weeks, or months, they can last _years_. That’s the whole point of picking one person and sticking with them. She put up with your misery from 97-99, when all you did was shout at her. That’s okay because you put up with her obsessive compulsive neurosis about not travelling on the tube from 93-96. She never said anything kind to you or once asked how your day went from 89-91, while she was writing up her doctorate. Which is fine because you were not particularly supportive when her favourite cousin died in 98.

    Clarice and Toni need to stick it out. It will go down in history that between 2000 and 2009 they were not in love with each other very often. Bush’s departure will see things improve.

  38. shadocat says:

    I want to apologize for the tone of my previous posting. I was emotional about the day, and while at work, forced to watch Bush’s address to the nation, where he (once again) used the tragedy of that day as an excuse for his war mongering. As I re-read it today, I was a bit snotty and rude.

    I agree with Mabel. No need to repeat. And more sex, please. Better for all of us.

  39. Aunt Soozie says:

    uhm, breaking up and continuing to live together is a novelty?
    I thought all lesbians did that…isn’t that one of the lesbian nation rules?
    At least until one starts sleeping with someone else and then there’s this additional level of breaking up and then somebody moves out?
    What would be novel would be a truly peaceful parting and if they’ve gotta do it, it would be nice to see a really healthy model for ending a relationship and continuing to co-parent in a mutually respectful and kind way. It ain’t easy.

  40. Jude says:

    It’s nice to see Toni and Clarice actually considering the possibility of an ending because it’s pretty clear they’re together purely out of habit now. Clarice has gotten downright vicious to Toni — bordering on and probably crossing into the emotionally abusive. Toni has been looking strained and old and exhausted because of the emotional battering. She attempts to defend herself from time to time, but just doesn’t have the energy. Raffi is old enough that he’s seeing almost everything, and wants to understand more (yeah, right, he was spying on them because they might be plotting against the government — he was spying because he wanted to understand why one of his mothers seems to hate the other now).

    Yes, *please* break up, Toni and Clarice. It would be nice to see you human again someday. And maybe, just maybe, someone will take your good example and *dump the hell out of Sydney*. *Ahem*.

  41. Mickpub says:

    Hey Londonboy! I’m another gay male Bechdel fan, and another guy who can see himself as the Mo to his partner’s Sydney in some ways (but not all ways, thankfully…or I’d probably be in an institution at this point!). Of course, I’m more of the workaholic, so I could be the Clarice to his Toni at times, as well. AUGH! But I disagree that we’re not part of the target audience for this strip…. I think the target audience is whoever clicks with the world view and personal dramas that Allison creates (can I call you Allison, Ms. Bechdel?).

    To all…. I also find it sad that these characters whom I’ve followed for years seem to be on the brink of splitting up. Clarice and Toni have been through so much that we have invested in as readers that it doesn’t seem right to me that a straw would finally break their camel’s back (and PETA likely would agree LOL!). But looking at their history with a detached eye, they really do seem like they are stuck in an unhealthy rut. They have not really been healthy, honest, or happy with each other for quite a while now…so perhaps they need to separate and work on themselves before they can find real happiness, either together or with others.

    On a different note, if they do separate, I wonder if there will be some drama surrounding how that works out…especially since at least one of their weddings was a Vermont civil union, and trying to undo one of those without being a state resident can be very tricky. And wasn’t there a local or MA wedding at some point, too? Clarice and Toni may end up semi-legally being linked whether they like it or not…beyond co-parenting Raffi! Imagine how that could parallel Ginger’s current relationship!

    Speaking of Ginger, so many recent strips have focused on the Mo-Sydney and Clarice-Toni relationships. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the housemates and former Madwimmin crew!

  42. Em says:

    “and anyway as a gay man I’m mindful that I’m not the strip’s target demographic”

    I don’t think that the strip really has a ‘target demographic’, perhaps moreso in the early days but this has always been one of the most relatable comic strips ever, no matter your demographic. I see so many people I know in real life reflected in DTWOF, and as a heterosexual woman there’s so much more that I can relate to here than in most entertainment about and geared to single straight women (*cough*chick-lit*cough*) DTWOF is as part of my reference lexicon (“That reminds me of this one strip where…) as The Simpsons, David Sedaris, and Calvin and Hobbes.
    It’s sad that they’re splitting, but like Madwimmin closing, it just wouldn’t be realistic if they stayed together. Life will go on for both of them.

  43. Duffi says:

    OK, I need to weigh in here. C & T is not “as good as it gets.” I’m a bi-woman and I’ve been married for 16 years, with bad years and good, and in the good phases we have FUN. Laugh a lot. We have a daughter who has ADHD, clinical anxiety, needs her meds and her therapy, and we ALL have fun. There has to be a commitment to FUN somewhere, bad jokes, throwing sox at the TV when Bush is on, as well as social action, voting, eating good food..

    Well, rant over. I’ve seen gay relationships, lesbian relationships, bi-relationships, het relationships, and the good ones arent’ as dry and isolating as C & T’s seems to be. Although I will mourn if it happens, since I agree that the GLBT community needs all the role models we can get, it may be for the best if they do break up.

    As for Raffi, I wish his parents and his community paid more attention to his needs. Somehow I think his habit of burying himself in technology might be a symptom as well as an adaptive habit.

    And Mo should tell Sydney to respect some damn boundaries or she’s out on her self-indulgent ass.

  44. leslie says:

    you’re artwork really is so captivating.

  45. pd says:

    Speaking of Mo, didn’t she used to have a relationship with Clarice in college or do I misremember? Maybe they could give each other some advice. The logical lawyer could give some advice on dealing with the manipulative Sydney, while emotional Mo could give tips in properly ‘reading’ Toni (which C seems incapable of doing).

    And perhaps Raffi and his parents could take some practical advice from the only adult in the strip … Lois.

  46. Tom says:


    This is personally hard for me to deal with. I’ve been married for 14 years and my wife left without explanation 3 months ago. I thought marraige meant something.
    I’ve been reading this strip for 15 years as well. My wife introduced me to it. I think Clarice and Toni are an important statemtent to the straight community that yes, some lesbian couples can make it work.
    Despite being a polyamorous person, I was disapointed that Toni and Clarise were used to explore polyamory because they went about it all wrong, but I understood why it was done.
    I hope that Toni and Clarice manage to work it out, not just because I care about them as people, but becuase showing a lesbian couple overcoming the struggle and holding ground is something the world needs to continue to see. There is also the personal difficulty of me having enough divorce in my life right now. If my wife had talked to me, told me what was going on (as toni and clarice have done) maybe it would have been different. Maybe not. But I can dream.

