I was a plucky little girl, but I never related to the rough-and-tumble icons of children's lit, like Pippi Longstocking or Harriet the Spy. Even Ramona Quimby, who seemed cool, wasn't somebody who truly spoke to me. She was scrawny and scrappy, and I was soft and sarcastic. I connected instead to Miss-never "Ms."-Piggy; the comedienne extraordinaire who'd swoon over girly stuff like chocolate, 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.
As a kid, 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 wasn't the girl who couldn't say no — I was the girl who wouldn't hear it. I left valentines on the desk of my first-grade crush, Jake Zucker. I cornered Avi Kaplan in the hallway and tried to make him kiss me. (I am Jewish, by the way.)
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 Piggy 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 adorable 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 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."
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 pleas for some kissy-kissy, or fend off her jealousy after he flirted right in front of her? With Madeline friggin' Kahn? 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 its 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 never wanted 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 elicit a gulp. And just as I strove to emulate Piggy-resplendent in feather boas, lavender mules and rings over opera gloves — I wonder how many guys from my generation looked to Kermit as an example of what the coolest guy in the room looks like. How maybe they think it's fine to defer the advances of the fabulous women they know will always be there, 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. You just keep your creativity flowing and your guy friends close, and you'll have to beat the ladies down with a stick.
If Kermithood is the model of modern masculinity, it doesn't match the matehood expectations of a generation of Miss Piggys who, at least eventually, want more. 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.
When I look back at who I was as a little girl, I wish I'd been able to get a gentle nudge in the direction of more self-preserving romantic endeavors. I wish I'd been told that if you want to be the star of a show, you should make your own eff'ing 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.
This piece is an excerpt from Julie Klausner's book, I Don't Care about Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Faux Sensitive Hipsters, Felons, and Other Guys I've Dated, (Gotham Books) available at B&N, Amazon and Indiebound. Republished with permission.