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Why New Jersey isn’t the ‘armpit’ of the U.S.

A defense of a misconceived state

Based on the above title, I assume you are all smart enough to know that I am in fact from New Jersey. I am not normally the most boisterous proponent of Jersey pride, but I certainly possess the “it’s a Jersey thing” attitude and am excited to share why Jersey things aren’t so bad after all. 

As a second-year at the University, I have come a long way in convincing my brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon that Jersey has a lot more to offer than they previously conceived. I embarked on this quest of glorifying my home state when my current best friend and roommate made the biting remark upon meeting me — “Oh, you're from New Jersey? I always kind of thought of New Jersey as the armpit of the U.S.” Well, friend, and any of you who might have agreed, prepare to learn a little bit about Jersey that is deserving of our pride.

All right, all right, all right. Bodo’s has certainly earned my respect as a bagel-making institution.  But if we’re talking Jersey, we’re talking food. And if we’re talking food, we’re talking better bagels, better pizza and pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches.  Some of you might not know what I mean by pork roll and others of you might know it as Taylor Ham. Either way, the pork roll, egg and cheese — with a hashbrown, salt, pepper and hot sauce — is the best breakfast sandwich known to man. There is absolutely no room for debate on this topic.  

Continuing our conversation about how Jersey food trumps the food elsewhere, did you know that Jersey is known as the diner capital of the world? It’s 2 a.m. and you’re hungry. You might be drunk, but you're definitely not ready to go to sleep. Where else can you grab a cup of coffee and a Reuben at 2 a.m. other than one of the many always-open diners of New Jersey? Breakfast, lunch and dinner — all at the same place, all of the time. That’s a beautiful world. 

Now it’s time to tackle the elephant in the room. Most of the Jersey misconceptions are derived from the infamous TV show, Jersey Shore, which features a cast of superfluous Seaside Heights beach-dwellers fixed by a centralization of all the worst Jersey Shore stereotypes.  You’ve heard all the names — Snooki, Pauly D, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and the rest of the gang. But I will tell you that the image depicted of the Garden State in this trashy TV show is nowhere near the entire story. Jersey is filled with well-mannered, hard-working and virtuous people. 

Let’s talk a little bit about the beach. I mean, sorry Virginia Beach, but you have nothing to offer that’s better than spending your summer by the shore. Good surf, good beaches and positive vibes. Summers in New Jersey are nothing short of remarkable, with endless beach spots to visit like Cape May, Long Beach Island, Belmar and so many more. Also, this is just a subtle brag, but Danny DeVito is a regular at the beach club I went to for most of my life. Now that dude is a character.  

Bridging off my discussion of celebrities, two of the greatest rock and rollers of all time call the Garden State their home. Ever heard of Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi? Well these two rockers share something with me that they don’t share with you — Jersey pride. I live just a few minutes away from Asbury Park, which is where Bruce Springsteen calls home and is included in the title of his first album. It is one of the most unique cities I’ve ever been to and features endless bars, restaurants and concert venues, making it the place for every Saturday night and boasts the best hangover food for every Sunday morning. The city is rich in history of music and arts and deserves to be known among my friends in Virginia. When people ask me where I’m from, I usually just say Asbury Park, hoping it’s the most recognizable area around me.  

The New Jersey, New York area is also home to more sports and greatness than most places could ever dream of. Most people don’t know that the Jets and the Giants both play in New Jersey. Not to mention the easy access Jersey has to the great city of New York, and the greatest franchise in all of sports history — the New York Yankees. Jersey residents also have the Mets, Nets, Knicks, Rangers and Devils to choose from as their favorite teams.  

Honestly, I could go on forever about my home state. I never realized how much I’d have to defend myself until I attended the University and became a Jersey boy in SAE. At first, it was daunting, but now I relish at the opportunity to be different and explain all the reasons why I’m proud that I am. So I hope you’ve been convinced to try a pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich if you ever get the chance or to use “Jersey Shore” — the TV show — merely for entertainment and not for your impressions of Jersey people. It’s important to not judge people without hard evidence, so please — I beg of you — give the Jersey people a chance.

Jersey will always have a special place in my heart and I’ll remember all the idiosyncrasies of the state dearly. Some are good — like the tradition of Mischief Night on the night before Halloween, BYOB restaurants, Six Flags Great Adventure and gas attendants. Others aren't quite as good — like the illegality of U-turns or the oppressively overstated accents that produce words like “Joisey” and “cawfee” that are wildly over-generalized. All in all, a home’s a home because it’s yours, it’s what you know and it’s what you grew up to love. 

Charlottesville, you've become a great friend of mine — but since Jersey will always be my No. 1, I continue to carry myself with the pride of a New Jerseyan. Although I’ve made small changes to my wardrobe — cowboy boots, flare-out jeans, trench coats — I still boast my Jersey lingo, my appreciation for the Shore life and consistently try to convince my friends to pay a visit. Never feel ashamed of where you're from — no matter where it is. Wherever it is that you originally called home, there’s no utility in letting go. Your home waters the roots from which you learned and grew as a child, and, perhaps more practically, state pride is a rich and debatable conversation starter that you’ll never lose if you’re prideful enough.