    I’ve seen this thread coming for some time, but it’s still not to late. Heres hoping they pull it together. If they do it’s a great story!

  47. Twilight says:

    My husband introduced me to this strip and I’ve been reading it for 12 years.

    The idea of Toni and Clarice really saddens me. I know people break up but can’t there be more than one prominent couple that makes it last in the strip?

    I agree with the Cartoon Limbo Land comment. I so miss Harriet, Thea, and Jezanna. I know the bookstore closed but can’t she come back into the strip more often?

  48. Twilight says:

    Eeek. I meant to type the idea of Toni and Clarice breaking up really saddens me! I miss seeing them happy.

  49. Yossi says:

    I am really suprised that they have lasted this long. For years, Toni has held the family together. Clarice, as Toni has aptly put it has always had “one foot out the door.” Clarice has SEVERE intimacy issues and puts energy into politics that should go into her relationship and family. Both Toni and Raffi deserve better.

  50. Yossi says:

    Happy Birthday to Alison! I just turned 41 last month and as they say in the 1970’s commercials (I bet it was a Virginia Slims commerical or something like that), “We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.” I was just reflecting on my life and I realized that, come November 29, the anniversary of my coming out.I will have been reading this strip for seventeen years!!!! Happy Anniversary, Alison!

    P.S. I would like to see more Thea and Harriet and was wondering whatever the #$%& happened to Emma! LOL

  51. Quaint Irene says:

    Well, we couldn’t exactly say that we didn’t see this T & C thing coming, but it’s still a tremendous shock. I remember their first night in the new house, C sleepless with the mortgage bill — was that a hint of the level of her investment (ie pecuniary, not emotional) in their changing relationship? I wish we knew more about what had been happening between the strips — has it all been morose? surely not? But I wish I could also suspend a hunch that this plot development is to service a new theme of gay divorce.

  52. Ed says:

    Perhaps part of the downer with Toni and Clarice is that they seem to be “done.” Weren’t they talking about having a baby in their very first appearance? They’ve had the commitment ceremony, they’ve had the baby – where else can they go? For those of you who watch TV, remember how couples always seemed to get stale once they got together (Ross-Rachel, Sam-Diane, Dave-Maddy)? For the soap watchers, remember how couples faded away or broke up after they got married because the writers couldn’t think of anything else to do with them once they got married? Then there’s part of me that’s worried because when I heard of gay “divorces”, I cringe because I can picture the sanctimonious people saying, “See?” despite the fact that they may be pretty unhappy themselves.

    I will chime in and say I hated the whole Gloria storyline and the events that brought Toni and Gloria together that night seemed very fake and false. Cancelling a trip with your kids on their way OUT THE DOOR and Clarice didn’t have any warning bells that Toni and Gloria would be spending all that time together alone? Wouldn’t Clarice have been the one to do something like that? It was the only “Dykes” plot development in twenty years that seemed contrived and didn’t work for me.

    Hmm, maybe they’ll break up and Clarice will go off into a spin-off strip of her own where she moves to a new city, gets a new place and gets a funky dyke friend named… oh say, Rhonda who lives upstairs.

  53. shadocat says:

    I agree with Ed–It seemed so out of character for Toni to ditch a trip with her son so she could cheat on Clarice with a woman that she’s been attracted to since when, Raffi was a baby? She knows how much it hurts to be cheated on; did she really have that much bottled up anger towards Clarice? Clarice has problems,yes, but are they ones so bad that Toni has to do something that will hurt so many people?
    Doesn’t compute for me.

    Also, lots of people have commented on “Why does Mo stay with Sydney?” My question is,”What does Sydney see in Mo?
    Just wondering.

  54. Frowner says:

    I would be delighted if Clarice and Toni split up, honestly. (And I am astonished and delighted that there are all these comments by people as intricately familiar with the strip as I am–I haven’t been reading this online for very long) I identify sort of strongly with Clarice because she has some of my failings–she’s kind of selfish and often seems to want the classic left-wing single person life (as when she didn’t want to move to the suburb). She seems a bit immature, like Toni has done all the emotional work of the relationship leaving her free to act and think like she’s still 25. Toni is a much more adult and, I think, better person. She deserves a partner who is her equal. That’s the thing–she and Clarice are not equals at all in terms of character and emotional competence. I found the “Toni and Gloria hook up” plot line fairly plausible, because I think that Clarice knows on some level that she and Toni are no longer really together; maybe she even wants someone else to be there for Toni for all that tricky stuff about feelings and nuance.

    As to Raffi, I just don’t believe that a divorce would be as harmful as in many relationships–Clarice and Toni both really care about him and they’re both smart parents. Clarice isn’t going to stiff Toni on child-support payments or flee to the other end of the country and never write or call.

    It’s true that I’ve felt for the last year or so that the strip is marking time a bit (maybe because of Fun Home). What’s happening with Harriet’s kid, for example?

    What does Sydney see in Mo? A patsy, maybe. Constant support from someone who is not an academic and who won’t knife her at the drop of a copy of Archaeology of Knowledge, maybe. I also feel like not everything is there on the surface of the comic–I have a feeling that Mo is more theory-smart than she is written. (Or maybe I’m assuming that “What does Sydney see in Mo?” means “Why does an academic theory-head spend a lot of time with someone who doesn’t speak Theory?”) Then too, there are theory types who prefer to hang out with non-theory types so that they can show off and/or get new ideas and/or test theory ideas against what non-theory people say.

    I like Mo and Sydney’s relationship a lot. I think it complexifies Mo, for one thing. We’ve seen her in a lot more depth and in a lot more situations than back when she was dating Harriet and worrying about how evil it was to get a VCR. Sydney is sort of horrid, in an alluring way, and it sheds new light on Mo that she is interested in someone so awful.

    Reading all these comments has been really great!

  55. Marie says:

    I’m so glad to see someone defend Mo and Sydney! Maybe it’s simply because I see so much of my own relationship in theirs, and even, indeed, see strong aspects of myself in both of them, but they have always made perfect sense to me.

    *Both* of them get trapped in their lingo, their strongly characteristic speech patterns, and their own heads! They’re mirrors of one another, often contradicting one another or talking past eachother, but then again those little flashes of synergy also seem so right and so intensely theirs.

    Am I the only person who has been in love with somebody who in some ways doesn’t seem like an obvious fit but with whom I nevertheless experience some kind of gut symmetry??

    I love Sydney from her round head to those terrible faults! And I agree with Frowner’s comment about how Sydney complexifies Mo, humanizing her at points where all her political rhetoric won’t help.

