When Did Jersey Become a Verb?

Written by on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive, Opinion and Column.


As a native of the great state of New Jersey, I have watched with fascination and horror as my home turf has gained an outsized national (and international) reputation over the past several years. Before Jersey Shore was the homage to idiocy that it’s known for today, it was actually a real place where regular people would bring macaroni salad and ice pops to spend a day at the beach building sand castles. My mom was a real housewife, in that she was a) an actual human and therefore real and b) in loose terms, a housewife, in that during my formative years she didn’t work and so stayed more often than not in the house with her kids and was also a wife. Her similarities to the ilk of the horribly named TV show franchise end there.

I’m not the only child of the Garden State who has lamented the bastardization of our diverse homeland, and I’ve made a tentative peace with it. I’ve always been proud of my NJ heritage, though not above making fun of the parts that deserve it. Newark, in the industrial areas, is indeed smelly. That doesn’t mean the entire state wreaks of garbage.

Now, I am just as heartbroken as Chris Christie that the Jersey shore of our collective youths has been decimated by Hurricane Sandy. For me, this is not the Jersey shore of some MTV producer’s making, but  one of gorgeous, uncrowded beaches  in towns with names like Avalon-by-the-Sea and Brighton, with surprise fireworks displays and artisanal ice cream stands. It’s made of memories of actually swimming in the ocean and avoiding the punishing sun on my super-fair skin at all costs.

That’s why, though I want to support any effort to raise money for the victims of Sandy in both my former home and my current one, New York, I physically cringed when I read a PR email imploring me to “Jersey up the holidays!” in support of fundraising campaigns.

“‘A Very Jersey Xmas‘ calls on everyone who has ever lived in New Jersey, has family in New Jersey, enjoyed a turn on the New Jersey Turnpike, watched Jersey Shore, The Sopranos or Real Housewives of New Jersey, OR who just wants an excuse to party in leopard print to dedicate this holiday giving season to hurricane relief, Jersey-style.”

It goes on to suggest fundraising levels ($10 is a Snooki) and “Jersey garb,” which apparently means velour tracksuits.

This, I cannot support.

I know that every subset of our country endures its own grossly exaggerated stereotyping. People from San Francisco are annoyingly liberal; people from Texas are drawling hicks; people from Connecticut are rich snobs, etc. My best friend once had someone ask her at a party in New Orleans if she knew Tony Soprano. Like she thought he was a real person, and also that my friend, a college-age girl from a random small-town suburb, would be pals with him. This shit happens all the time.

Still, I fight against it. Jersey isn’t a verb, and when people apply the term to mean “dress slutty and act drunk!” it’s insulting to everyone, not just those from Jersey. No one needs a geographic excuse to be drunk and slutty! Have at it, I say! Just don’t pretend that “it’s a Jersey thing.” It’s not. Wearing leopard print spandex and attacking your frenemies over lunch in front of a realty-TV crew isn’t “Jersey style,” it’s just tacky. Tacky you can find all over this great country, not just in NJ.

If people want to party like d-bags and raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief, that’s great. Just please don’t do it in the name of my home state. This is coming to you from a through-and-through “Jersey girl” (born in New Brunswick, lived in the state for 22 years) who has never known a press-on nail, a spray tan, or a Bruce Springsteen concert. If anyone wants to make a reality show about the traffic-sense superiority of jug handles, 24-hour diners, and singing in high school barbershop choirs, though, give me a call.

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