Make Every Week “Be Nice to Jersey Week”

We don’t need some Texans’ idea of a joke holiday to appreciate the state everyone’s embarrassed to be from.

So, what are you doing for “Be Nice to Jersey Week?” Created by a satirical periodical in San Antonio, Tex., in 1984, it’s one of those made-up holidays that sometimes “catch,” but usually don’t. This one didn’t, of course. Jersey don’t get no respect.

I love made-up holidays and will sometimes look them up in search of a theme or an image to promote events around, like “National Read A Book in the Bathtub Day.” (The ones I don’t like are the ones that are clearly in an attempt to get Americans to buy a particular brand of a particular product, like Pizza Hut Day. I do however, take great glee in letting you know that today is National Slurpee Day and 7-11 is giving away free Slurpees! For reals!)

Living in Jersey is complicated: I have lived here for 29 years and still cringe a little when someone introduces me as being “from” New Jersey. Even though I am proud to live here now and think residing in Collingswood is rather re-donk-u-lous-ly perfect for me and my family, I want people to know that I’m from somewhere else.

That somewhere else is Pittsburgh.

Yeah. I moved from a joke city to a joke state.

When I gave birth to my first child, I hated that she was going to be born in New Jersey — to the degree that I suggested we go to a Philadelphia hospital, so that our child could say she was born in Philly rather than Voorhees. I had many conversations with my husband about it, during which he would calmly nod and listen. I knew he was raised in Cherry Hill, but I didn’t really think about how much my obsession with not having a kid born in New Jersey was bothering him, until one day he snapped and said, “Well, I turned out okay!”

I consoled myself by working really hard on my children’s pronunciation of “water.”

I still don’t think I get the whole joke about “which exit?” I don’t know anyone who uses the turnpike daily, or even often, though the traffic circles have probably done a lot to fan the flames of my driving anxiety and I am glad to see each one be transformed into a nice, normal four-way intersection.

My daughter’s boyfriend, Miles Mueller, was born and raised in Nutley, N.J. He says having to say you’re from Jersey is a little embarrassing; he tells people and winces for a second, and asks himself, “What do I have to be embarrassed about?” He likens it to a false rumor being spread about you in high school: You and the people you care  about know it’s not true, but the fact that it’s being said still stings.

It took me a long time to understand the “North” and “South” Jersey thing — how could such a teeny, tiny state have such segregation?  I went to school in West Virginia and my not-yet-husband graduated well before me. I remember telling people my boyfriend was from New Jersey, thinking it sufficient, and regularly getting the follow-up question, “North or South?” When I’d say, “South, Cherry Hill,” those who knew where Cherry Hill was would ask: “East or West?” It was very confusing.

Now that I’ve been here long enough, I see how it works, how Jersey is pulled and sectioned off by the major cites that border it. But I have a colleague who is adamant  that he is from “Central Jersey.” It kinda makes my eyeballs spin.

Many, many Jersians take issue with being defined by the city they are closest to, and say they are just Jersians, pure and simple, and they root for the Patriots or the Broncos to prove it.

I’m not going to list the reasons Jersey has to be proud, though I could, but I feel like being home to Bruce Springsteen and the first brewery to put beer  in cans is quite enough, thank you. We have plenty that is uniquely Jersey: the most diners, the most beaches and the most hair salons per capita. Very Jersey.

Maybe the  reason “Be Nice To Jersey Week” hasn’t “stuck” is simple: We don’t care that some bored people in Texas (and, really, who wouldn’t be bored in Texas?) decided to create this tongue-in-cheek week, and more importantly, we don’t need them (or anyone else, for that matter) to be nice to us. We know what we got.

We can hike in the mountains or go to the beach or go to either of our major outlying cites if we want to, but there’s plenty right here. 10,000 farms alone is something to feel good about. I love several Jersey wines enough that I have fought with connoisseurs defending them. I have wept over Jersey tomatoes, sliced when still warm from the sun. Jersey white peaches almost make me believe in God. Sigh.

We also  happens to be smack in the middle of National Share a Sunset with Your Lover Month, and guess where the best place is to do that? See you down the shore.

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  • Bill Pruden

    Great story. While I now live in North Carolina, I remain a proud native of New Jersey, happy to tell anyone that I was born there. Indeed, I regularly tell my North Carolina born children, “You are North Carolinians, I just live here.” New Jersey residents and natives have nothing to apologize for. We can’t help it if others aren’t smart enought to realize all the state has to offer.

  • Jim Matthews

    I was born in Calif. in 1944 when my Dad was in the service but lived in Jersey from ’46 to ’93 when I separated from my first wife. Now live in PA but still consider myself a “Jersey Boy”. Never had a problem telling people where I was from and still look back fondly at my days in Jersey. Still go back sometimes just for the heck of it to see what’s happened to places I used to live in or hang out at. This coming Saturday will be our annual trip to the Collingswood market and to get some great Bobby Chez crabcakes. Oh, and I LIKED the circles. Much better than the right turn in order to make a left turn intersections!

  • http://freebie-nut.blogspot.com Denise Grier

    Texan here and this was a hoot!