  56. Ed says:

    Frowner’s remarks made me want to clarify, it wasn’t so much the cheating between Gloria and Toni that I found unrealistic (I mean come on, who DIDN’T think that would eventually happen), it was the whole “Oh no, let’s cancel the trip and work together alone and you take the kids” situation that I thought was a bit sloppy. But again, one plot line I didn’t think rang true in twenty years is still a good record.

  57. fjm says:

    Mo is hooked on Sydney because Sydney never gets tired of arguing with her. I’ve had that intellectual fierceness with a lover. It overwhelms all common sense.

  58. Anya says:

    I know that almost since the beginning there has been a ridiculous expectation that it’s somehow AB’s responsibility to document every single corner of queer female existence… but with that said, and apologies for being part of it, I have to say my strongest reaction was: maybe Toni & Clarice could finally have an openly non-monogamous relationship, and ***FINALLY*** do justice to the word polyamory that has been thrown around and (in my feeling) misused in this strip for the last decade? There are so many proud open poly dykes in the world now…

  59. shadocat says:

    Isn’t it funny how deeply these characters can affect us? I once read that Dickens serialized his novels in newspapers first, before they wer published as books. When “The Old Curiousity Shop” had its newspaper run, people on this side of the pond were left hanging as to the fate of “Little Nell”.When the boat from England pulled into the harbor, the docks were lined with crowds of people shouting,”Did she die??”

    My thoughts on M and S; I think deep down in her cold little heart, Sydney really does love Mo. Mo is able to be a lot of things that Sydney can’t be: caring, passionate (about things other than sex, that is)and pretty much faithful, and somewhere under those layers of bitchy selfishness, Sydney finds this endearing. Also, Mo’s willing to be her doormat and do any sexual activity Sydney wants, but I digress.

    BTW, I have a question for Londonboy, or any other Brits out there. I have friends from Manchester who were recently stateside, and while we were getting ready for a hike, I mentioned getting my “fanny pack”. They both started laughing and said I better come up with a new name for it before I visit them next month. According to them, in England, the word “fanny” is slang for “vagina”. Is this true, or are they just having me on?

    Sorry for that interuption, now back to the strip…

  60. shadocat says:

    sorry for any spelling errors-spellcheck is on the fritz

  61. Twilight says:

    shadowcat-I don’t live in the UK but I’ve heard that fanny is slang for vagina over there.

  62. Ed says:

    Oh and for me, one more comment. I love how Raffi really looks the way young boys do today- shaggy hair and all. It’s so obervant and right on. It’s getting hard to find a young kid nowadays who doesn’t have that shaggy hair.

  63. John Morales says:

    Y’know it’s time. That’s all there is too it.

    The best thing about their possible breakup is the civilty that Al is hinting at due to the ephiphany-like understanding both get in the car.

    A good relationship with enough love AND sex is definitely worth fighting to keep, but these characters don’t have that.

    What they have is the worst thing imaginable for two people who believe in true love, and that’s a relationship borne of fear of being alone. That fear blinds them to their potential as individuals, and keeps them together long after they should have parted.

    The irony is by parting isn’t always the end. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Taking some time away from each other could awaken them to the original attraction that brought them together. That’s just as likely as them realizing the person they fell in love has become unrecognizable today.

    In regards to Mo, their relationship paralells a lot of straight relationships in which the man cheats on his wife, then makes her feel bad that she dislikes it so. While the lesbian dynamic does moderate this somewhat. Stripped of any identifying sexual indentifiers, their dialogue would fit such a straight relationship almost seemlessly.

  64. Jaibe says:

    I am pretty socially conservative — I mean, I always think couples shouldn’t break up. Like John Lennon said, the next time you’ll only get as far as you got the previous time *if you’re lucky* and then you’ll have to work through those issues anyway. On the other hand, he said that about Yoko Ono, not his first wife! And Clarice and Toni — I haven’t got why AB has had it in for them for the last decade, but they are hardly the model of lesbian relationships at this point. They were when they could still be friends with Ginger, but when that re-obsession of Clarice’s lasted way too long (past the move) it’s really been all down hill since then. And if they start over, they will never wind up at this same place again — at least, I doubt either of them would have another child.

    I’ve always thought Clarice should run for office. I thought it was ludicriously sad that Toni & Gloria were never going to have sex with the women they actually loved again — it has to be easier than that to have an affair (not that I’ve tried).

    And this Mo & Sydney thing — *please*!! You know who was evil? Madeline! She exploited a position of authority both when Sydney was a student and then again when Sydney was vulnerable at the conference. Madeline (as the famous one) should have spoken last against the bigwig, but she shafted Sydney with that slot, and then seduced here while she was insecure and vulnerable so Sydney never even blamed her. In the book, Sydney was sad afterwards & it might have been fixable. But why is she still emailing all the time? Can’t their therapist figure out what happened? Wouldn’t she be over that stupidity and back onto Mo by now? I thought Mo had let her off the hook in one sweet episode right after Charles Schulz died, but I don’t get why she’s back on the hook again if there’s been no more cheating.

    And while I’m ranting, I could have sworn when I saw Phranc open for Billy Bragg in the 1980s she said she gave the same self-intro as on the little film, but said she was Catholic, not Jewish. Did she change religions or have I had a brain failure? (probably!) She sang this really sad song about her grandmother getting dementia that no one wanted to hear because we wanted to hear Billy Bragg be funny and then she got mad at us.

  65. Frowner says:

    It’s often true that if you’re chronically unhappy in a relationship then merely getting a new one won’t help matters. But Clarice and Toni? They don’t seem to have much in common intellectually or politically any more. As much as parents have responsibility toward children, people also have some “responsibility” toward themselves–what happens when you get to the end of your life and look back on forty or fifty years in a relationship with someone you found dull, someone you didn’t really love, someone who didn’t really love you? And with Clarice and Toni, well, these aren’t two people who have been hooking up and breaking up, hooking up and breaking up, just moving on when things get the least little bit dull. They’ve been together since…er..since I was fifteen or sixteen, so that’s fifteen or sixteen years now.

    It’s funny. I have a lot more faith in the durability of Mo’s and Sydney’s relationship, precisely because it’s so weird. Yeah, Sydney is going to maybe sleep with Madeleine and lust after her grad assistant, but she’s not going to get all pent up and frustrated and leave. (See, I really disliked Madeleine until we met her in that long sequence (which I thought was just about the best thing I’ve ever seen in comics) But she does care for Sydney. I don’t think she shafted Sydney in terms of conference placement–if anything, she tried to support Sydney. [Must remember that these are not real people…not real people] Madeleine didn’t control the conference schedule, and if anything she spent her precious time shepherding a not-super-successful colleague instead of schmoozing for her own goals. Which–given how an awful lot of Comp Lit people are, and how horribly vicious the discipline can be–is practically like being Mother Theresa.

