Poor Little Jersey Girl

About as big as my hair got while growing up Jersey...(left)

Hi, my name is Amy and I am a Jersey Girl.

Crowd of fellow Jersey People in unison: Hi, Amy.

There I said it. I was born in New Jersey. I hear that is the first step to recovery.

Lately, admitting you’re from New Jersey is like saying you’re from some forgotten island off the coast of Sicily where Italians on the mainland send the kids that just don’t work out.  To assuage their guilt they float over boxes of hair gel, bronzer, metallic eye shadow and Red Bull, while boxes of vomit, ripped shirts and broken heels float back.

The proliferation of New Jersey reality shows is getting out of hand – we’ve got Housewives of New Jersey, The Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious… I’m afraid any street cred we received from TheSopranos has been totally annihilated.

Not that being from New Jersey has ever been easy. During my first few weeks of college in Virginia, I can’t tell you how many times “I’m from New Jersey” was greeted by “I’m so sorry.” (never get tired of that joke!) I don’t even have an accent, dark hair or long fake nails. I’m German and Irish. I drove a Volvo (except for a brief stint in high school where yes, I actually owned a Camaro.)

Granted, these people on the Jersey-mocking shows do actually exist. When my husband and I were dating, my parents took us to an Italian restaurant near where I grew up. It is a nice restaurant, and most people were appropriately dressed, even if some of the suits were a little shiny. But then there he was, rising from the center of the room like a giant throbbing cliché, a guy wearing a white wife-beater tank top with gold chains and slicked-backed hairdo. I watched Mike’s eyes widen at the sight. He elbowed me and did everything but point. It was like he’d just spotted a leprechaun.

As we waited for our table at the bar, a couple of guys in Members Only jackets started talking about the game on the bar television.

“He gonna pass you think?”

“Naw, forgeddaboutit.”

Mike leaned over and whispered in my ear, “This is real…?”

Yes, Virginia, there really is Guido Claus.  Mike thought the world portrayed in The Sopranos was fictional. People didn’t really wear wife-beaters to a fancy dinner or say ‘forgeddaboutit,’ did they? But Mike hadn’t been to New Jersey. My father went on to regale Mike with stories of when he and my grandfathers were members of a Republican old man’s social club, where they heard actual gangsters say things like, “You wanna wake up with your head in a sink?” (I know who said it, and what family he belonged to… but I think I’ll leave that part out.)

But Jersey is NOT entirely made out of Guidos with double digit IQs. They exist, but so do morons of every race, ethnic background and age. And not every city is Newark or Camden, which, granted, should be picked up, shaken like an Etch-a-Sketch and started over.  The island town of Sea Isle City, where I grew up, was like something out of a quaint novel, where kids could go out and play, come home when it started to get dark, and you didn’t have to worry. It is still pretty much like that, at least in the winter when the population drops to four. Granted, you aren’t going to get a ton of culture, or gourmet meals, but no place is perfect. And sure, spaghetti sauce was thicker than water there too, but I never saw anyone acting like the genetic experiments on The Jersey Shore. Of course, I wasn’t invited to those parties.

You can go to any state and pick the worst of the worst stereotypes and throw them in a house and film them like a bunch of animals. Why not pick on some other state for a change? Arkansas is begging for it.


Amy Vansant
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