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Collection Recap: If This Is a Lecture, How Long Will It Be? (1989-90)

If this is a title, how long will it be...?

Recurring characters introduced:
- Allyson Creemore, Gord’s junior high crush
- Peter Kent, a senior and Allyson’s boyfriend
 
Incidental characters:
- Agnes, one half of the couple who sell their house to Phil and Georgia (the husband and the mother aren’t named)
- an unnamed real estate agent with a beaky nose and serious overbite who tells Phil and Georgia that they should expect to make a few renovations when they’re paying only $83,000; another unnamed agent with a beaky nose but no overbite advises them on their final purchase
- Mrs Grunion, the school bus driver
- Andrea, someone in Mike’s school
- Marie, Elly’s hairdresser
- dental patients Mrs Divot (“pain in the neck” referred to John by Dr Nedwitt – a relative of the Mrs Nedwitt who hits John with a frying pan when he turns up outside the Grubberware party dressed as a vampire?), Fred
- John’s damaged sports car is taken to Richard & Ted’s Body Shop
- Mr Pervrett (guess what my spell checker suggests?!), the other driver involved in the car accident
- Justice Willis B. Sullen, judge of the Provincial Offenses Court for the District of Birchhaven
- Christmas card senders Allie Hindmarch, Karen Howe, Jim and Carolyn, Murray and Eleanor, George and Sigrid, Adrienne, Rick, Len, Marj (two years in a row!), Loretta – all “such good friends” Elly hasn’t written to in ages
- Mr Larkin, one of Mike and Gord’s teachers
- Jason and Matt, friends of Peter Kent
- Colin the paper boy, Elly’s teenage crush
 
Biographical information:
- Liz was born at 7.45 a.m. John cut the cord. Her first word was “No”.
- The Pattermanse cost John and Elly $27,000; Phil and Georgia’s house cost them $89,900.
- Presumably Mike is in Grade 8 as he had started junior high the previous year and Liz is in Grade 4 as she was in Grade 2 two years earlier
- Elly had a crush on Colin in 1964 and her school yearbook was titled “Norseman”
- John turns 40 sometime during the year, but it isn’t celebrated, just mentioned in passing to Jean
 
In a precursor of the hybrid, Elly takes out some old photo albums to show Annie and starts telling Mike and Liz stories of the time Liz was born. Grandma Carrie looked after Mike when John took Elly to the hospital, and Liz’s early days were summed up by saying how cute she was and John spoiling “Daddy’s baby, Daddy’s girl!” by picking her up and playing with her every day when he got home from work. 
 
Uncle Phil takes Mike and Liz to the fair (because he hates to go alone), while Georgia visits with Elly and tells her about the difficulties they are having finding a house they can afford. Georgia points out the appreciation in house prices and warns Elly that they might be the last generation to own their own homes, cautioning that their kids might wind up moving back in when they’re ready to have children. Elly looks gobsmacked and says that this is serious. After a series of discouraging visits to potential homes, they find one which meets their requirements and their offer is accepted.
 
Mike shows Liz how to turn her teddy bear into a Superteddy – yes, Superteddy was not one-of-a-kind! – and how to fire it at someone’s head. Egged on by Dawn, Christopher and other nearby passengers, Liz hurls Superteddy at the school bus driver and is forced to deliver a written note of apology. Liz drags her feet over writing the letter and blames the whole event on the other kids for telling her to do it; Dawn points out that Liz was the one who listened to them.
 
Gordon starts suffering from hormone attacks whenever he sees Allyson Creemore, which he tries to treat by wearing a “redneck hat an’ mirror shades…to deflect or diminish most of the harmful rays” from adolescent girls. Mike, meanwhile, tells Gord that he and Martha aren’t really friends anymore and that she got bored after he told her that he really liked her, and started hanging around with someone else instead. Mike, Gord, Lawrence and Brian discuss how puberty is affecting them. Gord persuades Mike to ask Allyson to the Valentine’s Dance on his behalf, only for Allyson and the other cheerleaders to dismiss both boys as nerds hanging around the girls’ locker room, even though Mike was the only one recognized.
 
Elly drives a miserable Mike and Gord to the Valentine’s Dance – Mike hates his appearance and Gord is humiliated because Allyson doesn’t even know he’s alive – and they arrive early and follow Allyson and her boyfriend Peter to see what they’re doing behind the football bleachers. Allyson and Peter and some guys Mike and Gord don’t recognize start drinking booze. Gord wonders if they should tell the chaperones but Mike calls him crazy, adding, “If you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it!...After a few drinks, you really have a ball!” Gord notices that Allyson doesn’t return to the dance with Peter and finds her outside being sick. He takes her home in a taxi, fantasizing about being her knight in shining armour. Peter gets into a fight with one of the chaperones. Mike and Martha reconnect and she confesses that she never really like Lawrence but had liked Mike all along. Several weeks later, Gord asks Allyson to a movie, but she lies and tells him that she has to babysit. Gord accompanies Mike and Martha to the movie and sees Allyson back with Peter.
 