    What we see with horrid Sydney and horrid Madeleine is two sort of horrid people who have grown up. Neither is the same totally shallow, careerist person as when Sydney was a grad student. That’s what I like about DTWOF; we see people grow and change the way people really do, not merely stay static or grow into “mature”, “sincere” figureheads.

    Oh, I meant to add that I don’t think Toni and Clarice should be polyamorous–they aren’t the types. They are exactly the type to talk about polyamory when their relationship is doing poorly. A polyamorous character would make sense, though. What about Lois? Maybe she’s getting tired of “Another Girl, Another Planet” and wants to settle down with just a couple of partners…or maybe she hooks up with a polyamorous person that she likes enough to be serious about?

  66. MoAlterEgo says:

    I hope Clarice and Tony are always friends, and cherish the love and relationship and community (and equity) they built together. Clarice and Toni feel like realy people to me.

    What about Mo’s brother the money-man, Scott? I think it is time Scott and his wife (Rose?) had another baby. Recall the first baby was the catalyst to get Mo and Syndney back togther after Sydney sold the intimate “chats” to Panthouse magazine.

    A visit to Syndey’s father (and her step-mother, a lovely woman) is always educational for Mo. Something needs to turn a loght on in Mo’s head. She needs a kick to get OUT of this relationship. I feel Sydney is playing with Mo, and self-absorbed.


  67. Jaibe says:

    Madeleine couldn’t control the full conference schedule (so *someone* on her panel would always be up against the bigwig) but she could control her panel schedule (so she could decide not to go last & make Sydney do it.) She was charming, evil is often charming. She *offered* to introduce Sydney to people knowing they were leaving, then just swept her off to bed. I like her as a character but am all the more shocked someone would support her actions even after they were pointed out. Ultimately people are responsible for their own relationships (& she was cheating too), but Madeleine is definitely bad, caring more for her own fun & career than the people whose lives she messes up.

  68. Yossi says:

    I think that we have a tendency to be be a little harsh on both Mo and Sydney. I think that their relationship is the model relationship rather than C & T’s. Clarice cares about Clarice. Toni is bascially a single parent anyway. Let’s face it: Clarice did not want to be a mother and I don’t think she does now. Many of our parents had children when it was the “expected” think to do in one’s life. Having a child should be based on the need to love and nuture and bring joy into the world. Mo’s moral principles might be a little irritating and tiresome at times for her friends but they are intellectually stimulating. I don’t buy into this “polyamory” crap. It’s just an excuse to have your cake and eat it too. In my younger days, I did my share of three-ways, gangbangs and three-way relationships. They don’t work. As we get older, we just want to be with “someone who makes us laugh.” Here is to Mo and Sydney’s 50th anniversary!! (Hopefully, Sparrow will dump that crybaby pseudo-feminist Stuart and return to her delightful nuttiness!)

  69. Sir Real says:

    Yossi, please recognize – polyamory didn’t work for _you_. If you’ll kindly review this thread, among a wealth of other sources, you’ll see that it does for others. Thank you.

  70. Frowner says:

    Jaibe–a basic difference in interpretation about Madeleine has occurred! Although now that you point it out in such detail, I agree that she shouldn’t have left Sydney to be last and that she could certainly have prevented it. The thing is, I feel like Madeleine and Sydney are both rather bad people who have flashes of being good/decent people. (And for those readers who have experience of academia, we could probably each produce a LIST of folks rather like Madeleine and Sydney). That’s what I like about them. They’re extremely real and extremely complex (and their characters are developed over a long time), in ways that almost no other comix artist has portrayed characters. Would I go out with Sydney? Not on your life! I’ve spent years weaning myself away from Sydney-o-types. Do I think Mo is crazy to go out with her? No. Mo is compromising some of her principles to go out with Sydney, but the thing is, Mo brings out Sydney’s better qualities and her (limited) decency.

    And let’s not forget Sydney’s arrogant mess of a father and his ex-grad-student wife…consider what Sydney’s working from.

    What I like about DTWOF is the imperfection of the characters. Looked at from the outside, an awful lot of people’s lives have large selfish/irrational/otherwise bad elements–and not just because we live in the developed West.

  71. Angie says:

    For some reason, I’ve always been able to forgive Sydney for her ego-centredness. I think it’s because she’s so bloody honest about everything (except Madelaine). She’s upfront with what she thinks and she’s self-serving in a way that I admire, having grown up in a religious home where I was taught to be compliant and put everyone else first. Oh yeah – I also think she’s kinda hot.

  72. Suzanonymous says:

    Why Toni would bring this up: her Dreams have been nagging at her insistently through the years.

    Also, didn’t her friend Gloria break up with her partner? Maybe I misremembered?

    Oh, another thought is that being around narcissistic people (like toddlers and teenagers can be) can bring out narcissism in yourself. If each person is in their own world, there’s less reason to be together. And look how separate Raffi is.

    I wonder if Raffi ever sees Carlos these days.

  73. sdampf says:

    After reading this ‘one hell of a conversation’ I cant help thinking what are relationships supposed to be like? Are we all buying into some fantasy that we read about or watch on tv? We all do what works. If we dont like it we move on. Either we like the situation or we like the complaint. Or we like the addiction.
    On another tangent, I think Alison is doing a great job writing believable dialoge. Her illustration skills have grown
    leaps and bounds. She should be proud of herself and accept the praise.
    P.s. AB, the painting is coming along well.

  74. JenK says:

    Special note to Alison: Hope all this commentary does NOT make you frozen with indecision!

  75. TM says:

    They should not break up if current research on childhood development is correct. Children suffer most in a divorce and it has serious consequences for them. In fact, children do better in homes with unhappy marriages than in divorced families, unless there is violence or other abuse in the parents’ relationship. For more info, see “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce” by sociologist Elizabeth Marquardt. Although the research is based on heterosexual marriages/families, I see no reason that it wouldn’t apply to homosexual marriages/families. If you have children, they are more important than your desire to be “happy,” whatever that is. Another good psychological study is “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25-year Landmark Study” by Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee.

  76. Xanthe says:

    Going back a bit in the convo, but as a Brit, I thought I’d confirm that fanny does indeed mean front bottom over here 🙂

    As much as it saddens me, as Clarice and Toni used to be the couple who were still passionate after all these years, I think they’ve run out of steam. I’ve been reading Dykes since 1987 and have seen idealogical differences between them for many years, first with Toni wanting a baby, wanting to move to the suburbs and then wanting to get married, and Clarice somehow going along with it, freaking out along the way. The differences between Toni and Clarice’s feelings towards gay marriage were particualrly stark in strip 453.

