As I've said before, John makes a very questionable and silly decision this August on the day of Phil and Georgia's wedding when he loads a bunch of garbage in the back of the station wagon to take to the dump beforehand. There they all in their best clothes and there's John loading smelly household waste in his ride because he thinks he's beating the system by not waiting until collection day. He tries to beat the system some more by dumping the load in a supermarket dumpster to keep the wife quiet and damned near misses the wedding rooting around in the trash like a God-damned raccoon because his watch goes into the dumpster with the trash.
A lesser man would learn from this sort of foolhardy arrogance and listen to voices that tell him that he's headed for a fall. John is not such a man. John possesses what Red Green calls 'negative courage' in that he proceeds on a course of action despite a lack of information, intelligence and humility. I should think that the lack of humility tends very much to explain the lack of information and intelligence. John seems Hell-bent on not understanding what the people around him actually want to do because he's too bloody arrogant to be bothered paying attention to his surroundings; this is why it seems to come as a confusing shock that Elly doesn't see the advantage of merely paying a dump fee to beat the Man because she's talking about someone else's wedding. Too bad that John is as practical and filled with common sense as Elly is patient or kind. This means that their history is littered with the wreckage created by other stupid ideas.
As I type this, I do so in the knowledge that yet again, tax forms are sweeping the land and spreading gloom across the Foobiverse. While no one I've ever met actually likes paying taxes and most people would follow any random idiot that promises to simplify tax time, no one in the comics pages I've met are as pissed off as the Pattersons...mostly because John stupidly thought that Elly was capable of organizing her life without having to someone threaten to shoot her in the face with a bazooka. The very early years of the strip depicted a family that was treading water because the dull-witted paterfamilias insisted on saving money doing his taxes himself and thus exposing his financial records to an oblivious twit wife whose system is simpering that math is hard as she leaves him with the mess and clumsy imbecile children who think tax forms and calculators are toys.
As I said before, the reason that this is a problem is that the dim bulb's thinking that since he can drill teeth, he can also manage his own business is that he probably fails to exploit tax deductions that he's supposed to claim because he can't understand that Revenue Canada is telling him "Hey, Stupid! We're telling you to write childcare costs off your taxes for a reason!" As I've also said before, once he does turn his affairs over to that swell Anthony, he's going to be mildly delighted because for reasons that aren't that he's a simpleton who paid too much taxes because he thinks being a literal-minded nitwit makes him honest, he's going to get a packet back from the Feds in overcharges. This means that Anthony will be a saviour because understands a tax code John is too dim to penetrate. What it also means is that since John can't admit that he's a moron, he's still going to be angry at Mike, Liz and April for costing him so much and not providing for him.
It's always bothered me that as far as we know, Jean still thinks that John had an affair with Fiona Brass. It's an honest enough mistake to make, of course. John isn't aware of it but the way he speaks and acts gives most people the impression that his and Elly's marriage is rather fragile. To make a Harry Turtledove character of him, it's never crossed his mind that his breezy dismissal of Elly's hopes and fears, his need to not want to give in to her simple requests because doing so looks like a defeat and the casual way in which he ogles pretty girls make people think that he's about five seconds away from either being served divorce papers or telling one of those pretty girls that his wife doesn't understand him.
It made sense to Jean to assume that he reacted to April's birth by doing something hard to forgive because the stupid bastard neglected to share the fact that Fiona happened to be a relative who looked like Broderick Crawford in a fright wig. Canadian Content Cliff Clavin will gladly tell you everything that's been on his narrow, empty mind since he figured out which end of his digestive tract smelled worse but, for some reason, it never occurred to him to complain about his being shaken down by a con artist relative. This is important because it's why Jean will never confront him with it should she learn the truth.
This is because she remembers who John is and how he has a low tolerance for honest mistakes. If he ever learned that she didn't know who Fiona was and assumed something he didn't feel like understanding, it's rather obvious that he would inflate that one good-faith error into a licence to doubt everything she might tell him. After all, we know that he can't deal with his kids ignorance and mistakes so his thinking "CHEE! She was wrong about Fiona so I don't know if I can trust her about this heavy rain storm washing out the roads" is pretty much what's going to happen. It's not about his being a slow-witted buffoon who can't communicate on a meaningful level, it's about people who can't read his alleged mind.
As we saw last Sunday, Lynn has issues with gratitude in that she doesn't think that she gets enough of it and people who expect it expect too much of her. What she tends to not remember is that since all of her characters are aspects of her own psyche made to wear the forms of people she knows, she tends to reveal a certain hypocrisy in that the Pattersons never seem to want to admit that things cut both ways.
