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Cathy and the Worst Day Ever:
A Precautionary Tale of Bad Scientific Data When Applied to a Mentally Unbalanced Comic Strip Character

Today, January 24 has been crowned as the Worst. Day. Ever.

Is the midwinter weather wearing you down? Are you sinking in debt after the holidays? Angry with yourself for already breaking your New Year's resolutions? Wish you could crawl back under the covers and not have to face another day of rain, sleet, snow and paperwork? Probably. After all, it's Jan. 24, the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a U.K. psychologist.

Dr. Cliff Arnall went so far as to come up with an equation that proves his theory.

[W + (D-d)] x TQ M x NA The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

I'm calling bullshit on this. I think Dr. Arnell is just one of those guys whose ego would not be satisfied until he had some weird scientific/psychological mumbo jumbo released in a world wide paper that would be quoted extensively on the internet (see, previously, Scientific Formula for Horror Movies). I also have my suspicions about where Dr. Arnall was mining his data from. Taking a closer look at the variables, Dr. Arnell has zeroed in a particular kind of person; one who is constantly quitting bad habits and failing; one who always promises herself that she will do more for herself, like exercise or lose weight or get organized, yet fails to accomplish that because she can't motivate herself and her life is filled with enablers that are not helping the situation; one who spends recklessly, probably buying handbags and hats she can't afford and justifying those expenses with phone calls to family members who will just agree with her justifications; one who complains constantly about the little things she has no control over, like weather and one whose life seems to revolve around family gatherings and holidays.

From those obvious criteria, it becomes evident that not only did Dr. Arnell not really study any human beings to come up with his pharmaceutical company-friendly theory, but he based all of his findings upon one entirely fictional person:


That's right. Dr. Arnell has formed his "scientific" theory based on one of the most one-dimensional comic strip characters to ever grace the funny pages. It's obvious now that you see it all in front of you, isn't it? The yo-yo weight, the procrastination, the on-again/off-again dieting, the constant bitching and complaining about everything around her - if ever there was a candidate for the chair/noose combo on this, the supposed worst day of the year, it's Cathy.

And today really would be a good day for Cathy to finally crack up. Her overbearing parents and her future in laws (it's been a while for me, I guess - I wasn't aware that Cathy was finally getting hitched) are dominating the wedding preparations. Between her mother and her mother-in-law to be, Cathy, who (as I remember her) is always just one step away from Prozac, should be sitting in a dark room right about now, rocking herself back and forth and mumbling something about the monkey that lives in her closet.

Dr. Arnell has, in a roundabout way, helped me discover something that should have been obvious to me long, long ago: Cathy is not well. Why Irving would marry her is a question for the ages. Did she wear him down with guilt? Is he just doing it because he figures at his age, he can't be choosy? Did he finally get tired of his parents asking him if he was ever going to give them grandchildren and he figured Cathy, with her womanly hips, was the perfect candidate? Doesn't Irving realize that Cathy is that Linkin Park song?

I can imagine her driving around town in her car, a box of donuts at her side, her razor sharp rage at an all time high - this wedding shit is killing her, man. She's fat, she's going to owe on her taxes this year and she's marrying a dead ringer for George Costanza. She's pounding the steering wheel and screaming along - one step closer to the edge, and I'm about to....break! And then it happens.

It's always the little things that light the fuse to the bigger blasts - maybe someone will cut her off. Maybe her hair keeps falling in her eyes. Something will trigger that enormous anger that has been building up inside her since her mother first called her chubby back in second grade and suddenly she's Michael Douglas in Falling Down, taking hostages, crashing cars and finally, in a culmination of years of lousy parenting advice, failed diets and Irving's passive aggressiveness, she puts the gun to her own head and pulls the trigger, right in front of her fiancé, his parents and her own parents. It's January 24, man. Worst. Day. Ever.

Thanks, Dr. Arnell.