    As for Raffi, maybe he will suffer if Toni and Clarice break up. But he appears to be suffering already in the atmosphere at home, with his parents no longer working as a team and often too wrapped up in themselves and their politics to notice how he’s picked on by the other kids and how isolated he’s become. Not unlike how the Bechdel family all withdrew into themselves when it became clear how little love there was at home.

    Plus Toni is looking so old and tired these days. She used to be gorgeous! I’d like to see some of that old sparkle back again.

  77. Frowner says:

    TM–not only is there substantial debate about that study, but I can think of LOTS of reasons that the results would not apply to Toni and Clarice (if, you know, they were real people). First off, just because a study tells you that most people experience something does not mean that everyone will (just as, even though most men don’t do their share of chores, not all men flake out). Second, we don’t know why some people don’t experience the thing, but we can do some useful speculating. There are some European studies (and some useful round-ups of others’ results) that suggest that the problems with divorce are very substantially tied up with a particular type of straight people acrimony–Mom and Dad split, Mom has been out of the labor market for years or working part time or being the lesser earner, and so household income goes down since child support is not figured in a manner that really makes things equivalent to pre-divorce. Dad splits to the other coast and hooks up with a younger woman who wants her own babies (or he decides he wants a Jaguar and a boat) and he doesn’t pay all his child support. Plus, he’s gone. Not only do the kids never see him any more, but the house stuff that he used to do doesn’t get done or falls on the kids. Maybe Mom doesn’t (like my mother didn’t) know how to do a lot of the financial and home repair stuff that Dad took care of, and life is a lot harder for her for that reason. And, come to that, who knows what Mom is up to? Is this just the start of Parade of Ill-advised boyfriends? Did she not really want kids in the first place and so she distances herself from them?

    The thing is, these things can really mess a kid up. And obviously divorce isn’t a picnic for anyone. But these things listed above are unlikely (to put it mildly) to characterize a split between Toni and Clarice. It’s not “divorce” in the abstract that is so bad for children but the conditions that arise from divorce.

    And then there’s the question: are Toni and Clarice supposed to be a model couple or not? If they’re not a model couple, maybe their experience would be a description of how hard it can be to split up rather than a shining example of how to hold it together.

    Maybe I should stop now, though–this is fascinating for me but I’m starting to worry about JenK’s point above. No matter how it all works out, I know I’ll read DTWOF with fascination as long as there is a DTWOF to read.

  78. Deb says:

    Can’t say I agree with the divorce study, though I have not read it. From personal experience, my boys did so much better socially, academically and even medically after my divorce from a neglectful man, though not physically or emotionally abusive. Perhaps my family was a fluke but we did struggle financially quite a bit, but became closer as a unit after I divorced.

  79. Angie says:

    I have always been adamant that a divorce is better for kids than living with two people that loathe one another. I was 14 when my parents separated, and I was relieved. They took 4 more agonising years of trying to “work it out for the kids” before pulling the plug on the marriage. Divorce is never fun or easy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than watching your parents be miserable. Watching my mom blossom into a whole person at 40 was the best life lesson I ever had.

  80. shadocat says:

    Thank all you anglo-philes for the answer to my question. I certainly won’t be asking for any “Fanny Farmer” choclates in Manchester!

    I’ve been thinking alot abot this lately, and this is what I miss, more than anything: I miss the LOVE. Remember Toni and Clarice’s first wedding and wedding night? Wasn’t that romantic? And when Raffi was born-Clarice seemed to be all for having him then. It was so sweet, it brought tears to my eyes. Oh, and when Mo worried all day how to say “I love you” to Harriet, and she suprised Mo by saying it to her? (yes i know, they’re never getting back together). I was even moved when Sydney told Mo over the phone “I love you”, (even though shhe had just cheated on her and was probably feeling really guilty), I’ve come to realize that, break them up, keep ’em together, whatever! It’s been such a long time anyone in the “Dyke World” has been in love, and I miss it! Where has the love gone, baby, where is the love?

  81. Wonka says:

    Concerning shadocat, her “Fanny Farmer” chocolates, and
    the differences between British and American English:

    A few years ago there was a disney-ish movie released
    in the US about a “tame” killer whale and his
    adventures with his school-aged chums.

    At the time of its release, I remember hearing a spot
    on the radio in which a Brit reporter wandered the
    streets of London, microphone in hand, asking passersby,
    who reacted in various stage of disbelief, if they were
    planning to see this movie called “Free Willy”.

  82. Anne says:

    I think good people can get into a relationship they intend to work on, but end up growing apart as partners while growing up personally. It sucks, but sometimes you do look across the car/breakfast table/bed and realize “This doesn’t work for me anymore.” I know people, including lesbian couples, and my own parents, who haven’t gotten there. My own parents struggled with dragging the company they owned back from the brink of bankruptcy and fought hard against letting the exhaustion and disappointment of that take over their relationship, but essentially they grew together. Some people don’t.

  83. syd says:

    I wanted to respond to Mabel’s comment that “Clarice and Toni should stay together because _this is as good as it gets_.

    Doesn’t that kinda assume that being single is always worse than being in a relationship? For all we know, C and T might be SO MUCH HAPPIER post-relationship. Although I think an ironic and interesting story arc would be about Toni feeling great on her own, and Clarice missing the relationship post-breakup.

  84. Deb says:

    syd, that would be an interesting twist wouldn’t it? I have felt C’s ambivilance with an occasional injection of passion through the years. T has been portrayed as putting in her “all” over the years with the occasional “slip”. I wonder if Clarice would find her way clear to really pursue her relationship with Ginger? I think Ginger has just been another distraction for C…….another way to avoid the scariness of intimacy.

  85. mlk says:

    I see a few hopeful signs that Clarice and Toni can work it out. not so long ago, Clarice stormed into the therapist’s office ranting about a loss in court and then said something like “you know, after all these years you’d think this wouldn’t bother me so much.” And Toni remembered why she loved Clarice to begin with and felt that love again — at least she gave her a pretty passionate kiss. and I don’t know that they stayed for therapy. (hmmmmmmmm . . I’ll have to check on that).

    and Clarice has had a way of coming through when she’s on the verge of losing Toni — like when they moved to the suburbs. that was one hellish move, and Toni gave Clarice an ultimatum. Clarice stepped up, got the electricity on (she’d really messed up the utilities at BOTH places) and they had the beginning of a romantic interlude — until Raffi wandered in.

    just because Toni says they never have sex doesn’t mean it’s true . . . but they’re obviously not getting enough of it (or it ends w/an argument).

