When I was growing up, Elaine was a pretty uncommon name. I found a medieval one when I read Thomas Mallory’s Le morte d’Arthur in school and a contemporary one on a religious retreat weekend a few years later. We became friends for a while, even though the name was about the only thing we had in common. And somewhere on TV, there was comedian Elayne Boosler. That was about it. (I didn’t encounter this iconic Elaine until years later.)
These days, Elaines are everywhere. So people often ask me:
Have we met? Your name sounds familiar.
Sometimes that question confuses me. And then I remember—Seinfeld. I didn’t watch the show that often, but when I did it was immediately clear to me that the character’s last name was Benes, not Bennett. My ex, a big Seinfeld fan, gleefully pointed out one night (after watching Seinfeld, of course) that Elaine Benes and I also have the same middle name. Still, I am not That Elaine.
For the record: I had my name long before Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David dreamed up their Elaine, whom they named after Elayne Boosler. And Elayne had her name long before me, even if she spells it funny.
Elaine as Everywoman
This Buzzfeed article calls Elaine Benes “the most relatable TV character of all time”—because she’s self-centered, prejudges things, hides her feelings with alcohol, and hates working out. That’s her, not me—except for the working out part. And apparently she broke up with someone once over a pie. Okay, that might be me, depending on the pie.
Once I ran panting up to an airport gate. The gate agent looked at me sternly: “They’re about to close the doors. You’d better hurry.” Then I handed him my boarding pass and he said, “Hey—Elaine Bennett! Isn’t that the lady from Seinfeld?” Apparently there’s never too little time to ask that question.
Still, I’m not that Elaine. She’s got better hair—and wardrobe—but I wouldn’t hire her to write your next speech.