I was a few weeks shy of sixteen when Seinfeld made its television debut, but I don’t think I started watching it until about a year later, after I’d left home and tuned into the show on the 11″ black-and-white TV I kept on the window ledge of my dorm room at Elmhurst College. Almost immediately, I made two judgments of the show: (1) surely it depicted what it was like to be an adult and (2) I wanted to be Elaine when I grew up.
[These judgments were parallel to the ones I’d made after seeing Annie Hall at 14, though Woody Allen’s adulthood was surely less entertaining than Seinfeld’s and Annie Hall would never win a fistfight with Elaine.]
I was reminded of this the other night after watching Enough Said, her latest movie (co-starring with the late James Gandolfini), in which it occurred to me that I didn’t like Elaine so much for her wacky, strong, say-anything personality (though it’s not lost on me that such a description isn’t far from my own persona) but that I appreciated three key things about her: (1) her friends were mostly men, among whom she could hold her own, (2) she was very funny, and (3) she had amazing hair. And as a teenage girl, you take those three things and add Manhattan into the mix, and – BOOM! – there’s the woman you want to be. (I also always wanted to be Marlo Thomas in That Girl, which is an entirely different story I may get to some day…)
Anyhow, in Enough Said the character in that film that Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays very much reminds me of the person I am in my life today (well, in some ways; in others not so much) in that she’s struggling to find a place in the world and maybe some romance to boot, but it’s not so easy when you’re letting go of your kids and also coming to terms with being older and realizing that the dating pool is filled with other people’s (literal) rejects… but also that someone else’s garbage (so to speak) just might be your hidden treasure.
And it got me to thinking that perhaps the woman I’ve become today isn’t so terribly far off from that Elaine character I always wanted to be. I have lots of weird and fabulous adventures in Manhattan (check); I have great friends, most of whom are men (check); I have odd things that happen, about which I get to tell stories (check); I can often make people laugh (check); I tend to get overexcited (check); I have fabulous hair and I will never apologize for being proud of how fabulous my hair is thankyouverymuch (check); and I’m just, well, I guess that sort of comfortable-in-my-own-skin kind of person I always took Elaine to be on Seinfeld. Which, yes, I KNOW, was a television show and NOT A REALITY SHOW and she was a CHARACTER and not a REAL LIVE PERSON. But still. Everyone needs a role model, and she was mine for a long time, and it’s kind of neat to realize that you’ve become the person you’ve wanted to be. Except maybe for the part about having n apartment and a job. (Though, in my defense, my boss at my internship could very well give J. Peterman a run for his money…) In any case, I’ll take it. Because fabulous hair goes a long, long way toward making up for those other things…