The first time I read the word Aack! was in the global syndication of the daily comic strip “Cathy,” nestled between “Garfield” and “The Far Side” in the English-language newspapers in Malaysia, where I grew up. I lived half a world away from the creator of “Cathy,” Cathy Guisewite, but the main character’s catchphrase imprinted itself onto my brain anyway—a testament to the strip’s power in the ’80s and ’90s. “Cathy” is now typically evoked with mixed feelings, denigrated for what it is half-remembered to represent: the angst of a distinct boomer's upper-middle-class white woman exasperated by her attempts to “have it all” (a man, a white-collar job, a body that fits with conventional beauty standards) and wracked with guilt about the whole thing. The comic ran in newspapers for 34 industrious years, from 1976 to 2010, and its brand of fame adds to the complication: Surely anything beloved by so many suburban, middle-aged moms must be antithetical to good taste.
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