I had the honor and pleasure of hanging out with a childhood idol this week–or the woman behind the idol, anyway.
Feminist, Sylvia cartoonist and Chicago escape artist (in that order) Nicole Hollander is in Savannah, and I wrote a column about our Bad Girl Chat.
A few Jewish gems didn’t make it through the editorial Cuisinart, like how I invited her to Shabbos dinner (she and her friend Janice are coming this week) and this bombshell:
“You know, I never thought of Sylvia as Jewish.” WHAT.
Schlepping with Sylvia
WHEN I was a teenage anarchist sitting around my suburban bedroom plotting how to subvert the patriarchy without chipping my nail polish, I had a fabulous role model.
Sylvia did exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up: She spent her days clacking out opinionated missives at her desk and snacking on donuts in the bathtub with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.
She wore lipstick and a feather boa but rarely dealt with her hair. Her cats were smarter than most people, and she was not in the least bit afraid of Rush Limbaugh.
Let’s just say I saw more to emulate in Sylvia than I ever could in Farrah Fawcett.
It hardly mattered that she was a cartoon; Sylvia represented a woman who did and said and ate whatever she wanted, dominant paradigm be damned. As the kids say these days, she gave no fucks.
In spite of such bodacious outrageousness, Sylvia managed to infiltrate the masses. Her socially-conscious comic strip enjoyed a 40 year-run in the funny pages of over 60 daily newspapers across the country, causing subversive chuckles in big cities as well as unlikely places such as my suburban Arizona town and Savannah, GA. (Maybe you remember her trans fashion advice for Gernif the Venusian?)
My mother, a fan of both feminism and feather boas, also kept a pile of Sylvia’s bestselling compilation books in her bathroom, including Everything Here is Mine: An Unhelpful Guide to Cat Behavior and You Can’t Take It With You, So Eat It Now. I spent a lot of time sitting on the bidet and giggling.
Obviously, when another of my favorite sardonic sages, Jane Fishman, slipped the word that Sylvia creator Nicole Hollander was in Savannah, I plotzed. (Think a Jewish version of the Scarlett O’Hara faint.)