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Thursday, February 03, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Cathy is tying the knot

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

Enlarge this photoNICK UT / AP

"I never thought Cathy would get married in the comic strip. And I also thought I would never get married," Cathy Guisewite says.

Here comes the bride — finally.

For 28 years, writer-artist Cathy Guisewite's syndicated strip "Cathy" has detailed the wonky love life of a perennially single career woman.

On Saturday, the theme of the strip will change irrevocably when Cathy marries on-again, off-again beau Irving, an event fans of the Universal Press Syndicate strip have anticipated for the past year.

To Guisewite, who married screenwriter Chris Wilkinson seven years ago, the bond between character and creator is so great that her comic-strip alter-ego could not remain single.

"The longer I've been married, the harder it is to write about Cathy dating without feeling like I'm cheating on my husband," says the Ohio native, 54. "I do think of us as being very similar."

Further blurring the line between real and comic-strip life is the fact that Cathy, the character, is registered at a real wedding registry, www.thebigday.com, which is collecting donations for a real animal shelter, The Pet Orphans of Southern California, where Guisewite volunteers with her 12-year-old daughter, Ivy.

"I thought this would be a great opportunity to help out animals," the cartoonist says, "especially since Cathy and Irving's dogs are ring bearers in the wedding."


Comic-strip characters Cathy and Irving pose with their "dogs-of-honor."

Guisewite spoke recently in a telephone interview from her California studio:

Q: In the comic-strip world, Cathy getting married is a milestone akin to Dick Tracy marrying Tess Trueheart. How has fan response been?

A: Almost everybody I've heard from is thrilled that Cathy's getting married. I think they're anxious for her to move on to the next phase. Most of Cathy's readers, probably, are married. I think they're very curious to see how this couple will deal with the basics of marriage: sharing a refrigerator, sharing a bathroom, sharing closets. It'll be interesting.

Q: Was it a tough decision to have Cathy marry, or did you always know it would happen someday?

A: I never thought Cathy would get married in the comic strip. And I also thought I would never get married in real life. So both are shocks to me. When I got married, people said, "Oh, now the character's going to get married." And I thought, no, this will really be where our lives separate. She'll go her way, I'll go mine, and that will be that. But the truth is, now that I'm married and actually living with a man 24 hours a day, the wealth of material is too great to pass up.

Q: Speaking of wealth of material — in all of the strips leading up to the wedding, it seems you've uncovered an endless string of obscure, albeit valid, wedding-themed concepts. For instance, "bride hair" and its life expectancy.

A: I wrote a lot of Cathy's wedding directly from my wedding experience. Both of us were getting married as more mature brides. I was 47 when I got married, and I think of Cathy as being older. I thought back about not only all of the decisions and problems every bride faces getting ready for a wedding, but the special challenges of an older bride. For instance, the fact that when you're older, you don't have the hair and skin stamina of a young bride. A young bride can put on makeup at 6 in the morning and look fabulous at midnight. I have about a 15-minute window where I actually look good, and then I have to wash my face and start over. Not to mention that the older a woman gets — it's just the truth — the more sizes her body goes through during a day. So it's not possible for me to wear the same dress in the morning that I can wear in the evening, because my body changes sizes during the day. I just write from the truth. What can I say?

Q: You could probably glean months of strips out of the wedding day alone, but Feb. 5 is the "official" wedding date. Are you compressing the wedding day into a series of strips?

A: I wanted Cathy and Irving to actually say "I do" and be pronounced husband and wife on Feb. 5, which is my mom's birthday. With that in mind, I spend (a) week on the wedding, and then the reception is the week after that. But you're right; I certainly could have dragged the wedding and reception out for three months. I tried to touch on the significant points of the wedding in as short a time as I could, keeping in mind that it isn't possible to sum up a wedding in one four-panel strip.

Q: And now, you can finally start breaking out that suppressed material about the newlywed phase.

A: Yes. My husband reads the strip, of course. As the wedding has approached, he looks at me in the morning and says, "Ooh, this is getting closer and closer to home." He has a great sense of humor about himself, though. Hopefully, that will last.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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