Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Elaine Benes' Open Wallet

I got a comment yesterday that really made my day:

Long time reader, first time commenter. I was directed to your site by the canadian capitalist personal finance site. I first found it in November and promptly read all of your back posts. It was a little exhausting (primarily due to volume and not creative content). I enjoy your writing style and the humour with which you discuss your life. In my mind you resemble Elaine Benes from Seinfeld, for a couple of reasons. The obvious comparison is because you work in publishing, you lead a moderately self absorbed life in New York, you're funny and attractive and in your mid to late thirties. You live in a world that is so different from my own (Saskatchewan) that I find it fascinating to read about your life (whoever thought one could live in such a small apartment). I am also very impressed by your ability to remain anonymous after all this time. And so, I end this rather wordy comment with a generic keep up the good work, and a specific well wishing: may your net worth continue to grow and your wit flourish.

I just loved that-- a big thank you to Peter from Saskatchewan! You've actually done me quite a favor: now if someone asks me to describe my blog in 2 seconds or less, I can say something along the lines of "imagine the in vitro love child of Elaine from Seinfeld and Suze Orman..."
But it actually started me wondering about the financial life of Elaine Benes. I used to love Seinfeld-- it was one of the shows I actually watched sometimes, back when I lived with a TV (and its owner). But I don't remember many episodes all that vividly, except for the one with the Phil Rizzuto key chain... so I found some a website with some synopses and read them. They start out okay: of the first 10 episodes of the show, there are 3 in which Elaine seems to be trying to get a better apartment. Then there are some episodes where things happen that make her worry she'll lose her job, or she actually does get fired. She gets sued by a delivery boy. She finds out she's in someone's will. She gets into a bidding war at an auction. She goes a little nuts with her expense account. She goes shopping. She eats some very expensive cake. But other than that, at least in these synopses, Elaine's character doesn't seem to have that many story lines that revolve around money-- her crises are more about the various men she's dating, whether someone might have caught glimpses of her naked body, and whether or not she'll be allowed to eat various things.
But Jerry, George, and Kramer, on the other hand, have tons of little subplots that turn on financial issues-- crazy money-making schemes, investments gone wrong, lost jobs, thefts, gambling, being seen as cheap re-gifters, being mistaken for Communists, taking advantage of free coffee, trying to hide their ATM codes, being short-changed, black-market shower head deals, royalty checks, bounced checks, checks never cashed, charitable donations as gifts, owing people money, tip calculators, pretending to have a house in the Hamptons, and hiring someone to clean your apartment... or perhaps paying them for sex. Kramer is the ultimate entrepreneur. And George even kills his fiancee by trying to save money on the wedding invitations!
It's interesting to me that the male characters on the show seem to spend a lot more time caught up in issues relating to money than the female character-- am I missing something? Seinfeld devotees, what do you think? But while Elaine may not have that many money worries on the show, the woman who played her has even fewer in real life: Julia Louis-Dreyfus would be loaded even if she wasn't a highly-paid actress. She comes from an extremely wealthy French family: her father is a billionaire and her cousin used to own a little shoe company called Adidas.

In closing, I just have to point out that while I'm very tickled by the comparison, I am actually not all that much like Elaine... a few important differences: I'd like to think I am a wee bit less self-absorbed. I actually prefer the "stump" part of muffins. I've dated fewer guys. (Waaaay fewer!) And I am definitely a better dancer.


Anonymous said...

That show had some good episode and other retarded! I do like Suze Orman and now so into her books and show on MSNBC! I love your blog...thanks for sharing!

Karen and Peter said...

Don't forget the episode where Elaine finds out that Jerry is loaded (he buys his dad a Cadillac) and suddenly is very attracted to him again (aired just last night)! Perhaps you could examine the topic of Elaine and money by looking at it from the point of view of her career. She goes from working in publishing (looking for a cheap place to live and dressing frumpy) to still working in publishing but wondering if it's too late for her to go to law school (and living with a crazy roommate) to being fired and taking a personal assistant's job, and finally in the end, by dumb luck, working in copy writing/marketing (and dumping the roommate, getting a very nice apartment of her own, and dressing very "corporate"). I also work in publishing and find that to be very realistic. In fact, most of the career trajectories and accompanying life situations for the characters (e.g., George, unemployed and living with his parents) seem to be pretty realistic, which is rare for TV.

Anonymous said...

Given the popularity of your blog, has it ever crossed your friends/co-workers minds that " Is it you? "

mapgirl said...

I bet you are a WAY better dancer than Elaine.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god... you ARE Elaine Benes!


Tiredbuthappy said...

Hey, you are being very good-natured about this. I didn't take it so well when friends started calling me "Lisa Simpson."

Remi Fagbohun said...

Great Blog!!
I might be bad for your already deadly shopping habit...but locating theose bargains are also my specialty