(Original Publication Date, 26 May 1991)
Panel 1: Mike and Martha are participating in what has become the only thing they seem to do together, which is marching in lock step around the mall, holding hands and never talking to each other. Pretty boring stuff I must say. God only knows why Lynn Johnston thought this was something teenagers did in a mall, instead of going to the mall arcade or shopping or gossiping with friends. It’s so dull, it’s no wonder that Michael’s eye starts to wander. A girl with big lips and big eyelashes passes them by and she is wearing some kind of corset-shaped sweater over her turtle neck short-sleeved shirt like so many girls in the 1990s used to wear (not). Both Mike and Martha are looking at her out of the corner of their right eye.
Panel 2: The perspective changes and now we are looking up at Mike and Martha. Mike can’t stand it any longer and goes for a full-up head turn Linda Blair Exorcist style. Martha gives him the evil eye, Snoopy style. He has to get a look at that girl and considering that everyone else in the mall (aside from Martha) appears to be silhouettes, I can see why he might be distracted. If most everyone were silhouettes around me, I might stare at the non-silhouette people too. As we go through this, we will see that in every single panel Mike is ogling the girls who are not silhouettes.
Panel 3: The next girl to attract Mike’s attention is wearing X-Men earrings and a jumper/romper which were the height of fashion in the 1950s. Lynn may have been going for overalls, which actually were popular in the 1990s. Mike does another side glance which Martha sees him do. The girl doesn’t see either of them because she is, for whatever strange reason, walking with her eyes closed.
Panel 4: Then Mike turns his head all the way around and back to look at her. Martha says, “Are you doing that to bug me – or what?” Frankly she should be amazed that Mike’s head is apparently unattached to his neck to be able to make those maneuvers, but she is not. Mike responds to her question with “What?” I guess he is not doing it to bug Martha, if that’s his answer.
Panel 5: Another short-haired woman wearing a red dress with a wide waist belt that was really popular in the 2000s? That’s oddly fashion forward for Lynn. I notice that after the first girl, every other woman will be wearing short hair. The pixie cut did come back in the 1990s, so good on Lynn for keeping up. However, there is an unspoken indication that Mike prefers girls with hair shorter than Martha’s. (see Deanna Sobinski). Martha now launches into her version of “Who’s on first?” called, “You know what. What?”
Panel 6: The girl in this panel has a wide collar and shoulder pads which were popular in the 1980s. I am not sure what to make of that asymmetric hair style, which was popular among a few in the 1990s. Michael has stopped craning his head and is looking right past Martha at her.
Panel 7: Their hands are separated and Martha points at the girl that Michael is ogling full-on. She has a bob haircut and is modeling the hip-hop oversized sweater fashion of the 1990s (not). Like the girl from panel 3, her eyes are inexplicably closed. I have this image of girls in the mall just running into things because they refuse to open their eyes.
Panel 8: Martha launches into her punchline, “Every time I tell you what, you say you don’t know what – and you do know what! - an that’s what I’m mad about. She is so close to saying, “What’s on second, and I Don’t Know’s on third.” The comic strip should end right there, but that would mean giving the last word to someone who is not a Patterson and Lynn can’t have that.
That said, this is a crucial moment for Martha. Normally she just suffers abuse from Michael and gives into his abuses.
This time, she is standing up for herself and letting him know his behavior is poor. It will take us awhile to get back to this, but now that it is started they begin the slow march towards the end of the relationship.
Panel 9: Martha walks off with her eyes closed, because everyone knows that’s how women do when they are mad. In the meantime, I am distracted by the way Lynn decided to draw Martha with her left side large-breasted and her right side flat-chested.
Panel 10: Somehow Michael finds Gordon who is drinking a soda from a cup and straw, while Michael pulls out a can of Cola. You would think Michael would just buy from the same place Gordon did. How many places sell soda in cans at the mall? Anyway, Michael delivers a punchline that is not as good as Martha’s and raises the issue that he genuinely did not know what offended Martha. Now this does not mean that Michael did not know he was ogling girls (as Lynn Johnston is clearly trying to imply), but it does mean that he does not understand that ogling is offensive. This makes sense when you consider who was the model of proper male behaviour for Michael. It was this guy:
Summary: John has raised Mike to ogle and ogle he does.