John and two nameless colleagues drive to Ottawa for a convention, but his reservation is lost and he has to share a room with one of them. In his absence, Elly gets to drive John’s sports car. She has an accident (on October 23rd) when she goes to turn left at the intersection of Weston onto Southcott Street West and another driver pulls out from behind a school bus and runs into her. John and Elly agree that they’ve had a bad week, but that they “…never have problems. We’re usually so lucky…” Elly opts not to pay the ticket but to fight it in traffic court. Connie sees Elly as standing up for women’s rights and having the determination to stand up for what she believes in, but Elly is more concerned about what to wear. 
 
Connie accompanies Elly to traffic court and Elly realizes that she might be in trouble when the other driver doesn’t match her recollection of him – “greasy, unshaven, leather jacket…probably had a skull tattooed somewhere” – but is clean-cut and smartly dressed. Elly is determined to represent herself, making a number of embarrassing mistakes in court (even Connie buries her head in her hands when Elly, told to refer to the judge as “Your Honor” and stand to address the bench, leaps to her feet with her hand in the air crying, “On my honor, I object!!”). Much of her testimony is ruled inadmissible because she does not stick to the facts as given in the police report, but the (very bored) judge finds that no one was at fault and dismisses the case. Elly and Connie leave the courthouse to find a parking ticket on Elly’s car.
 
Elly comes down with the flu after the Christmas holidays and loses her voice, having to use a “nag by note” system to tell everyone what to do. A few days later Annie comes over with a casserole to cheer her up, then blurts out that she thinks Steve is having an affair. Elly comforts Annie, who cries, “What’s wrong with me?!!”, asking if this happened because she isn’t beautiful or doesn’t have a glamorous career. She knows that counselling won’t solve anything because Steve won’t discuss personal things with her, much less a stranger. Elly ponders how a man could cheat on his wife and John suggests that everyone thinks about it sometime or another but just has to draw the line before doing it. He’s also surprised that Steve would take on the responsibility of another relationship. Annie confronts Steve with her suspicions and he cries and tells her that it’s all over and he’d never see his mistress again. Elly listens to Annie’s heartbreak and offers to give her the name of a counsellor, adding that Annie might find it useful to go on her own even if Steve won’t join her. (It is with this storyline that Annie’s role in the strip effectively ends and she disappears into a background character, as Lynn explains in Behind the Lines that it was too hard for her to continue with the theme of a cheating spouse, having lived through it herself.)
 
It’s Farley’s turn to go on a diet and the kids have to take turns walking him every day after school. Liz undoes his leash when he gets tangled in a bush and he runs off. When she is unable to find him, even with help from Christopher and Richard, she curls up next to a fence and decides to sit there for the rest of her life rather than go home and face the blame. Farley returned home on his own and sat on the front porch until Elly found him and assumed that he was still waiting for Liz to take him for a run.
 
Elly learns about Martha when she and Connie go out for coffee and see Mike holding hands with a girl. Elly reminisces about Colin, the paper boy and her teenage crush. He let her carry his papers whenever she’d “just happen” to bump into him, but ignored her otherwise, so she dyed her hair with red food colouring to get his attention, only for it to run all over her clothes in the rain. She’d write him notes which he’d show to his friends and laugh at her; eventually she outgrew the crush.
 
John, having turned 40, mopes about being middle-aged. He stops at a toy and hobby shop and comes home with his first electric train…
 
Recurring themes
Appearance – Elly’s new perm is very quickly subdued into a ponytail at the nape of her neck.  It has vanished completely within about four months.
 
Patterstreaking – During the reminiscing about Elizabeth’s early days, there’s a scene of a slipper-clad Elly, clutching a towel and chasing a naked Liz down the sidewalk.
 
You Owe Us – Mike, who has grown three inches over the summer, finds himself expected to do more work around the house. Elly tells him, “Mike, we don’t ask you to help around here just to hassle you – you owe it to us!! You live in our house, you eat our food – you owe us something in return! In fact, we shouldn’t even have to ask for your help. You should help out willingly – without being asked!”
 
Pattersnarfing – the family goes out for a Chinese meal and Mike is embarrassed by Elizabeth playing with her doll, John trying to order in Chinese and Elly demonstrating how to use chopsticks, then makes a huge “SKRAWKK” noise finishing his drink. At a family meal at home, however, John, Elly and Liz look on in horror as Mike eats with the usual sound effects.
 
Developing patrolagnia / thygatrilagnia (thanks anna_bat_sarah!) – John cheers up Liz when a hormonal Mike picks on her. The two of them bond over making a birdhouse and John tells Elly that Liz is becoming more and more like her dad every day.
Tags: foob history
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