Before Sadie was a baby name or even a dog name, hearing it would elicit one of two responses: singing (either “Sexy Sadie” or “Sadie Sadie, married lady”) or references to Sadie Hawkins. Since for most of my childhood I had pretensions to neither man-hungry spinsterhood, sexiness, nor marriage, I found all of these references obscurely humiliating. Sadie Hawkins Day—which falls on February 29 and only on February 29—was the worst one. All those desperate old maids chasing after unwilling mediocre men once every four years struck me as deeply troubling, not unlike Ginnifer Goodwin’s character in He’s Just Not That Into You, which is not to be confused with the equally execrable Leap Year. Why did they want them so much? Why were the guys so reluctant? Why was this one day considered so unnatural?
You could say I’ve disliked leap years ever since. Li’l Abner, which invented Sadie Hawkins Day in 1937, made me despise the men and pity the spinsters, and the punch line was cruel. The image to the left is a perfect illustration: somehow emboldened by custom and the pagan pull of the moon, the kitty has cast aside all maidenly shame. Her frank sexuality is terrifying to the male tomcat. Probably not least because lacking knuckles, it’s hard for them to tell when leap day is, and as such it’s taken him by surprise. The cat’s chapeau, incidentally, seems to suggest that the cartoon was playing on larger fears of the era: that of suffrage. But in the end, let’s face it: they’re both naked.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.