Why do you ask?

Why indeed? A friend and sometime-lurker sent me this, suggesting it for CIDU, and I have to agree. Maybe there’s something about philately?

Mitch suggests that there may be a joke in the way the therapist is probing for something the guy is leaving out–perhaps his hairpiece is also something he thinks the wife criticizes too much. He also asked: Why does the diploma alternate between an MA and a PhD? What is the significance of the therapist doodling instead of making notes?


  1. Perhaps the therapist thinks that these trivial things the wife is complaining about are a cover for some fundamental issue she has with him but doesn’t like to make explicit, such as saying “you’re a toxic controlling bully and I hate you” – once said that is hard to unsay or paper over.

    Or maybe the therapist doesn’t like his braces [aka suspenders].

  2. I feel like the wife’s silence enters into this somehow. Maybe the therapist thinks she might criticize the way he monopolizes the conversation?

  3. This doctor always doodles while doing therapy. The implication (I believe) is that he is so formulaic in his methods, he can generally work without even paying attention. (Might also be wordplay, Dr. Noodle doodles.)

    Narmitaj has it, I think. There has to be some issue bigger than thermostat settings here, but neither of the partners is willing to actually discuss it in front of the person they are paying to help fix it. I hear this is a common problem for therapists.

  4. Not an answer to the CIDU, but a remotely related quote from film critic Philip French:

    I don’t know much about philately, but I know what I lick.

  5. “I don’t know much about philately, but I know what I lick.”

    As someone who collected stamps years ago, this makes me . . . cringe.

  6. Well I wasn’t cringing at it (but get Andrea’s point that you don’t lick or even moisten stamps you collect), but I am still processing the quip on the basis that it comes from a Philip so might be using “philately” as containing his short-name and maybe making a sentence.

  7. Any chance the husband is supposed to be Trump? (Big, red hair, toupee…)

    I’m not sure that that would EXPLAIN anything…. but it was my first thought…

  8. There was a DILBERT cartoon some years ago in which Dogbert asked Dilbert to help him with his stamp collection, claiming he would be much better at it. Dilbert replied “Philately will get you nowhere,” which I found memorable both for the pun and for being one of the fairly few times Dilbert came out on top over Dogbert in any sort of contest of wits.

  9. @bpostow: I had that thought but opted not to include it initially, see if it was just me!

  10. the MA/PhD thing is really weird though… Is it possible that it’s an error? Seems unlikely…

  11. The idea that the therapist thinks these small issues are a cover for something more serious seems reasonable for a real-life situation, but then where’s the joke?

  12. The changing diploma is probably just goofing around to see if people are paying attention. And yes, it’s really no deeper than “she should be criticizing your toupee.”

  13. The trouble with the hair/toupee (shorn tomorrow) theory, which may well be right, is that the woman’s hair is equally if not more ridiculous – she can’t even see out from under hers.

    I don’t know much about toupees, but do they regularly have subtleties like the bit of grey at the temples this man is sporting? My assumption (prejudice) is that they tend to be somewhat monochromatic compared with real hair.

  14. Anyone else notice that the woman – who supposedly spends all her time criticizing him – has no mouth? Maybe why she doesn’t talk? That’s the kind of subtlety that Bell is good at.

  15. My initial thought was Trump as well, but then I couldn’t recall him ever wearing glasses. Even if he has, the wife looks nothing like Melania.

    I tend to go with Powers’s explanation. A typical response to “What brings you to therapy today?”, if you’re serious about trying to fix the relationship, might be “We have been arguing a lot lately” or something like that. Not just diving in with why the other person is at fault.

  16. I think the grey in his temples is his own hair sticking out, making the toupee explanation more believable.

  17. Some cartoonists like to have in-jokes by changing background stuff from panel to panel. Fox Trot and Doonesbury are notable examples.

  18. @ Brian in StL – I think Trudeau’s “alterations” were more likely to appear in his daily strips than on Sundays. I quit reading his (poorly edited) parade of reruns a long while back. I don’t think I’ve seen any occurrences since then, but this may also be due to a progression in the style of his artwork.

    P.S. Another proponent of background “modifications” is (or “was”) Berkeley Breathed (again, more commonly in the daily “Bloom County” strips than in “Opus” or “Outland”; both of the latter features were Sunday only).

  19. @narmitaj: That gray at the temples is his real hair. These two crop up occasionally on Sundays when Darrin Bell has a psychologist joke he wants to use that requires a couple. Other than the fact he’s a clueless blowhard most of the time, they don’t really have characteristics. They’re just cardboard figures there for the joke.

    “Luann” also used to have changing stuff in the background any time the scene was in the school counselor’s office. Both her nameplate and her diploma would change.

  20. And THERE’s a visual I didn’t need . . . altho Ellison wrote some great stories. Come to think on it, don’t a lot of women feel that way . . . ?

  21. So do you think for some of them at least the redrawn backgrounds are a way of saying “Hey look, I really do draw each panel from scratch!” – not just reusing a later.

  22. A more recent background twiddler: Stephen Beals, in Adult Children. Watch the break room signs.

  23. In the category of “changing background” you cannot beat Krazy Kat in the past and BroomHilda now.

  24. Adult Children (which was, at the time of my reply, the only other comic mentioned). Candorville is already one of the 100+ I check ev’ry day.

  25. Thanks for clarifying that. A little earlier this year I added Adult Children to my reading list after enjoying someone’s CIDU submission from that strip. (And it ended up high enough on my list that I often do get to it.)

  26. I just went down the rabbit hole of looking at past strips, some of which were relevant to my working days (more so for my second job at the service desk of big box store than my REAL job of library assistant, altho I have to admit, there was some crossover). One strip in particular, where the woman is praying NOT to dream about her job ’cause she wants a break; after 17 years of retirement, I STILL dream about working in the high school library, which I did for 30 years.

  27. I also often dream I’m still working at the library. Often this involves trying to find something online for a patron (I was a university reference librarian) and being frustrated because the keyboard is disarranged, the keys won’t allow themselves to be pressed, the screen display flipflops, and so on. Other times it’s a standard “have to find/get back to someone/somewhere in the building in a few moments and am being delayed/can’t remember who/where dream.”

    So far I don’t recall having any “well, here I am at the reference desk, and I’m naked” dreams, but now that possibility has come to mind, I suppose I soon will.

  28. As the Kyle Rittenhouse/BLM ‘incidents’ happened in the park across the street from the library where I worked, I dreamt a lot about the library, the school and the park. Last week or so, I escorted Queen Elizabeth thru the halls of the school (I know – dream logic is like comic logic – non-existent). I had watched some of her Jubilee previously, so I guess things just intermingled in my brain. Which NEVER shuts off. Ever. I’ve often said I can dream in short story, novella and novel format. Usually about dead people (like Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense, only whilst I’m asleep).

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