I Learned Everything I Need To Know From The Muppets

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Photo: Jay Buchsbaum/Muppets Studio LLC
Photo: Jay Buchsbaum/Muppets Studio LLC

By Jenn Zipp

A few weeks ago, I found myself shoving and elbowing past children to get to the front of the ticket line on Muppets Most Wanted's opening weekend. I stopped to wonder, "Even as a 31-year-old woman, why do I have this weird affinity for the Muppets?"

Every time I see Kermit on the big screen or Elmo doing interviews on daytime TV, it's like I'm seeing someone from my small town make it big. Like many kids, I grew up watching Jim Henson-created kid shows, such as Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. And as I got older, I caught on to more of the jokes and pop culture references on The Muppet Show reruns and Muppets Tonight. It was as if those furry little guys were growing up with me!

And while so many female Millennials compare themselves to Lena Dunham or ask "What would Carrie Bradshaw do?," I find myself relying on the life lessons I've learned through watching the Muppets. Here are some of them:

Embrace Your Inner Uncle Traveling Matt

Fraggle Rock featured an explorer by the name of Uncle Traveling Matt, the only Fraggle that left the caves in pursuit of a life of adventure in the human world, or what they called "Outer Space." His observations of humans (known as "Silly Creatures") were documented on postcards that were sent back to his nephew, Gobo Fraggle, who idolized Matt for his bravery in a brand new world. I always thought it was so sad that Outer Space was only a mouse hole away, yet the Fraggles were always too caught up with their every day lives of radish-stealing, sock darning, and doozer stick eating to explore the Silly Creature culture that fascinated them. So whenever I'm faced with an opportunity to travel, I take it. No matter how scared I might be of the unknown, the thought of wondering what I might miss is scarier.


Get Control of Your Eat-motions

Part of being a functional adult is learning how to recognize the difference between your wants and your needs, and not giving into every single indulgent urge you might have. I love to eat and often use food as a crutch. Usually, this particular type of binge eating comes with emotion, or as I like to call it, Eat-motion. There are two Muppets that are cut from the same cloth: Cookie Monster and Animal. I've seen both these guys eat everything from cookies and drum kits to hubcaps and glass, and both have moved on from their binging: Cookie Monster has been put on a strict diet of vegetables and, in the last Muppets movie, Animal was put in an anger management program where his new mantra was "No drums, no drums. Jack Black said no drums." Taking a cue from these two, I try to resist the temptation of a super carnitas burrito every time I walk by a taqueria. Looks like we're all growing up.

Karate Chop Your Frog If He's Just Not That Into You

Matters of the heart become more and more complicated when you’re an adult. The older you get, the more you’re willing to overlook character flaws in your S.O. out of fear that you’ll wind up alone and/or eaten by your cats. But watching Miss Piggy over the years has helped me realize that, even though loyalty is an admirable virtue, not having a backbone leads to a whole lot of heartache. I mean, the whole cat and mouse thing (or pig and frog thing, in this case) has gone on for decades now. Miss Piggy wants a commitment, Kermit isn't sure, Piggy runs away, Kermie finds her and says he misses her, she caves... Miss Piggy, girl, you are a well-dressed, well-fed piece of swine. You could get any pig or frog or farm animal of your choosing. Stop wasting your time on a banjo-playing commitment-phobic amphibian. If your man won’t commit, then it’s time to look for someone who will (like the captain from Pigs in Space).

Hoarding Leads to Misery

Oscar the Grouch was initially brought onto Sesame Street to mock bad attitudes. Instead, he instilled a fear in me that, if I didn't literally clean up my act, I would be teetering on hoarder status and become a miserable person as a result. Oscar was the definition of a hoarder, going as far as collecting living things, like Slimey, his pet worm, and Fluffy, his pet elephant. (I can only imagine what kind of pet skeletons he has down there.) Whenever I have a sink full of dishes, I remind myself that I'm only a dirty tupperware away from being a furry homeless Muppet that calls a trash can a home. Your attitude is highly reflective of your surroundings, so the tidier the environment, the happier the disposition. Take notes, Oscar, take notes.

The Odder The Couple, The Better

When we seek relationships with other people, we sometimes focus so much on the similarities that we forget it's sometimes better to find someone that complements your personality rather than someone who matches it identically. A great example would be the odd couple of Sesame Street, Bert and Ernie. Longtime friends/roommates, Bert and Ernie are vastly different from one another. Bert likes to read, watch pigeons, eat oatmeal and collect bottle caps. Ernie invites sheep over for late night dance parties, likes taking baths with his rubber duckie, and playing drums.They couldn't be more different, but they've made it work by teaching each other about sharing, how to fish, and why eating cookies in bed is a bad idea. It's all about acceptance.

Work Hard, Play Hard

My mom would like to take credit for instilling my strong work ethic, that no-nonsense, “do whatever it takes to get the job done” sensibility that makes me a likely candidate for any job. But really, the Doozers of Fraggle Rock are the ones responsible for teaching me about hard work. The Doozers were mini green construction workers stuck in an endless cycle of lovingly building entire cities, Fraggles being jerks and gobbling up those cities, and Doozers diligently rebuilding their towns. They all worked for the communal good, no one took credit for any particular achievements and they lived together in Doozer Dome, where the number one value was cooperation. Basically, Doozers were communist, but man, they had great work ethic.

Take Yourself Out For A Walk

It's easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of life. Sometimes it's hard to remember to take life as it comes and enjoy the little moments. Whether it's soaking up some piano blues or a good snooze, Rowlf the dog seemed to know how to take things in stride. Rarely caught up in the drama and hype, Rowlf often provided a calmer perspective and a laid back approach to life's ailments. "I finish work, I go home, read a book, have a couple of beers, take myself out for a walk and go to bed." He really follows the Matthew McConaughey approach to life and just keeps livin'.

Don't Be Afraid to Call Your Own Shots

Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean that you can’t have role models. I have friends that worship Oprah, friends who swear that everything Goop says is the way to salvation, and friends who might as well wear WWBD (What Would Beyonce Do) bracelets. Meanwhile, I'm looking up to Prairie Dawn, the ambitious 7-year-old girl Muppet a.k.a. the Hilary Clinton of the Children’s Television Workshop. Not only is she a news correspondent for Monster News Network, but she is often found directing her male counterparts in theater productions of plays that she’s written. And in an era where we shy away from using the B-word to describe women (I’m talking about Bossy, by the way), Prairie Dawn is a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with calling the shots in a male-dominated world.

(Did I mention she also has a pet snake? This girl is fierce!)



*This article has been brought to you by the letter J and the number 8.