For such a short story, “Rhyme Game” took forever to work through. The script, at least, took 3 days to finish. Despite the length of the story, I still had to cut out some interesting pieces, particularly the trash compactor and the butchering of the frozen cow. However, I managed to keep 100 percent of the actual dialog.
Tinny Marie’s mom, like so many of Bonnie Jo’s moms, seems stretched thin, working harder than most people could imagine to take care of her family but, at the same time, and not as concerned with her child’s welfare as the child thinks she should be. Flawed, like so many of the characters in these stories. She seems distracted, but she keeps playing this rhyming game with Tinny Marie.
Tinny Marie is a strange name to me.
Tinny Marie’s mom is nothing like my mom, who would have had a conniption if child-me had made the slightest reference to having a beer. She would not have thought that an acceptable rhyme.
Of course, in 30 years, they’ll teach it in completely different way than you learned, but at least you’ll be able to empathize with your child’s frustration.
There have seriously been moments in my marriage when the greatest stressor we faced as a couple was the elementary math curriculum. I never mastered anything beyond algebra myself, and of course mathematics education just looked a lot different in the ’80s. The Man is pretty good at math—he can do calculus—but he doesn’t know how to teach little kids like I do. So sometimes the only way for the Girl to get her homework done is for The Man to explain it to me so I can explain it to her. I wasn’t sure how funny this joke was, but I told it to one of the volunteer moms and the librarian at my library and they both laughed.
Presumably, knowing algebra is something of an achievement, because I still scored in the 66th percentile on the math section of the GRE despite being, of course, a liberal arts major. That means I’m better at math than 66% of all people who have, or are about to have, completed a bachelor’s degree and hope to attend graduate school. This tells me that most people must not know any math at all.
There’s also a little joke here about the kind of helicopter parents who would call the school to challenge the basic curriculum because their kid didn’t like it, because these people exist. They are not uncommon today, but that’s another thing you didn’t see too much of in the ’80s.
The world is a terrible place to bring a child. It’s full not only of sharp and hot objects, but also of dangerous plants, animals, geologic and meteorological phenomenon, and, most corrupting influence of all, human beings. I don’t actually understand how anyone over the age of 30 can even consider it. I get being young and naive and optimistic, or being a kid who doesn’t fully grok birth control, but surely by 30, most reasonable people have become cynics, no matter how much love they have in their hearts. Our world is inherently dangerous, and more so if you happen to be a completely helpless and dependent organism. And yet my Facebook feed is constantly full of babies and sonograms, even though I turn 42 this November and have a number of friends who are grandparents. My cohort keeps creating new humans, on purpose.
I’ve been to parties where people brought gifts of baby products to a pregnant woman, but I’ve never attended one of these weird-baby-themed-games kinds of baby showers. It sounds demeaning for everyone involved. Most likely, anyone who actually knew me would know better than to invite me to such a gathering, but it’s always interesting to see what “normal” people think is normal.
While I share the narrator’s belief that the world is wildly dangerous place, I’m not afraid of babies breaking. I’ve worked with many babies in my life. Babies are actually more resilient than adults in many respects. A lot of new moms seem overly cautious, in my opinion.
I’m counting on you, my flesh and blood, to somehow read my mind.
This is the central story of the book, of course, and the one that stayed with me the longest. When I think of this book, I think of this story, and when I first thought of starting this project, this is the story that came to mind. So I’ve been thinking about how I would portray it for a long time. Still, it always changes once I start working.
Originally I thought the middle aged daughter would appear in the background, along with the house, and the memories would be small elements, but the memories sort of loom larger and larger; this woman only has the past. And then I didn’t draw the middle aged daughter at all, because the mother hardly sees her. I mean, she feels her anger, she watches her, but she doesn’t see her child. She’s busy justifying herself.
I think we’d all jump off a bridge if Amber dared us to. Am I right?
This comic seems a little graphically threadbare to me, compared to the previous ones, and I think it’s because “Tell Yourself” just doesn’t have as much definitive imagery as some of the other stories in Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. “Playhouse,” yesterday, for example, has the peonies and the playhouse and the alcohol and everyone’s hair and the rabbits and the fruit stickers and the Tasmanian devil tattoo. The central visual feature in “Tell Yourself has got to be Mary’s clothes, and frankly, I also find the idea of a barely-adolescent girl wearing low rise jeans and a crop top with a pair of cupcakes over her cupcakes slightly discomfiting. I didn’t want to spend too much time focusing on her “darling new breasts.”
My mother would have done anything to persuade me to dress in a more feminine fashion when I was in 8th grade, but she never in a million years would have let me out of the house in that outfit, even when I was in high school. She would have been highly critical if she saw me dressed that way when I was in college. But I see little kids dressed like that all the time. The supply seems equal to the demand.
After the outfit, the only big visual symbol is the rocking chair, because I couldn’t figure out how to work in the gum-cracking or the terrible baby perfume. For the first time in this project, I was really at a loss for how to illustrate the final panel. I settled on the potatoes; it locates the narrator in this role she has created for herself: being a mother comes first, even though Mary’s already gone. But she did change her shirt. And I’ve left mom with the knife. She’s not wholly defenseless.