Jerry and Elaine of Seinfeld are the ideal non-couple. What I can’t figure out is if they’re the most realistic example of a couple turned friends or the least realistic.
The greatest thing about Jerry and Elaine is their friendship. Underneath all of the sarcasm and cynicism, it seems like they genuinely like and care for each other. When one is having relationship issues, the other listens. Neither one ever tries to sabotage the other’s relationship for their own gain. This isn’t Friends. There is no “will they or won’t they?” They won’t. Ever.
The show would occasionally tease us. Once when the two were arguing, Kramer broke them apart shouting, “Can’t you see that you’re in love with each other?!” to which Jerry and Elaine rolled their eyes and threw up their hands in a, “Bitch please” fashion. In the season finale it’s suggested that when the gang thinks they’re going to die in a plane crash, Elaine is about to tell Jerry she loves him. But it’s never brought up again.
There was one episode titled The Deal that shed new light on their dynamic. Jerry and Elaine discuss being friends with benefits. In the utmost business fashion, they sit down, far apart on the couch, and have an open, non-emotional talk about adding sex to their friendship. Apparently the episode was done only because the NBC executives wouldn’t leave Larry David alone about putting Jerry and Elaine together, and this was a way to get them off his back. Also it just so happened that David had a brief relationship with a woman where they made a very business-like decision and set of rules on how to be friends with benefits, and he wanted to incorporate that into the show. (According to David, this relationship didn’t end well.)
But who wouldn’t like that? Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to have a guy friend — not a fuck buddy, an actual male friend — that you have a clear, upfront situation with; the kind where you can text, “Pizza and sex tonight?” without any qualms or weirdness?
Thus, Jerry and Elaine make a list of rules to keep their friendship (“this”) intact while adding sex to it (“that.”) Because as Jerry puts it, “Why shouldn’t we be able to do that [gesturing towards the bedroom] once in a while if we want to?” “I know!” Elaine agrees. So rules are decided between them: no calls the day after “that”, spending the night is optional, no kisses goodnight (because Elaine thinks “it’s bourgeois.”) Then after agreeing to these rules, we see them walk into the bedroom…without even touching each other. We never see them kiss, once, throughout the entirety of the show.
By the end of the episode, it’s unclear whether or not they’ll continue with their agreement or if they’ll go even further and become a real couple. The most frustrating thing is that in the following episodes, Elaine and Jerry are dating other people with absolutely no mention of why they’re no longer doing “that.” This is because of television politics: according to Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld decided that he and the fans didn’t want to see Jerry and Elaine together, and so that was it. No explanation of why they stopped seeing each other; just that they did, though they continued to remain friends.
And again I wonder: does this somehow make this sort of thing even more realistic? That there isn’t any great Ross and Rachel, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!” style blow-up? Because we don’t always know why things don’t work out. But we know that when we have a good thing, we want to hold onto it. Jerry and Elaine have a good thing. They’re the ultimate best exes. I think a lot of people envy their relationship. They retain all of their inside jokes, hang out all the time, and neither one is ever jealous of the other’s relationships. It’s a really weird thing to see on TV…and kind of awesome.
Almie Rose is a writer from Los Angeles. She has a blog, Apocalypstick. In addition to Dating & Hookup she also writes for Hello Giggles, The Frisky, Thought Catalog, and Genlux Magazine. Her book, I Forgot To Be Famous, is out now. You can follow her on twitter @apocalypstick. Her favorite pastime is eating and drinking and sleeping and then eating again.
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