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The Sally Forth Affair -- Writer's Poke #254

Whenever people talk about their favorite syndicated cartoons, they usually mention strips like The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, and Dilbert. Sally Forth is not one that generally comes up, but I think it's pretty good. In a lot of ways, I think it's just as smart as the cartoons referred to above, but maybe it's just not as flashy. I guess you could describe it as understated, and not a cartoon for kids, per se. Nevertheless, it's funny enough that it probably should be appreciated by old and young alike.

One of the ongoing story lines is Ted's office romance with Aria. Ted and Sally's marriage seems solid. They don't have any issues that might cause Ted to stray. And if you asked Ted what his relationship with Aria is all about, he would most likely look at you blankly. In Ted's mind, he and Aria are just friends. They share a lot of the same interests, and the chemistry between them is clearly there. But Ted isn't a dog, and the thought of having an affair with Aria would never cross his mind.

Likewise, Aria enjoys Ted's company at work, but she's not trying to destroy Ted's marriage. She's not trying to lead Ted on. But the underlying reality is: she's an unattached heterosexual woman, and Ted is a heterosexual man. If Ted weren't married, it wouldn't take much imagination to see him and Aria together. But since he is married, both of them enjoy each other's company in a strictly platonic way.

Other characters in the strip, such as Sally's friend Alice, as well as some of Ted's coworkers, believe that there is something funny, or at least inappropriate, about Ted and Aria's relationship. Alice describes Aria as Ted's "office wife," and eventually, based on the perceptions of others, as well as the low-level jealousy exhibited by his wife, Ted decides to confront Aria to clarify their relationship. He's never really able to do that, though, as he always ends up tripping over his own words, and/or because Aria cuts him off and makes fun of him.

If the relationship is completely innocent, then one question: When one of Ted's coworkers goes out on a date with Aria, why does that bother Ted so much?

Can men and women just be friends?

"Flirtation: attention without intention." -- Max O'Neil


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