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Just Kidding

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Summer 1984. My dad had picked me up from cheerleading practice.

I know what you’re thinking and no, I have no idea why I was chosen to be a cheerleader either. I was the most unlikely member of the squad and until my dying day I will never know what the selection committee was thinking. I didn’t have the splits. Or a back handspring. Or a front round-off. My dancing skills were not so great and I was already deep in the midst of the longest awkward phase in Western history.

But on the squad I was and so for the purposes of this story, suspend your belief in order to get to the main point.

Anyway. My dad picked me up from practice and I was clearly troubled by a verbal exchange that had occurred. The precise details elude me after all these years but not the message. One of the girls had made a caustic statement to me, followed immediately by “just kidding!”

Was she actually kidding? If she was, it wasn’t a very nice thing to say. And if she wasn’t, well then it was a dreadful thing to say. Either way, I was fairly certain that I had been mocked (at the least) or insulted (at the worst).

I shared the experience with my dad — a pretty wise guy even at that young age — who told me in no uncertain terms that when a person says “just kidding” directly after a statement, it’s not a joke. He or she is actually NOT kidding but uses the phrase in order to deftly sidestep any appearance of rudeness.

Since then, I have probably been a little oversensitive when people use that phrase. On the other hand, it certainly taught me that words have consequences and veiling them behind humour in no way releases the speaker from the responsibility of causing pain or slander.

Which brings me to Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica, are being sued for copyright and trademark infringement in the Manhattan, U.S. District Court. It seems that Jessica’s recent book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food,” bears an uncanny resemblance to Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals.”

Interestingly enough, when I first saw Jessica Seinfeld’s book in the store I thought to myself,

“this isn’t a new book at all. I read it about 5 months ago.”

I mean what was the likelihood that two different moms had come up with the idea to hide pureed veggies in such unassuming places as cookies, mac-n-cheese, and the like. However, since the trick of hiding healthy food in common-place favourites is not a new one, I brushed it aside and called it a day.

So I wasn’t all that surprised to learn about the lawsuit.

What I was suprised to learn was about the really awful way Jerry Seinfeld handled it on the Letterman show last October. Perhaps he thought that it would be funny to refer to Lapine as a “nut job” and “hysterical.” He went on to say that Lapine is a “wacko” who had been “waiting in the woodwork” for a chance to attack the Seinfelds. And then he really hit the jackpot when he pointed out that Lapine has three names and that “if you read history, many of the three-name people do become assassins…Mark David Chapman. And you know, James Earl Ray. So that’s my concern.”

How awful. And how dangerous. Not Lapine, but Jerry Seinfeld. To not only insult but to slander and defame. And distort the facts. Now I certainly don’t know if there is any veracity to Lapine’s claim that her work has been plagiarized. However, for Jerry Seinfeld to claim that the two books came out “at the same time” when their release dates were six months apart does cause me to question the statements coming out from his camp.

To her credit, Jessica Seinfeld has written a lovely statement about the situation on her website. No matter who is at fault, she is certainly handling it with graciousness.

Going for the cheap laugh isn’t really worth it in the end. Not when it is at the expense of someone else.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Saturday, 12 January 2008 4:00 pm

    While Jessica Seinfield may be entirely innocent here, and her website may include a gracious statement, her appearance on “The View” left a bad taste in my mouth. Basically, when asked about the plagarism alegations, she stated that she certainly “didn’t need” to write this book. Apparently, being wealthy excuses her.

  2. Frume Sarah permalink
    Saturday, 12 January 2008 9:11 pm

    Oh I missed that appearance.

    The whole thing is very questionable, to say the least!!

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