    I may be imagining it, but seems like the spark is still there, and the commitment can be rekindled if Clarice steps up — and then they figure out how they can be in each other’s lives again. it may require a career sacrifice on Clarice’s part. or, as someone suggested, maybe she could run for office and make a commitment to gay marriage part of her platform.

    it takes a lot of creativity and goodwill to make a change that gets things on track again. I haven’t managed that in any of my relationships, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    whether Toni and Clarice stay together, I expect they’ll both have a good relationship with Raffi. Clarice has always been open and affectionate w/him and Toni’s an incredible mother. Raffi may be better off if they do split — it’d probably strengthen his relation w/them both. it’d be a shame, though, to abandon their relationship if it can be salvaged.

    I agree w/those who want to see more of the Mad Wimmin’ characters. and the school year’s started again; wonder what’s up with Cynthia and Ashley?

  86. northlondon says:

    Wonka, did you hear about the UK screening of Free Willy where a queen in the audience shouted ‘That’s not a movie, it’s a special offer!’

  87. mlk says:

    oops! sorry folks . . . I recently reread Split Level Dykes and I think the therapy session Toni & Clarice’s passion was rekindled happened during the therapy for C’s Ginger obsession. may be too long ago to make any difference now.

  88. Yossi says:

    Sir Real, I stand behind my comments about polyamory. It is basically ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Thank you

  89. Ellen O. says:


    It’s ironic that you call polyamory a form of “arrested development.” Isn’t that how psychiatrists once viewed homosexuality?

  90. Deb says:

    LOL, good one Ellen O !

  91. Jezzie says:

    Okay, I couldn’t realistically read all the posts, but here’s some reflection on my 46th b-day. Gay or straight, a long-term relationship survives b/c partners are committed and in love for the long haul. Therapy is not a necessary component, but growth is. Communication must be frequent and evolving. Compromise and negotiation must be fluid, ongoing, and open. Fear kills a relationship, not lack of sex. Openess without blame is necessary, especially when confronting difficult issues. I’ve blossomed in a 15 year r’ship, longer than any of my straight sibs’ marriages, and I – we – did not have any good models on either side: divorce on hers, wierd 50s marriage on mine. We have an almost 18 yr. old son, and he has been crucial at every junction of “maybe we should pull out now”. He adores us both, and has been aware, over the years, of trouble, altho he has not always been aware of the reason. As he got older, he was able to clearly tell us to quit it and work it out. Was our home filled w/conflict? During periods, yes it was. It was loud at times, quiet at times, weeping at times. Is that normal, expected? Absolutely. Are we bored and dysfunctional, living in denial? No…that’s worse than impulsive divorce. We’ve dealt w/every divorce-causing issue I can think of: infidelity, addiction, criminal behavior related to addiction, depression, financial upheaval, child rearing, job loss, job change, death of close friends/family members, chronic, debilitating illness. I used to think we were so different, so frequently “blessed” with challenge, but I’ve discovered, in communication w/mostly straight and a few lesbian couple friends, that we are not so different, nor is our life so difficult. Our attitude is unique, tho, like those of other close, long-term couples…as long as couples still love and respect one another, work it harder, b/c it is worth saving. My “obsession” w/Clarice and Toni exists b/c I have “seen” them go thru, in almost the same time frame, many of the issues my partner and I have. I still see them as loving and committed; I also see them living with so much unspoken fear, so much unspoken everything. It needs to come out, which means they have to get under the anger, and recognize coping skills born out of fear and exchange them for healthier coping methods. Raffi in the backseat is the voice of hope beyond the fear…in close, loving families, the child often is: even in his anger and adolescence, Raffi wants his family to be “back to normal”. Clarice and Toni have some good friends in their lives, another important factor…we have some very close friends who, in our worst times, were “there for us”, individually (very important) and together. Sooo, selfish me, I want to see my favorite fiction lesbians get thru it, loving life, one another and their boy.

  92. Dianne says:

    Not sure I can say anything original after this many comments, but what the hey.

    Clarice, Toni, and Raffi might all be happier if they broke up. The evidence that children do better when their parents stay in unhappy marriages than when they divorce is extremely flaky at best and contradicted in some studies. No one has really come up with a good way of measuring whether the “unhappy but stable” marriages are really as unhappy as the ones that end in divorce anyway so it’s almost impossible to get good data. My parents were both happier after they divorced and I was relieved that they got it over with. (Not that my personal anecdote means anything in particular.)

    But the relationship I think should have ended long ago is Mo and Sydney’s. Sydney is an abuser. She isolates, belittles, verbally abuses, and cheats on Mo. Sydney’s defenders should ask yourselves: would you be making excuses for her behavior if she were a man? If Stuart hooked up with an ex, published erotic writings that he and Sparrow had written to each other without her permission, and told her she was a pathetic loser on every possible occasion would you be talking about how much you like him?

  93. Straight Girl Fan says:

    Gotta weigh in on the conference scheduling thing:

    Assuming Madeleine organized the symposium (as opposed to just being the moderator of a session, basically a glorified time-keeper), she still wouldn’t neccessarily have known the rest of the program. And once the conference program is printed, she can’t (or shouldn’t) change things.

  94. jane says:

    Wow Jezzie,
    I really liked what you had to say. I wish I had your way of thinking before my partner and I broke up.

  95. Frowner says:

    Dianne–that’s an interesting question. I guess I could think of it two different ways. One being: well, Sydney isn’t a man. She isn’t in a straight relationship. Queer relationships are not just like straight relationships only with non-straight people. So the meaning of her actions is different. She doesn’t have the various patriarchal priviledges that help make actions taken by straight guys so devastating. It’s not the action itself but the action in a setting that matters most of the time. (Just as if Clarice and Toni split up, the power dynamics simply won’t be those of the average straight divorced couple. )(And what do we mean by “a man” anyway? I mean, Stuart is not exactly representative even in my experience of mild-mannered lefty-crunchy guys, and if he took an obnoxious action it wouldn’t have nearly as much weight behind it as if he were some macho fellow in a relationship with a shrinking violet.) I also wonder whether Sydney really isolates Mo. Certainly Mo seems to give as good as she gets in the insult department. Sydney isn’t the financially stable one. She doesn’t physically threaten Mo. In fact, I suspect that Sydney needs Mo more than Mo needs Sydney. I have a pair of relatives in a relationship like this, where it’s the more difficult one who is actually the more dependant even though that’s not how it looks to the casual eye.

    I guess I don’t see Sydney’s behavior as deal-breaker behavior.

    But I certainly think (and this is Interpretation Two) that one might legitimately wonder why Mo stays with rude, crabby, financially imprudent Sydney.

