Renée Zellweger and Jerry Seinfeld in Bee Movie (2007)

Let’s Not Lust for a Man Who, at 38, Was Hanging Out With His 17-Year-Old Girlfriend After School

Pass.

Seeking any reason to put off going to bed, I was scrolling Twitter, and I noticed comedian Jerry Seinfeld was trending. I figured it was a movie or something of that nature, but instead, I was flabbergasted as thousands of people were thirsting over his recent collab with Kith. Turns out “Kith” is not referring to the meme with Mike Tyson and his pigeons, but a clothing line that’s using a wealthy man who had a well-documented relationship with a child to head its Fall 2022 streetwear line.

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Back in spring 1993, and for four years after, Seinfeld was in a relationship with a 17-year-old senior at the (private) Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan, Shoshanna Lonstein-Gruss. As the press picked up on the story, Seinfield frequently adjusted the story, from saying they hadn’t met yet to that they were talking, but not dating dating. In 1994, Seinfield continued to try to blur the lines by saying, “Shoshanna is a person, not an age. She is extremely bright.” Nothing really came from it, and the fact that he’s expressed remorse for as little as the now almost 14-year-old Bee Movie just makes it more conspicuous that there’s been a lack of any such acknowledgment of this real-world predatory relationship with Lonstein-Gruss.

The Kith images even caught the attention of a Daily Beast reporter who referred to his apparent grooming and sexual relations with a child as “that high school girl he controversially dated in the 1990s.” The public reaction towards learning or remembering this news varies from person to person, but at least one blog titled (brace yourself) The Allure of Nymphets described their relationship in positive terms and ended their entry on him by stating, “sadly, they never married, and the age-gap affair ended after approximately five years.”

This downplaying wasn’t just coming from a lack of awareness or perpetuating rape culture but saying “at least he isn’t [blank].” For example, in an effort to defend him, at least one person online referenced the now-viral clip in which Seinfeld refuses to say the n-word on the set of Talking Funny with fellow terrible people Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. in 2011. While I think Seinfeld handled it more than commendably, it’s not noteworthy to do the right thing, especially when it’s this cut and dried, and he is the most successful and financially secure in that group he’s kind of standing up to. You could say he could have lost his image as a clean comic, but he would not lose more than that, really, and doing one good thing does not absolve you of all other wrongdoing.

Between a very successful and a relatively uncontroversial career (otherwise), this encounter has been largely ignored in part because Lonstein-Gruss has never spoken negatively about it. Even if she had, for a man who is conventionally attractive, well-respected, and has a lot of money (or any combination of those factors), nothing is likely to come from this. People will continue to overlook inexcusable actions from their faves as long as they keep making good entertainment.

(featured image: DreamWorks Animation)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.