Happy Mother's Day from Cathy
Last weekend at a more-or-less bi-monthly lunch gathering of girlfriends self-named, “The Society of the Sassy,” we mentioned that we had been to an event to hear Cathy Guisewite, the eponymous creator of the Cathy cartoon strip, talk about her new book Fifty Things that Aren’t My Fault.
“Oh! My favorite Cathy cartoon is the one that says ‘One day for fifteen minutes….my hair was perfect’ ” interrupted one of the sassy in our group, “It was on my fridge for years. I laughed every time I walked by it.”
“Well mine is the one where Cathy is in the kitchen with all these fancy appliances like a Cuisinart and a Vitamix, and she makes a frozen pizza for dinner,” said a sassier friend adding, “I still have it!”
And so it went around the table. Everyone eagerly recalling their favorite Cathy strips that captured the hopes and anxieties of a generation of women marching from a Betty Crocker to a Betty Friedan world.
“Other women’s jobs have been to get women out to conquer the world,” said Guisewite at the event. “My voice has been to get women out to conquer the next five minutes.”
At the center of Cathy’s world has always been the mother-daughter dance.
It’s no wonder then that for three decades, Cathy cartoon strips were the preferred refrigerator decor of daughters and mothers everywhere until October 2010, when Guisewite decided to end the strip after 34 years.
The real-life Cathy made the decision to devote herself to caring full-time for her high-school-aged daughter and her parents, who were turning 90.
Now nine years later, Cathy Guisewite is back with a new grown-up collection of essays that are at once poignant, hilarious, and just what we need in the middle of the night.
While the essays with titles such as “Helicopter Daughter” and “I’m Flunking Retirement” are full of laugh out loud, trademark Cathy humor, they’re also deeply relatable and sympathetic with fully dimensional reflections on aging – aging children, aging parents, as well as our own aging. What Guisewite describes as “being a member of the panini generation where we’re squished between them and facing the heat of responsibility on both sides.”
Naturally, the book is dedicated to her mother.
So what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day, than with some advice from Cathy, the daughter, the mother, and the soon-to-be mother-in law.
GG50: What are you doing for Mother’s Day, Cathy?
Cathy: I’m having the dream Day Before Mother’s Day — I will be spending it looking at WEDDING VENUES (!!!) with my newly engaged daughter and her fiance. On Mother’s Day, I’m going to honor my mother (who’s across the country in Florida) by starting to write the 1500 thank you notes I owe people from my recent book tour.
GG50: How can members of the panini generation celebrate Mother’s Day without feeling pressed, grilled and burnt?
Cathy: Everyone needs to give each other permission to eat pastries. Lots of them. They take the edge off of any mother-daughter complications and help redirect any guilt.
GG50: You’ve commented that it’s scary to feel so empowered and powerless at the same time. Can you elaborate on that?
Cathy: At this point in my life, I feel accomplished and confident. Except for brief relapses into total insecurity when I have to figure out what to wear for events where my happy, baggy sweatsuit isn’t appropriate. I love challenges. I know how to make things happen and how to change the outcome of impossible situations with creativity and hard work. I feel as if I could do anything. EXCEPT… the people I love most - my mother and daughter - completely reject all my guidance and wisdom. I can’t do many things that I want to do and think I should do to keep them safe and healthy. I don’t have time to be there for either of them as completely as I want to be AND to be doing all the things I want and need to do for myself and the rest of the world. Things like saving the planet, fixing all the inequities for women that my generation thought we fixed decades ago that didn’t get fixed, organizing one drawer in my house… It all seems so possible and impossible at once.
GG50: Cathy, what are the top three things women can do to “lighten up a bit” as you’ve said?
Dump your mental purse on the counter. Women are like giant handbags — we hold it all for everyone and often don’t appreciate all that’s in there or how much it’s weighing us down. Try to put back less than you dumped out - or at least reorganize the contents into pretty little mental compartments so you can feel better about all you haul around.
Find something really sweet to say to someone who’s annoying you. It’s magical in the way it disarms the person and changes the control to you.
Notice something that isn’t your fault. Say it out loud. Repeat!
Thank you, Cathy. We feel 5-10 pounds lighter.
Time for Mother’s Day Brunch!