    On another note, I may just be one of those post-modern moral relativists, but I find it hard to say that one or another type of relationship is “mature” or “arrested development” categorically. Especially where everyone involved has a degree of financial and social independance. Although this is not the forum for it, I wonder what it is about polyamory that produces such discomfort. Is it anxiety that others are having more fun? (Which is a horrible and real anxiety arising from feelings of deprivation and misery; it’s not a silly feeling to have) A fear that an unprincipled polyamorist may steal one’s partner? A fear that polyamory disrupts an already difficult sexual economy?(Again, not a ridiculous feeling to have; the sexual economy is as tricky and messed up as the regular one) Because really, people don’t generally have strong opinions on other people’s (non-abusive) relationship stuff unless they feel some visceral connection to it.

  96. Andrew B says:

    Clarice and Toni have a million things to talk about that matter to their relationship and instead they are talking to each other in forced and unconvincing political metaphors. They are obviously not staying together merely out of habit (nor, for that matter, is the Bush administration staying in Iraq merely out of habit). Why are they talking about their relationship as if they were? They have so many real and urgent issues to discuss with each other, there’s nothing external preventing them from having an honest discussion (as the wealth-based media arguably prevent an honest national political discussion), yet they choose to discuss their relationship in terms of the Bush administration’s dishonest political cliches. Why?

  97. Land O' Lakes says:

    As long as we’re delving into our personal histories as the products of divorced parents in responce to T & C’s potential breakup (hi, Juliana!), I would like to interject that divorce doesn’t necessarily leave all parties involved irrepairably traumatized, nor does it have to involve one of the parents being banished to “limbo”, cartoon or otherwise. My parents got a (not particularly amicable) divorce when I was 14, and at the time it did indeed feel like the end of the world, but to their credit they both made a great effort to be civil to one another, they split the custody of my sister and I completely evenly, and they both remarried very quickly to wonderful people. In short, everybody wound up a lot happier than they had if my parents had stayed married. (My mom and stepdad even accompanied me to one of Alison’s readings this summer!) I do feel sorry for Clarice and Toni in the sense that if they do divorce, I don’t think Raffi will make things any easier- I know that when I was a teenager, I took my parent’s divorce as unfettered license to be an asshole to both of them.

  98. shadocat says:

    Regarding the “polyamory issue”:

    I can only speak from my own personal experiences, but polyamory only seemed to work (among the couples I’ve known)
    when both people were on the “P Page” from the begining, which is not very often.

    This is how it usually comes up: Mary and Sue fall in love. Time goes by, the relationship encounters stress/problems, or let’s say Mary gets bored. Mary thinks being poly will add excitement to the relationship. Sue, afraid of losing Mary agrees to the deal.

    Then one of two thing seem to happen, or maybe both: Sue grows so unhappy and miserable that she is forced to break up with Mary, or Mary finds someone she likes better and breaks up with Sue. I have never seen polyamory work as a tool to improve a relationship in trouble.

    Aside from that, I don’t know if Toni or Clarice can count much on their friends for a lot of support. Their little “community” has drifted apart, just like all of our communities. Sure they get together occasionally, but mostly they’re all involved in their own lives. The more we have moved into the mainstream, the less cohesion we have with the rest of the gay community. It sucks, but that’s the way it is all over.

    As for myself, I still wish Toni and Clarice would wind up back in each other’s arms. And I’d like to see Harriet one more time before I die. That’s all.

  99. Jezzie says:

    Jane, thanks for your positive response. Sometimes I feel like dyke Pollyanna b/c I’m so gooey, pro-family “it can be done” among all the “give it up already” naysayers. I think DTWOF is the best social commentary on lesbian and political culture in print. Therefore, I view all the characters thru an iconic lens (not sure that works grammatically, but it sounds good to me)and want them to live the ideal fantasies…or, maybe my ideal fantasies, which include the couple w/the kid making it. It legitimizes my experience, for one, which is still not completely legitimized in dominent gay and lesbian culture, just like single-mom lesbians aren’t,teen lesbians (esp. in poor communities) aren’t, poor and working class lesbians aren’t, inner city and rural lesbians aren’t, African-American, Native American, Chicana, Puerto Rican, and all other non-white lesbians aren’t, butch/femme lesbians aren’t (they’re romanticized, but not necessarily celebrated on a large scale, beyond their historical relevance), sex worker lesbians aren’t (kinda sounding all USofAish, maybe a mirror of the bigger cultural picture?). Women like Pat Califia, Leslea
    Neu(New?)man, Michelle Tea and Alison B and her pen and ink community give legitimacy to the smaller enclaves of the lesbian diaspora. We are a culturally rich and culturally diverse nation, and one thing I’ve always appreciated abt. this strip is its desire to delve into that diversity…sometimes awkwardly; always honestly. I originally cringed abt. Sparrow and hairy, whining, unattractive(okay, I still have issues)Stuart, and was angry abt. the bookstore shutting down, but these evolutions give the strip credibility, and I want that. I also want to see my family’s experience given credibility, b/c it’s a legitimate piece of queer culture. Divorce and serial monogamy are cultural realities, but they are not the only ones. There are happy, fulfilled, monogamous long term couples – queer and straight – all over the place.

  100. Dianne says:

    Frowner: Syndey doesn’t have patriarchal privilege, but if you think there’s no power differential between a tenured professor (even a chronically indebted one) and a clerk at “Bounder’s”, you’re kidding yourself.

  101. Frowner says:

    Hi Dianne-Yeah, sort of. I guess. Maybe. I think we’d need to talk in real detail about just how we think power works in a given relationship, as opposed to relationships in general. (Because it isn’t just “add up money plus social position plus looks plus X and compare the totals”, even though that’s a reasonable tool for talking about relationships in the aggregate) I want to preserve a distinction between “foolishly being suckered by a bad relationship” and “being abused by someone more powerful than you are”, because it seems to me that a very broad-brush approach to relationships leaves us saying “The only relationships that are okay are relationships where the parties are precisely equal in work, money, looks, social skills, class background, etc to the eyes of an outside observer” And that way lies madness.

    The thing is, power difference to who. The most important part of my life is spent among lefty crunchy activists, where I have a reasonable amount of power and respect. Significant Other doesn’t do much activism but dabbles occasionally, and therefore while SO makes much more money than I do, I have a lot more standing in the part of my world that’s important to me. Since my earnings are sufficient to support myself and since I have my own insurance, I have (in some ways) more power in this relationship than SO does, since I have a larger social circle and more power and respect in an area of life that we both agree is important. Now, if I were dependent on SO for insurance or rent, or if we had kids, or if I moved in social circles where Having A Proper Bourgeois Job was very important, SO would have the leverage. My point being that power in a relationship is about the network the relationship is in in addition to being about money, and money may not always be the determining factor.

