Kermit the Frog is a terrible boyfriend
Julie Klausner’s new memoir, I Don’t Care About Your Band, is one of the funniest books about dating we’ve ever read. And this is coming from two women who are kind of sick of (a) memoirs and (b) books about dating. Her book will remind you that dating can always get worse — but fortunately, the worse the date, the better the story it’ll eventually make. (If nothing else, you’ll be comforted by the fact that your blind date was never arrested for kidnapping.) Here’s an excerpt in which she compares Kermit the Frog to skinny hipster bad boys/bad boyfriends:
As a little girl, I wanted to be exactly like Miss Piggy. I connected to Miss — never “Ms.” — Piggy; the comedienne extraordinaire who’d alternate eyelash bats with karate chops, swoon over girly stuff like chocolate, perfume, feather boas or random words pronounced in French, then, on a dime, lower her voice to “Don’t fuck with me, fellas” decibel when slighted. She was hugely feminine, boldly ambitious, and hilariously violent when she didn’t get her way, whether it was in work, love, or life. And even though she was a pig puppet voiced by a man with a hand up her ass, she was the fiercest feminist I’d ever seen.
I took my cues from Piggy, chasing every would-be Kermit in my vicinity with porcine voracity and what I thought was feminine charm. I was aggressive. I never went through a “boys are gross” phase — I’d find a crush and press my hoof to the gas pedal. I wasn’t the girl who couldn’t say no — I was the one who wouldn’t hear it. I left valentines on the desk of my first-grade crush, Jake Zucker, weeks into March. I cornered Avi Kaplan in the hallway and tried to make him kiss me. I begged my mom to tell Ben Margulies’s mom about my crush on him in second grade, in hopes she’d put in a good word for me, like that has ever worked.
I didn’t think of myself then as I do now, in retrospect; as a pigtailed, red-faced mini-Gulliver, clomping around in Keds and a loud sweater, my thunder thighs tucked into stonewash casing. I’d catch the scent of “a MAAAAAAAN!” and want to club a cute boy I liked on the head and drag him by the hair to a cave, where I could force him to like me back. But at the time, I thought of myself as a pig fatale. Miss Piggy wanted what I did, which was to be famous and fabulous and to be loved by her one true frog and occasionally Charles Grodin. But looking back, I realize Kermit was, for lack of a better term, just not that into her.
So much about Kermit the Frog is intrinsically lovable: his sense of humor, his loyalty to his friends, his charm and confidence in who he is, despite the challenges of being green. But at the same time, Kermit has a distinct indifference to the overtures of his would-be paramour that I came to expect from the boys who crossed my path from grade school on. I think watching Piggy chase Kermit gave me an odd sense of what men and women do, in real life, when they’re adults. I figured that if you — glamorous, hilarious, fabulous you — find a boy who’s funny and popular and charming and shy, and you want him, you just go out and “Hi-Ya” yourself into his favor. Piggy and Kermit represented the quintessential romance to me. And I don’t know how healthy that was.
Watching The Muppet Movie again recently gave me a feeling of déjà vu, and not in the way you expect when you watch a movie you loved as a kid. As I watched Kermit haplessly biking down the street without a care in the world, about to be smushed between two steamrollers, I thought, “Oh my God. I know that guy. I’ve dated him.” Kermit, beloved frog of yore, suddenly, overwhelmingly, reminded my adult self of vintage-eyeglass-frame-wearing guys from Greenpoint or Silver Lake, who pedal along avenues in between band practice and drinks with friends, sans attachment, oblivious to the impeding hazards of reality and adulthood. “Oh my God,” I thought. Kermit is one of those hipsters who seem like they’re afraid of me.
It all came together.
Remember how content Kermit was, just strumming his banjo on a tree trunk in the swamp? That’s the guy I’ve chased my whole life, killing myself trying to show him how fabulous I am. Remember how, on The Muppet Show, Kermit used to politely laugh at Miss Piggy’s earnest pleas for some kissy-kissy, or fend off her jealousy after flirting right in front of her with one of his pretty guest stars? Piggy had to canvas relentlessly to get herself a good part on that show, while Kermit was always the star. Because she loved him, Piggy would always take whatever he felt like giving her. And it was never anything too fancy, like the jewels she’d buy for herself. Pearls before Swine? More like bros before hos.
Kermit never appreciated what he had in Piggy, because she was just one great thing about his awesome life. He had the attitude women’s magazines try to sell to their audience: that significant others are only the frosting on the cake of life. But everybody knows that cake without frosting is just a muffin. Kermit didn’t want to devote his life to making Piggy happy — he just wanted to host his show and enjoy hanging out with his friends. Anything more she’d ask of him would warrant a gulp.
And I wonder, just as I strove to emulate Piggy — resplendent in feather boas, lavender mules, and rings over opera gloves — how many guys from my generation looked to Kermit as an example of the coolest guy in the room. How maybe they think it’s OK to defer the advances of the fabulous woman they know is going to be there no matter what, while they dreamily pursue creative endeavors and dabble with other contenders. How maybe they learned the value of bromance from Kermit’s constant emphasis on his obligations to his friends before his ball and chain. And how maybe they figured out that if you’re soft-spoken and shy, but you know how to play a musical instrument, girls will come in droves. That you don’t have to learn how to approach a woman or worry that she’ll do anything but fly into a jealous snit if you talk to other girls in front of her. You just keep your creativity flowing and your guy friends close, and you’ll have to beat the ladies down with a stick.
Sometimes I suspect Kermithood may be the model of modern masculinity. If it is, it doesn’t match the matehood expectations of a generation of Miss Piggys who, at least eventually, want more. After all, since we were little, we were taught that the only point of chasing frogs is the hope that they turn into men when you kiss them.
Maybe Piggy would have been better off with Fozzie. Gonzo was a pervert and Rolf, another musician, would have been beholden to the demands of the road. And sure, stand-ups have their own problems, but I’ll bet the bear at least could’ve made her laugh. And Piggy probably could’ve stood a chance to feel a bit dainty next to him, too, Fozzie being fuzzy and barrel-chested and all. There’s nothing like a spindly-legged, amphibious boy who weighs less than you do to make you feel like a real hog.
Piggy’s self-esteem didn’t seem to ruffle from rejection after rejection, but that bitch is like Beyoncé, who is made of steel, and possibly from outer space. But when I look back and I think about chasing Jake Zucker back and forth on ice skates at his birthday party, or praying that Ben Margulies got my signed note informing him that he had a “secret” admirer, I wished I’d given myself a gentle nudge in the direction of more self-preserving endeavors. Like maybe how, if you want to be the star of a show, you should make your own effing show. Or that you need to walk away from a guy who doesn’t care that you’re jealous when he flirts with other people in front of you. Or maybe you’ll just find out one day that instead of a popular charmer with a talent for playing the banjo, what you really want is a guy who digs you like crazy; who makes you feel like the star.