Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Setting The Record Straight on Jersey

Believe it or not, New Jersey is not just full of Italian stereotypes.

In the opening of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey", Teresa makes a comment about how people make fun of Jersey girls because they're "jealous". As a life long Jersey girl, as much as I'd like to agree with that statement, I'm going to disagree. No, they're laughing at us because we're viewed as a joke.

We supposedly live in a state scrunched between the far more interesting locales of NYC and Philly, with little else than a maze of tore up, stinky highways like the Turnpike or the Parkway. That little else contains rich but classless suburbanites in gaudily decorated McMansions, a string of polluted yet overcrowded beaches full of obnoxious drunken twenty-somethings and... Newark. Yup, Newark. The hub of all East Coast crime. The place with that circling, confusing, no parking allowed airport. The ilk-fest with the chicken shacks, liquor stores and the cute Mayor who's always tweeting. Newark.

Well, let me tell you something. Those are stereotypes. And while they are... um, true, they are not THE only thing that makes up this state. So let me tell you a little more about my home state.

  • Most of us don't talk like that. Or tawk like dat. We don't all say "yous guys". Or "cawfee" (ok, I slightly do, but ONLY slightly). Really it's non-Jerseyans who pronounce it "Joisy." You see, as it turns out, what the nation believes is straight out of the Garden state is the result of Staten Islanders and Brooklynites making the migration over the bridge for a number of decades. It's not a horrible thing; my Dad's family left the Gowanus section of Brooklyn back in the 60's, and save for my Uncle Curtis, no one has high tailed it back over. They settled in to a nice home with a back yard, got a dog, made a life. And this story is the story of countless others. But please don't confuse the accents. The actual Jersey accent, while having an "aw" sound is not so strong or oppressive. Think of the extras on "Law & Order"- then dialing it back A LOT. And as for the "yous" thing- I won't make an excuse for that. In truth, I hear that often. It's just bad grammar. It's like Britney Spears' and Jessica Simpson's penchant for saying, "ya'll." They're from the South, so it stuck. The problem is the same, though. So here's a quick lesson: "you" can be singular AND plural. That's the English language, folks. No need to add an "s" or "all" or 'll".
  • New Jersey is not overrun with Italian-Americans. And the overwhelming majority of the ones who live here do not act like Tony Soprano's long lost cousins. Actually, New Jersey is pretty diverse. According to StateMaster, 29.2% of Jersey is foreign born of Asian descent, 4.6% are foreign born from Mexico, 13.1% are Black, and over 1.2 million of the state's over 8 mil population is Latino. (Click here for more) I don't even know why Italians are getting such a bad wrap lately. They seem to be TV's latest punching bag (I guess people tired of seeing entitled, no-talent celebutantes a la Paris Hilton and the cast of "The Hills"). So instead we see "guidos" and "guidettes" who are actually part Spanish or German, perpetrating. Could you imagine the uproar if a dark skinned Sicilian decided to "shuck-n-jive" it up pretending to be Black? You'd see Al Sharpton in front of a mike at a press conference declaring the wrong within minutes. So why is this okay? Anyway, Jersey is a mixed bag. I grew up with Polish, Jamaican and Mexican neighbors. And now? Most of my neighborhood converses en Espanol. Don't buy the hype.
  • Our hair is not that big. Snooki's poof aside, most girls around here, like the rest of the nation, let go of the 80's a long time ago. Sure, there are some who tease, hair spray or gel their hair to high heights, but those women are few and far between. And they are probably on the northern side of 50. And might just be your waitress with the husky-cigarette voice at the local diner. I'm just saying.
  • We aren't all rich. Yet, we aren't all poor. According to StateMaster, the median household income is $61,359.00. Not too shabby. But then, considering the amount of money we pay in income and property taxes, that's not all that, either. Throw in our high car insurance and high cost of living, and well, most of us are doing- okay. Forget the tony town of Franklin Lakes, most people are nestled in to places like Union, Cherry Hill or Woodbridge . And that's A-okay.
  • There is more to Jersey than going "down the shore". And yes, we do say shore instead of beach. I don't know why, but we do. You can go apple picking in the fall, hiking and camping on our trials in the spring and summer, and chop at cute boutiques all year round. And I'm not just talking places like Jersey Couture, either. I mean nice quiet, cozy shops. Or high priced stores in a mall like the one at Short Hills (and don't poo poo this place; the likes of Usher, Diddy and the Simmons clan all clean up here). Or visit a used bookstore, learn to make pottery, visit the state aquarium, check out the Liberty Science Center, Six Flags Great Adventure, or check out history at Ellis Island (uh, yes, it's in Jersey folks NOT New York).
  • There is more to Jersey than Newark. Or Camden. Or Elizabeth. But in all fairness, Newark has more to offer than what is depicted in the media. A gorgeous new stadium, world class universities (that's right, more than one), tons of stores and some of the best Portuguese food this side of the Atlantic, courtesy of the Ironbound section. In my opinion, you haven't done Jersey until you've eaten at a churrascaria. Rodizios will make you feel like royalty.
  • New Yorkers say we're lacking in style, but if that's true, why do so many of you take the trip through the tunnel or over the bridge to shop here? Why? Because our sales tax is lower than yours, that's why! Every Saturday and Sunday, the malls' parking lots are at capacity with cars with NY license plates. I see you hauling those cheaper flat screens, pieces of Ikea furniture and bags of clothing!
  • While only one of the 8 members of the Jersey Shore is actually from NJ, let me share with you some famous New Jerseyans, like Danny DeVito, Tom Cruise, Daisy Fuentes, Ice-T, Queen Latifah, Jon Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Jon Stewart, Joe Pesci, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Springsteen, the late Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep, Antonin Scalia, Lauryn Hill, Brian Williams and Jaheim... and of course, I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
In closing, New Jersey isn't bad. We're special, yes, (and I do mean that in a short bus kind of way) but we're awesome. And if you really came to know us, you might just be a little jealous. Potholes, pollution, pandering politicos and all.


