Dinnertime on Kennewick Road meant a dining room table crowded with mail, newspapers, and our homework, some type of Hamburger Helper, fast food, or TV dinner, and Seinfeld on the black and white in the corner. I can’t say what happened to that TV now. You had to turn a nob to change the channel and adjust the antennas constantly. But it did what mattered. It cranked out episodes of Seinfeld five nights per week. And Aubrey and I gathered much of our knowledge of the world from Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.
In addition to using a TV from the ’60s unironically, our parents have always been the type to answer our questions. I remember when I was maybe 8 years old, I pulled my dad away from Aubrey’s hearing range on Christmas morning and said, “Straight up, Dad. Is Santa real? He can’t be real, right?”
My dad, ever faithful to the truth, sighed looked down, met my eyes, and with a smile said, “No, Santa is not real.” And I appreciate that. No bull. (I just knew Santa didn’t have the same handwriting as my parents!)
My mom said that when my Uncle Michael was born, her mom went to the hospital for “a hurt leg” and came home with an infant. Had Aubrey and I gotten our wish and had a little brother when we were of talking age, my parents would have explained the entire thing. We may have been horrified but at least we’d be informed. Oh, we knew where babies came from.
They were the same way with Seinfeld. Everything Aubrey and I maybe shouldn’t have known when we were little kids, we learned from Seinfeld. If I asked Nancy or Dick for clarification, I got it. I specifically remember the episode called “The Contest.” Season 4, episode 11, first aired on November 18, 1992. (Okay, I’m not that much of a Seinfeld junkie, I googled that.) I asked my mom what Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were talking about. Why were they being so cryptic? What was this contest about? Why was everyone so much more calm after losing the contest? I remember my mom falling into a bashful smile and then she started with something like, “Sometimes when people are alone…”
That one was particularly scarring because of the content and that my poor mother felt like she owed it to me to explain.
Seinfeld references exist throughout life. I love when I make an obscure reference and someone I don’t know is a Seinfeld-er joins me. “Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!” Aub and I could literally have a conversation comprising only of animal-voice-pet-talk and Seinfeld references. It’s just so applicable to life. And that’s why we learned so much from it.
It’s not possible to enter a Chinese restaurant without saying, “I yell ‘Cartright! Cartright!’ and no one answer, so I hang up.” If you are on the way to meet a friend’s new baby, you simply must say “Ya gotta see the baaayyyyybeeeeeeeeee,” in a nasally voice. And it made me so happy the other day when Lockdogg (my brother in law) randomly called me Jugdish. Just YES.
Seinfeld also taught me that “Shut up” was not nice thing to say. If we said “shut up,” we had to sit out of one Seinfeld episode. If that’s not great parenting, I don’t know what is.
I remember May 14, 1998 (that date I actually did remember but googled to make sure). My parents had some event in a hotel and Aubrey and I were allowed to be in the hotel room by ourselves. We got to sit up in our fluffy hotel bed and watch The. Last. Episode. Of. Seinfeld. We stayed up until at least 10 p.m. I know that the final ep didn’t earn a lot of praise from critics but for a pair of sisters at 8 and 10 years old, it was Emmy-winning. I mean, “Who figures an immigrant’s gonna have a pony?”
I’m a pretty observant person. Maybe that’s the ENFP in me. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that I was raised by Seinfeld. A show about nothing is ideal training for keen observation skills. The minutia that Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer cared about meant that they were close observers of the world, and I became one too.
- Jerry: She eats her peas one at a time.
- Elaine: You don’t think that someone having a baby warrants an exclamation point.
- Jerry: You can’t eat this soup standing up. Your knees buckle.
- Kramer: The carpet sweeper is the biggest scam perpetrated on the American public since One Hour Martinizing.
- George: I don’t dip that way. You dip the way you wanna dip. I’ll dip the way I wanna dip.
- Estelle Costanza: You’re not giving away our water pick!
- Jerry: There’s no reason for her to not taste that pie!
- Elaine: I once broke up with someone for not offering me pie.
- Jerry: Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don’t stare at it. It’s too risky. Ya get a sense of it and then you look away.
- George: I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I can tell the difference between nougat and cookie.
- Kramer: I’m H.E. Pennypacker. I’m a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, and uh, a bicyclist.
They may be insane but those are some very astute observations. Sometimes I feel like I think in a Seinfeld mindset–hopefully just less selfish, narcissistic, and nihilistic.
Aubrey and I learned at early ages that men’s chest hair grows back itchy when they shave it, mutton probably doesn’t taste very good, what gonorrhea is, not to scratch the side of your nose in a car, envelope glue can be poisonous, sharing toilet paper is common courtesy, you can sing on your voicemail if you want, to be careful when you stop short so you don’t send the wrong message, if given the option do not take part in a police line up, that when men swim in cold water, there’s “shrinkage,” and so many other lessons. And then we named our family cat Kramer.
I think the way that Seinfeld really serves us best is that it teaches you to laugh at tiny stressors. Notice them, give them funny names, chuckle, and then let them go. Seinfeld shows viewers how to handle life with a sense of humor. Also, there are times in life to embody each character, even if we don’t necessarily want to admit we relate. I think I oscillate between a self-loathing George, an naively optimistic Kramer, a feisty Elaine, and a confident and even-keeled Jerry. They’re in all of us.
Let’s end with the words of Frank Costanza, “Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”