I am a woman obsessed. I have just discovered Calvin and Hobbes.
I cannot even articulate how this comic strip has changed my life. As Kikki once said about our beloved singer Tori Amos, “It occurs to me that she has not been in my life that long. And yet I already have no idea how I ever managed to live without her.”
Calvin is a ridiculously gifted six-year old, and, like many gifted kids, he spends a lot of time being bored by those around him. Calvin’s best friend, and the only character able to keep up with him, is Hobbes the tiger, who, though appearing as a stuffed animal to everyone else, comes deliciously alive in Calvin’s eyes.
Calvin and Hobbes is the smartest comic to ever appear in print. Calvin uses bigger words – and has bigger ideas – than half my college classmates.
In several strips Calvin builds snowmen – but, as he explains to Hobbes, these are no ordinary snowmen. In one strip, Hobbes finds Calvin building a snowman who holds a snowball in his branch of a hand. “Why is this snowman looking at a snowball?” Hobbes asks. “He’s contemplating snowman evolution. Obviously, if he evolved from a snowball, it raises tough theological questions for him.” Calvin explains. “Like the morality of throwing one’s precursors at someone?” Hobbes responds. “Sure,” says Calvin, “And what about shoveling one’s genetic material off the walk?”
But let’s put Calvin and Hobbes aside for a moment so I can tie them back in later.
Apart from introducing people to comic strips they should know, one of the funnest things about blogging, I think, is thinking up aliases for your friends and family so you can tell stories about them. For example, my friends are referred to as Jules and Kikki, my mom calls me “Favorite Daughter” and variations thereof, and I call my mom – well, my mom. Unimaginative, I know.
But today, I wanted to say something about my charming significant other, and found myself in need of a nickname. Should I call him my BF? My SO? Nothing felt right. And then it came to me, bringing with it, mercifully, an idea for a blog.
My significant other, whom I’ve decided to call Calvin (explanation to follow, be patient) had a rather rocky start to his education. At least the public school part. Let me begin by explaining that Calvin is one of the smartest people I know. Like a lot of kids who are smart and know it, Calvin spent a lot of time in school being 1) bored and 2) kind of a jerk to everyone who was less intelligent, including the teachers. He was also a very excitable and active kid, and, as near as I can tell, spent much of his childhood being scraped off the ceiling.
Through a series of murky circumstances that I characterize as the tragic misunderstanding typical of our school system and which he prefers not to talk about, he wound up in remedial classes which were little more than child warehouses. I won’t detail the horrors endured there, but the high point of his reaction to it was being sent home with a referral reading “caused a major student uprising”. Apparently (bear in mind that he was in the 6th or 7th grade) he stood up in class and protested the conditions by pointing out that they bore startling resemblance to those that led to the American Revolution. He said, and I quote: “The Declaration of Independence was not written on a cocktail napkin!” The rest of the class broke into song – Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” (aka “We Don’t Need No Education”)
As the song reached a crescendo – “Teacher, leave them kids alone!” – the principal walked in. “What is it now? he asked. “I’m fighting tyranny!” Calvin proclaimed.
Years away from this hellish experience and a rather less hellish high school experience, Calvin has survived, and is doing just great, and this week introduced me to his favorite comic of all time.
Say it with me: Calvin and Hobbes. And thus the blog is brought full circle.
Both the illustrated Calvin and my Calvin are smart, and both of them are jerks about it. Over at my Calvin’s house for dinner, he engaged his mom in an argument. “Now, dear,” my Calvin’s dad offered as he passed by, “you should know better than to argue. You know our son knows everything.” I’m reminded of the illustrated Calvin, when his mom catches him driving nails into her coffee table. “CALVIN! What are you DOING to the coffee table?!?” she screams. Calvin contemplates her for a moment, and responds: “Is this some sort of trick question, or what?”
But the strip in which my Calvin and the Calvin on the page truly merge is also the one that should be the comic theme of unschooling (I’ve included it at the bottom of the blog, see if you catch the metaphor). The two Calvins actually merge so seamlessly that, for a moment, I forget which it is: Do I read one because he reminds me of the other? Or do I date one because he reminds me of the other?
And then I realize that it doesn’t really matter. Because, either way, I get Calvin.
Released on: Thursday, Feb 4th 1993.
Images copyright Bill Watterson and Universal Press Syndicate.