    But it really comes down to how we each perceive specific interactions between Mo and Sydney, I guess. In quantum terms, we’re both right, perhaps?

  102. JJFLAP says:

    I feel a sigh of relief to see an end to unhappiness- & I never stop learning about something, about me, politics, or gay life in general from thie strip- thanks!!

  103. ladiesbane says:

    Bluntly: I love them both, but they have both done what many people (straight, gay, or Other) have done after taking the plunge to committed (labelled) couplehood: reverted to the kiss o’ death roles that have destroyed marriages since the late 40’s.

    Toni might have been hanging in there, in part, for the same reasons that she is a lynchpin of FREEDOM TO MARRY! She’s pro-institution-of-marriage. If Clarice had cultivated an interest in that, they might have maintained closeness.

    Likewise, Clarice The Political has been doing her own thing — work — in a way classically attributed to Ward Cleaver. Toni didn’t drop her own path in order to follow C., nor did C. stay glued to T., deciding not to go her own way without her.

    A curse of the feminist and post-feminist movement has been Doing My Own Thing when a committed relationship requires both parties to hang together. It rankles (heavily!) to kill my life, or at least maim it, in order to nurture someone else’s…

    …but WHAT DO I WANT MORE: a relationship thriving (by giving up my life’s blood), or a relationship dead for not having been maintained by the cheerful sacrifice of each party (rather than a grudging tithe, marked in the balance ledger of the mind.) (Equity in give & take, self-knowledge, honest communication, fair negotiation, and putting the relationship first don’t seem to be an option, do they?)

    (Also: LondonBoy is so right about Poddy!)

  104. Yasmin says:

    Happy Birthday, Allison.
    Been reading your strips for about 9 years now, ever since I came out, and I have all of your books. Your strips accompanied me in my lesbian jurney, which was, and still is, challenging, demanding, blissful, and just like your strips, always relevant, always sharp, always touching, ever changing, ever enolving.
    Thank you for what you’ve brought into my life. Thank you for amazing 9 years. Have an amazing one yourself.

  105. Rachel says:

    Just to come back down to textual/strip realities again, surely part of the point of the strip is that Clarice depends on Toni being there for her while she rants on about politics. When Toni suggests pulling the plug Clarice is horrified. I’m not saying they won’t split, but it’s not too late for Clarice to realise what she’s got and what she’s been taking for granted.

  106. Laura says:

    For some reason, although I don’t usually read the postings, I did go into this thread. Like many of you, I’ve been a DTWOF fan since the very beginning and have been wondering for quite a while now about when, not whether, Toni and Clarice would end their marriage. If this couple came into therapy with me (would I want them as my clients-eek-I don’t know if I would tolerate Clarice’s continual intellectized defensiveness) I would be kicking their butts hard about why in the world they are maintaining this fiction of a relationship when they are simply making themselves and their son unhappy.
    This is NOT as good as it gets, folks. Yes, LTRs go through periods of rough stuff; this is the nature of the LTR, in that, if we’re doing it right, we evoke one another’s core issues which are rarely pleasant to be around :). But the whole idea of actual intimacy is that one works through that stuff in order to achieve greater closeness and connection from a place of enhanced honesty. Toni and Clarice simply send emotional darts to one another when Clarice isn’t being depressed (and I see her ranting as depression, a reasonable depression given the state of the world) and withdrawn emotionally.
    I think Allison is doing a nice job of telling the truth about her characters here. To keep these two together would be emotionally dishonest, and that’s something that I’ve rarely encountered in this story (although seriously, the therapists!!! Oy veh!!! We aren’t all that crazy. I hope). Part of why I love DTWOF is that it is emotionally true, not just true about the idiosyncracies and misshugas of lesbian and left-progressive communities.
    So let’s see a good divorce mediator, no dueling attorneys, please, is all I ask.
    And as for Sydney-Mo, you can do better. Seriously. Cute butches simply have no idea how many femmes are out there finding them adorable.

  107. Dale says:

    I absolutely love this strip. It’s extremely well drawn, funny, and portrays lesbians and lesbian relationships realistically.
    As a fellow cartoonist I raise my glass to you and your work.

  108. astrid jane says:

    Does anyone else think that “successful” relationships aren’t just the one’s that last until at least one partner kicks the bucket from old age? Considering how many relationships most people have during their lives, I think “forever and ever” might be an unrealistic standard even for some of the strongest couples. I think if you manage to make it work with someone for 15 years and then part amiably when you both feel the time has come, that’s pretty damn impressive. In colonial/industrial era America the average marriage lasted about 12 years (usually because one partner died.) We live longer, and modern relationships are based on the concept of love (they weren’t always, a pre-modern marriage was generally a financial and social partnership–if you loved your partner so much the better–but you married because it took more than one person to run a productive agrarian household, or because it was the only way to escape living with your parents, or because you were pregnant, etc…)

    I know it seems cynical, but maybe love just doesn’t always have the “self-life” we’d like it to. Maybe once the love (and affection, and mutual enjoyment of each other’s companionship) is gone and you can’t look at your partner without wanting to stick a fork in his/her eye (been there) it’s time to move on….. Also, as another child of divorce who is SO happy her parents split (and wasn’t particularly traumized at the time either) I agree with those above who pointed out that children tend to be happy when their parents are happy, so sometimes “doing what’s best for the kids” MEANS splitting up.

  109. Jennifer says:

    Sometimes things have to end, even in comic strips. Remember, Lynn Johnston iced Farley.

  110. Therry says:

    Oh please, Alison, please please please let Tony and Clarice stop arguing about everything in sight and put the marriage to rest. Look at what it’s doing to Raffi (see strip 496.) For one thing, it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to them. It could improve their sex life! They could put the organic dildo on sale on E-Bay! I say go for it, girl. Enough with the political ranting, enough with the sad tired guilty looks, enough with the sheer unadulterated narcissism of the couple’s shelf-life. End it and give us all a rest.

  111. Kathleen says:

    Hi Alison
    My girlfriend and I were about to break up four years ago when a miracle happened in our life, which was that we discovered “the work” of Byron Katie. It’s a very simple process with profound results. If you and the bloggers haven’t heard of it, I highly recommend it. My partner and I now have the clearest relationship I’ve ever been in. Katie’s first book is called “Loving What Is” and it’s cowritten by her husband Stephen Mitchell, who has long been one of my favorite translators of spiritual poetry of Rumi, Lao Tsu etc. A new book is coming out in the spring showing the parallel’s between Katie’s work and the principles that Lao Tsu writes about in the Tao De Ching.

    In any case, seeing a copy of “Loving What Is” on Toni’s nightstand would give me real true hope that she and Clarice could work it out. I’d love that!