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A Precautionary Tale of Bad Scientific Data When Applied to a Mentally Unbalanced Comic Strip Character

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He's full of bull@%#$.

January 24, 2005, is my youngest daughter's 26th birthday. So for me it's one of the 3 best. days. ever. (The others being August 12 and April 27, the birthdays of my other two daughters).

So he can stick this psychobabble up his butt.

Imperial Keeper

Just wanted to pass along a link to you -- if you like snarkiness about comics, you might want to check out www.joshreads.com, also known as "I Read The Comics So You Don't Have To". I found it recently and it is awesome.

But yeah, I used to read Cathy and actually chuckle at it from time to time. But it's getting harder and harder for me to find dead-tree comics that I actually like enough to come back to. Right now, I read Dilbert, Boondocks, and For Better Or For Worse (although there are so many storylines in that that you practically need a handbook).

The best comics are web-based anyway.

Hah. Funny post, Michele. I'd actually like to see a strip where Cathy really does lose it big time. I imagine that she'd do something really dramatic, stupid, and socially destructive, but not anything enough to actually hurt anyone physically, or anything. She's too fundamentally wussy for that.

Of course, I'd also like to see a storyline where Cathy gets hooked on meth. (Can't you just see her doing a little bump every now and then just to have the energy to get stuff done? Of course, no one sticks with just a little bump for very long. Pretty soon she's staying spun for three, four days at a time... you get the picture.)

The possibilities are endless. Cathy builds her own meth lab. Cathy moves into a trailer. Cathy sets the trailer on fire. Cathy becomes a prison bitch.


Oh, I just pictured her getting emaciated and turning tricks. But I like the way you're thinking.

Actually, Michele, I think you have to have the trailer before the meth lab. Of course, we just had an incident near where I live where a couple were making meth in a house right across the street from an elementary school! Given the horrible smell that meth labs put off, it's no wonder they got caught.

And talk about worst.days.ever. Cathy in jail would be like a new caged heat movie.

(and by the way, I think your headline should be a cautionary tale, not a precautionary tale, but that's just the copy editor in me. Don't bite my head off.)

Make your own Cathy as Meth Whore comic.

Hah, found this:

Cathy was really funny for a year. Then the recycling began. You're fat? All your friends are married? Your boyfriend is a loser? Die already and make room for a funnier character.

If you want to see someone really stick it to Cathy, check out Stephan Pastis's strip Pearls Before Swine. It's hilarious.

The bizarre thing about Cathy is that the artist herself is thin and relatively hot. And rich.

Whoops. Just saw a recent photo of Cathy Guisewite. Cancel previous comment.

You're right! Irving is a dead ringer for George Costanza. Of course, Irving came first, so maybe the casting staff at Seinfeld...nah.

As to Cathy Guisewite, I google-imaged her and, maybe I am getting too old, but she looks just fine to me.

So, if Cathy blows her brains out on a weekday, will the blood and brains spattered on the wall be black and white?

I can't see this day as so bad, considering I never set New Year's Resolutions. The best day of the year to change something about myself isn't New Year's, but the day that I decide that I'm done with a particular vice/virtue.

I would love to see Cathy do everything in that last paragraph. At least then that godawful comic would be a tad bit interesting, and sickly funny to boot.

How about a monthlong killing spree? It's about time the comics page got interesting.

How about a remake of Natural Born Killers, starring Cathy and Beetle Bailey?

Oh yeah, I'd pay to see that.

Michele, I love you. Dearly. Sincerely. As much as a gay man can love a straight woman.

Now please, for the love of Poundcake, chop that Cathy picture into two pieces so I don't have to scroll my browser sideways. And yes, I'm running in 1024×768, not 640×480.

I am thinking it might be a bit of a stretch to call Michele "straight", per se.

Cathy's like the anti-Jessica Rabbit: "I'm not shapeless, I'm just drawn that way."

One. Of. Your. Best. Posts. Ever....

really, I laughed so hard I have to change my pants...