Publication date: April 2019
Review, short version: Two roses out of four for the wisdom; two skunks out of four for the whining.
Review, long version:
Even the title is whiny: Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault.
“Aren’t my fault!”
“Aren’t my fault!”
Can’t you just hear a four-year-old whining that?
On the other hand, as author/cartoonist Cathy Guisewite lists those fifty things in chapter one, I had to admit I agreed with some of them:
“It’s not my fault I was raised to think everything is my fault!”
“It not my fault that women’s magazines have covers declaring we should embrace our beautiful natural curves, but 16 articles inside on how to get skinny!”
“It’s not my fault that things that shouldn’t matter – still matter.”
Whiny or otherwise – she’s right.
So Guisewite has some good things, and wise things, and funny things to say.
But still, in between chapters one and 48 it seemed like there was a whole lot of…
About her life then, when she was so busy with her comic strip, and her life now, which has gotten even busier:
“I thought than when I quit my job, the pace of all the change would slow down. But it didn’t. It sped up.”
About her weight, which involves a lot of body self-shaming:
“I remember the morning of a big meeting when I couldn’t get my ‘fat’ skirt buttoned. Couldn’t get anything buttoned. Nothing fit except for my bathrobe.”
About her relationships with her mother, father, friends, the husband who became her ex, other men, and this, to her daughter:
“Is it too much to ask you to spend five minutes brushing your hair before you leave the house?”
About life in general, which isn’t fair to women, and the women’s movement, which didn’t deliver as promised:
“My days are too short, my lists are too long. People aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Everything’s changing without my permission.”
Then again, maybe it isn’t all whining. Sometimes Cathy even sounds like me.
The reason Cathy sounds like me and many other women is that her comic strip, Cathy, was the first to speak humorously and directly to a female audience. On everything from trying on bathing suits to boyfriends, she spoke the truth in a funny, relatable way. She let women know they weren’t alone in their struggle in a world that was radically changing – ready or not.
Guisewite was born in 1950, which means she was coming of age at the same time as the women’s movement. She got a degree in English from U of M, then worked in various advertising agencies, and drew funny pictures about her work and life and relationships “in which to dump all my aggravations,” as she says on her website.
Her doodlings led to a comic strip, Cathy, in 1976, eventually appearing daily in 1400 newspapers, before she retired the strip in 2010. That’s a remarkable 34 years, a long life for a comic strip, and even more remarkable because this was – and is – a field where men far outnumber the women.
Tackling a book project sounds like a bad idea for someone whose life has already “sped up,” but Guisewite says Fifty Things was a chance to reconnect with her comic strip readers, now “in our grown-up years.”
So grab a glass of wine, skim the whining, and enjoy the wisdom.