We’re like children, we’re not men! Classic line of a favorite Seinfeld episode I got to watch again the other day called “The Engagement.” I can’t help smiling even as I recall it to write this article.
Jerry and George are in the diner (as usual) whining to each other about their love life. George ended a relationship because the girl liked to say “Happy, Pappy?” to him. Jerry just broke up with someone because she shushed him. “I’ve got a real thing about shushing”, he tells George.
Then there is a “eureka” moment of disgust.
“What is this? What are we doing? What in God’s name are we doing?”
“Our lives! What kind of lives are these? We’re like children, we’re not men!“
-“No, we’re not. We’re not men.“
“Are we gonna be sitting here when we’re 60 like two idiots?“
– “We should be having dinner with our sons when we’re 60.“
“We’re pathetic, you know that?“
– “Yeah, like I don’t know that I’m pathetic!“
“Why can’t I be normal?“
– “Yes! Me too! I wanna be normal!“
“It would be nice to care about someone.“
– “Yes! Yes! Care!“
George then talks of remembering Susan, the serious girlfriend who worked at NBC, and how he liked her. He says “You thought she was good looking, right?”, to which Jerry asks why he should care what he thinks.
– ”Absolutely not! What are you thinking about, Jerry? Marriage? Family? ”
– ”They’re prisons!!! Man-made prisons! You’re doin’ time!! You get up in the morning? She’s there! You go to sleep at night? She’s there! It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. “Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?”
What happens next is George shows up at Susan’s door and asks her to marry him, while Jerry breaks up with the latest woman he is seeing because she eats peas one at a time. George feels betrayed. He assumed Jerry was going to go right out and get married, too.
To wrap up, the rest of this episode shows George restrained from doing what he wants to do with Jerry because he is “stuck” with Susan or needing her permission. He is depressing himself because she wants to see a chick flick instead of the action movie with Jerry, because she asks if he is going to wear the shirt he is wearing out to the movies, and because he can’t watch the Yankee game Jerry called him all excited about because Susan wants to watch something else.
It is one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld because it makes me laugh out loud every time, it’s brilliantly and insightfully written, and the delivery of the actors is remarkable.
So what is my point in taking so much time to recall this episode? Hmm, I forgot. Oh, yes….the point Jerry makes that he and George are children, not men.
I believe the writers of this episode have it correct; that the love life of many singles is childish. There is often a grossly immature and unrealistic approach to the people we date, rather than a firmly grounded, mature one. That there is too much concern with the “now” rather than the future; with selfish preferences rather than an unselfish acceptance of another human being; with a need to find someone who will pleasure us at all times, rather than a desire to serve.
It is very much the occupation of a child to behave in the “now” with only a concern for the “now” and with only a desire to get what they want, when they want it. There is no concern for what anyone else might think or feel or want.
Taking a childish approach to your love life only leads to the same fate that any child experiences; namely, dissatisfaction and harm. If a child gets their way, they become a spoiled brat who must always have their way. Subsequently, they become adults of very little use to others, let alone to love and marriage.
As funny as this episode is, all of us know (sad to say) that there are people who actually DO break up with someone because of an expression that person has that bugs them, because they eat peas one at a time, or because they were shushed.
More to the point, we know that break ups happen because there is an unwillingness to accept the other person’s ways, quirks, etc, because finding someone who never annoys you and who is always pleasing to you is of such high priority, there isn’t a person alive who can ever get past the hyper-sensitive filter you have created.
Thus, the childish dater (one who is steeped in immaturity) refuses to recognize how difficult they, themselves, are to be around and live with, and how blessed they should feel that someone wants them despite their setbacks and issues. Like a child, they can only act on the impulses of self-pleasure and gratification, crippling them from ever having a healthy, mature, adult relationship with someone of the opposite sex that leads to authentic mutual love and respect, and marriage that desires to serve.
Kramer convinces Jerry that marriage is a prison, where you lose your freedom, your mobility, your autonomy, your very self. He hardly desires to serve, nor to have a relationship built on mutual respect and compromise. He does not see any joy in sharing a life with someone. It’s true that marriage requires this compromise, but when you are in love, it is not only a joy, it is personally fulfilling to share such a life.
Poor Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine, as well as anyone else in real life who are like these characters at any level. I guess we know why these people are not married.
Jerry was right. “We’re like children, we’re not men.” He should have changed once and for all. Don’t make his mistake and remain childish. The love you seek demands you shed your immaturity.