It seems to me that John's reactions to receiving and having to express gratitude tell us pretty much the whole story in that one little strip. As we saw, he exploded in a sort of blind rage because he believed that he didn't get the level of gratitude he actually deserved while (as always) ended up being utterly dismissive of Elly's equal struggle on his behalf. What I believe to be going on inside his and everyone elses' head is that he thinks too damned highly of himself and not enough of those around him. Despite his (and Lynn's) obvious belief otherwise, it just isn't possible for someone to sustain the sort of groveling gratitude that he clearly expected of Michael without turning into someone who can't function in society. It's as absurd as Elly's belief that Mike's silly little crush on Martha would naturally be followed by them dropping out of junior high and living in sin or John's own belief that praising people for doing what they're supposed to do would somehow turn them into selfish monsters.
What he and the others don't realize is that this explosive over-reaction to not getting the absurd level of deference they expect of those around them and the accompanying tendency to withhold thanks out of entitlement and a fear I'll get to later is that it resulted in men and women who can't thank people because of an instinctive belief that praise and gratitude are traps meant to lead one to being yelled at for being insincere. Not, of course, that we can expect John to admit this. Since the dumb-ass doesn't admit to having a violent temper, a blinkered and self-serving view of his family and a seemingly bottomless level of resentment, he'd be as ready to admit people are right to see him as a humorless, tyrannical ogre as he and everyone else would admit that people who are better than they are at things aren't doing to with the specific intent of mocking them. More on that tomorrow.
Of course, the belief that he's doing Elly a favor by trying to save her from the 'delusion' that she should be more that Mrs Doctor Patterson isn't the only means by which John thinks that he's being a great guy by doing something antisocial and self-defeating. As we are about to see, his attempts to reconcile Elly to a physique that her in-built preferences and her being raised by a crazy woman who made contradictory noise about cleaning off her plate while also maintaining a desirable silhouette made her see as being fat, pale, old and ugly blew up in his stupid face because Nice Guys™ just do not know how to give compliments that aren't left-handed. The drooling jackass thinks that he's helping when he wants her to admit that she can let it all hang out because while he himself is a vain fool obsessed with his own looks, he believes that there's an age window in which women should care about their appearance. This is not only why he gets on her last nerve about riding her about an appearance she's never been happy with, it's why he bleats about how horrible it is that ten-year-old Liz should care about how she looks because she's too young to feel good about what she sees.
This brings me to the other thing that he's proud of that he shouldn't be: his being an unapproachable, insenstive, high-strung, unyielding oaf of a father who takes a perverse pride in not understanding where his children are coming from and being totally uninvolved in their lives because that's the mother's job. Since we're dealing with a total goit here, he confuses the result of a necessity (his father working like a piston and thus being too tired to interact with him) with a law of nature. Granted, he works hard but not AS hard as a coal miner so has only the excuse of lower back pain he won't treat to keep him from being a real dad instead of merely the biological adjunct of a chair.
One of the many, many mistakes clingy, needy, wussy Nice Guys™ make is that they seek out women they judge to be somehow damaged in order to "fix" them because of their need to provide what they deem to be help. The same sick, fatuous impulse that drives Anthony's stomach-churning fantasy in which he makes it clear that he sees Liz not as a person with hopes, dreams and fears of her own but as a passive object to be rescued propelled an equally repellent moron ages ago.
Said nincompoop is, of course, John Patterson. You see, forty or so years ago, our lad came across a woman he still believes needed rescuing from herself and her silly and bizarre belief that she somehow needed an identity independent of a male when it seemed obvious as all Hell to the oblivious and unobservant git that his mother was a happy homemaker who was content as anything to be Mrs Will Patterson. Although it's obvious as all Hell to me (owing to my brain doing something John's doesn't called "functioning") that Carrie might have loved to be more than a mere housewife, she also knew that Society would look down on her for leaving her family in the lurch and so on and so forth. Since she wasn't given a choice that wouldn't hurt, she just made the best of the same bad situation other Carrie Pattersons were in and put aside happy thoughts of a life of ease and fulfillment until after the nest emptied.
Since John is a smirking bonehead who, like most of his kind, revels in being unaware of the subtext that surrounds him, confused her smiling her way through the grimly inevitable with contentment with her lot in life because it confirmed what his real parent (network television) told him. Given that his predilection towards thinking that people were put on the Earth to serve him was validated by hucksters who don't want to rock the boat and are all kinds of scared of women to begin with, his belief clearly seems to have been that were he to rescue Elly Richards from her many, many "neuroses", he would become a more worthy person and thus receive the approval of society. What's more, he would have her gratitude.
What went wrong is, of course, that his happy little fantasy ran aground on the rocky shoals of a place Nice Guys fear: the land of objective reality. Since John is stupid and blind and stubborn and proud of it, he doesn't get it that he's not seen as a savior whose help is longed for but as an antagonist that Elly spent the longest time thwarting. This caused him to retreat to an alcove in angry confusion and fear. The only reason that the two of them are still together is that they're not around each other long enough to antagonize one another. The sad thing is that said distance has allowed them to befriend the impostor lack of contact created. John loves the dedicated housewife he thinks Elly is and she the supportive husband of her fantasies. This would be bad enough were it not the happy ending that Mike, Deanna, Liz and Anthony are destined to embrace.