A Moment of Jen
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
posted by Jen at 11/06/2007 12:15:00 PM

Show me a writer and I’ll show you someone who’s interested in the construction of identity, in narrative, in the way stories get told and the question of who gets to tell them.

For me, that interest especially relates to the way female identity is constructed in the media: who gets to tell the stories, how they get told, the pervasive the double standard, the way “ambition” is a fine quality in a man and a disease in a woman; the way men still get away with a vast number of things that would instantly get any woman shoved into the castrating bitch/crazylady/bad mother/slut box (my favorite recent example: does anyone think Katie Couric would have gotten the approving reviews that Brian Williams did if she’d hosted “Saturday Night Live?” More likely, she would have been accused of killing gravitas as we know it, if not the nightly newscast altogether).

All of which serves as a long, windy buildup to my current pop-culture obsession: Jessica Seinfeld, comma, is there a way to tell her story that doesn’t end with her in the box of cold-hearted gold-digger?

I’m not talking about the quote-unquote scandal of her vegetable-disguising cookbook bearing certain resemblances to another cookbook advocating some of the same strategies.

If you’ve even glanced casually at a kiddie cookbook and/or parenting magazine, you’ve seen a version of the “just cut carrots into the shape of a dinosaur/ sneak some shredded zucchini into those muffins!” scheme. (In my experience, this never, ever works. If you gave my daughter a muffin containing shredded zucchini, you would end up with no muffin, a few crumbs, and a meticulous pile of zucchini shreds. If you gave her a vegetable she didn’t want cut into the shape of a dinosaur, you would be left with an uneaten dinosaur-shaped vegetable, although she’d probably appreciate the effort. Kids? Are not that easy to fool.)

But I digress.

In Sunday’s Style section, there was a long piece on how Jerry met Jess...which was, indeed, quite the scandal in its day.

“This insignificantly featured girl,” declared a 1999 op-ed column in The Newark Star-Ledger, “was lucky enough to have a wealthy, powerful Jew break with stereotype and offer her the last name of Nederlander. But being more ambitious, the newlywed started timing her workouts at New York’s posh Reebok Club with Jerry’s ...”

The Times piece was, purportedly, Jessica Seinfeld’s attempt to set the record straight, to tell the truth in a way she couldn’t when her first marriage collapsed and her relationship with Jerry Seinfeld blossomed.

So what’d she tell the Times?

That her marriage to Eric Nederlander, the son of a wealthy, New York theater-owning family, was in trouble before she’d ever met Jerry. That she and her then-husband were in couples’ counseling prior to the marriage. That she’d come home from her three-week Italian honeymoon knowing that things weren’t working. That she’d essentially left her husband before she met Jerry at the gym, fell for him, and became Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld, charity queen and, eventually, stay-at-home mother of three, sixteen months after they first met, and eighteen months after her first marriage.

I can buy parts of her explanation: the idea that she told the reporters that she and Jerry were just friends because she didn’t want to hurt her still-husband, that her family didn’t know the story, that she was young and overwhelmed (although the young-and-overwhelmed excuse has to be at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that she was working as a publicist in New York prior to her marriage which, presumably, gave her some knowledge as to how the PR game is played).

But I have a few questions.

In 1995, Seinfeld changed her name from “Nina Sklar” to “Jessica Sklar.” Not that this necessarily has anything to do with anything, but what’s up with that?

What does “insignificantly featured” mean, exactly? Is that Newark-ese for "doesn’t look like a model?" Is it code for "doesn’t look Jewish?" Can a man be insignificantly featured? Would a newspaper ever describe one that way? Seriously. Confused here!

Why was the insignificantly-featured Nina-slash-Jessica at the gym after her wedding? I get concept of the vigorous pre-wedding workouts, but after you get hitched, aren’t you just supposed to lie around eating leftover wedding cake and writing your thank-you notes?

What the hell happened on that honeymoon? Because I am picturing On Chesil Beach-level awfulness. The Falls-level horrors. (Also, what's with literary authors and honeymoons gone wrong?)

Why didn’t the story mention a scandal that, in my mind, was every bit as juicy as the hitching-up-with-a-newlywed saga: namely, that Jerry Seinfeld spent his late thirties/early forties dating Shoshanna Lonstein, who was two weeks’ shy of her eighteenth birthday and in high school when he met her?

Should Jerry Seinfeld get a free pass for cradle-robbing because he’s Jerry Seinfeld, America's lovable neurotic-next-door, while Nina/Jessica gets nailed to a stake as a cheating, cold-hearted, hard-bodied, name-switching gold-digger because, pre-Jerry, she had no public identity at all?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

On the pregnancy front, the baby is still breech.

Things I have tried to de-breechify the baby include:

Swimming (I quite enjoyed it; baby went to sleep).

Underwater hand-stands (V. alarming to the lifeguard – “Are you sure you should be doing that?” Baby continued to sleep).

Pinching my little toes for ten minute stretches, per recommendation of acupuncture website (No discernible results).

Hanging out on hands and knees (ditto).

Lying on inverted ironing board (V. surprising to husband: “We have an ironing board? And you know where it is?”)

Shining flashlight on lower belly (Best friend Susan. “Are babies that interested in light?” Me: “I don’t know. I guess. It’s not like there’s a lot of entertainment options in there.”)

I’m giving up. If the baby wants to move, the baby can move, but I have to spend my time doing other things, such as finishing all the work I need to do in the next three and a half weeks, washing all the zero-to-three-month clothing, trying to locate the Gymini, Moses basket and bouncy seat, and trying to wean myself off of cinnamon and brown sugar Pop Tarts which, while delicious, should probably not continue to comprise part of daily diet once baby arrives.

Also: reading! Princeton! Tomorrow! 4:30 p.m. at 185 Nassau Street!
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