05/05/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
ON HIS SITCOM HE IS A FESTIVAL of foibles, the heavyweight champ of urban male angst. So the pained look Jerry Seinfeld assumed last February when 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft touched on a sore spot by bringing up the matter of his much younger girlfriend Shoshanna Lonstein—that frozen smile was not unfamiliar. Nor was it surprising that the 43-year-old comic quickly joked his way to safer ground. He and the 21-year-old UCLA student were an ideal match, he told Kroft, "because I'm so immature and she's so mature that we meet in the middle." What did shock some people was that the relationship, despite some rocky moments, was still ongoing.
It isn't anymore. Figuring from the day the couple met in Central Park—she was a 17-year-old high school senior, he a popular TV star—Seinfeld and Lonstein were together almost four years. They actually split "a month ago," according to a source close to Lonstein. But it wasn't until last week that friends and family acknowledged the breakup. "She said it was fun, but Hollywood was just a pain in the neck, being in the press all the time," says Steven Santagati, 33, a reporter for the syndicated TV show American Journal and a pal who once dated Lonstein.
One source contends it was Lonstein who wanted out, having grown bored with Seinfeld's obsession with his show. Yet most people close to the pair call the parting amicable and insist that when Lonstein was caught by a tabloid apparently kissing another guy, it was platonic. The problem, sources say, was simply that the middle-aged millionaire and the history/art history major found themselves in different worlds, not to mention stages of life. "She really wants to see what she can do, live a little before she gets married," speculates Santagati.
Geography may have played a role, too. Lonstein transferred to UCLA from D.C.'s George Washington University in the summer of 1994, primarily to be closer to Seinfeld. Meanwhile, Seinfeld has committed to at least one more season with his show, which films in L.A., and she will return home to New York City after a June graduation. "She's evaluating different offers here," says her mother, Betty Lonstein, a homemaker, who adds that Shoshanna has been yearning for Manhattan, where she grew up and where her parents (father Zachary is chairman of a computer services company) still live. "This is her home," says Betty. "All her friends are here."
Seinfeld has had no comment on the breakup, as he had none in late 1994, when the couple briefly tried dating others before reuniting. "They have to do what's best at the moment," says someone close to Lonstein. "But they've broken up before. Who knows what's going to happen?"