Don said...

Extremely entertaining read.

Newark, New Jersey sounds so nice though.

All I know about New Jersey is they have a horrible basketball team and I hope LeBron doesn't sign. I once watched the movie New Jersey Drive. And I have a female friend who lives there and does poetry.

Nice list of famous people from NJ. I had no idea L Boogie and Ice-T were from the east coast.

Point scored @ your pointing out how New Yorkers talk that talk yet continue to walk a "lower sales tax" walk.

Hilarious @ And the overwhelming majority of the ones who live here do not act like Tony Soprano's long lost cousins.

Me, born and raised Up North, lived mostly Down South, I love the accents of people who live in NJ and NY. It works well with the cold weather and large Italian pizzas.

Alisha De Freitas said...

You have to come visit some time. It's actually not bad- except for the taxes. Now they stink!

What? You didn't know about Lauryn? How do you think the Fugees got together? Wyclef lived here for awhile, too! And Ice-T? Don't be fooled by that west coast thing... him and Tupac were originally from THIS coast!

And, undoubtedly, Chicago can say what they want, but New York has the best pizza hands down. The slices are huge and delicious. It's like Philly with cheesesteaks- you have to give credit where it's due!

Speaking of credit, where's all my Jersey people at? You guys have commented on FB, but show some love HERE! Who's representing Brick City, huh? Speak up!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Oh yeah, and live the Nets alone. Poor things... hey, if Jigga gets his way, they'll be Brooklyn's problem, uh er, team anyway. Oh, and let's be real. You really think LeBron will come HERE? K and I were talking about this over the weekend and he thinks he'd sign to the also- sucky Knicks before the Nets.

Don said...

The NBA pulled a power move when they approved the sale of the Nets franchise to a Russian billionaire. Not only will he relocate the team, he will also help finance a state of the art arena.

If the facility didn't require at least two years to build, I would be inclined to believe that LeBron James might consider the prospect of the Brooklyn Nets.

Yep. Considering the Jay Z aspect, I tricked myself into possibly believing this. Now that I have given everything further thought, it was a rather foolish thought on my behalf.

I actually thought Lauryn Hill was from New York. Yep. I knew Tupac Shakur was reared on the East Coast.

Alisha De Freitas said...

"I actually thought Lauryn Hill was from New York."

Ouch. Jersey gets no love!

I honestly don't know what to think about the Nets. They're not good... but they're our losers. A move to Brooklyn isn't bad since it's actually not that far from where I live (a hop, a skip, 2 bridges, lol), but NY gets everything. The Yankees. The Mets. The Giants, the Jets. I mean, dang!

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