When The Sopranos came out I didn't have HBO and didn't see it until years later. I remember when it started getting popular though, because people all of a sudden started asking me, since I was Italian and also from North Jersey, if my family was Mafia. It was a question I hadn't heard for years. Actually, since the year my dad dropped something off for me at soccer camp when I was 11. He was on his way to work, so wearing a suit and he drove a Mercedes. As much as I insisted he was an engineer, the new nickname of "Mafia man" stuck. I didn't care, just like I didn't care about The Sopranos questions or about the Jersey Shore ones today.
Again, I could tell the popularity of the show just through the increase in interest of my personal guido status. It's funny to hear it from Californians, like Jersey Shore is filmed on another planet when in fact they have their own Jersey Shore right under their noses in the name of the bros of SoCal. Because really, what's the difference? They all live for goofy cars, goofy girls, beaches, parties and getting laid. And they all love wearing Ed Hardy. I guess being from New Jersey, I find the OC version to be more ridiculous. It's all what you're used too, I guess.
For me personally, I didn't oompa-loompa the Tan-in or spike the hair. I never even owned a wife-beater. In fact, I wore Polos and played Lacrosse. Not that it wasn't around. My boss at Christmas City was the first full guido I became friends with (aside from my cousins who all thought I was from another planet). Yea, Christmas City, world's largest supplier of artificial Christmas trees. Doug was as '90s guido as they get (though we always called them Ginzos). He drove a teal convertible IROC, wore short shorts and tight shirts that really accentuated his inverted-v shaped body, gelled the hair and wore high tops. The most vivid memory I have of Doug is the way he smoked cigarettes like Andrew Dice Clay, really whipping them out of the mouth before the exhale and a "yo, Nereo...you gettin' laid, or waaht." He was pretty much the Godfather to those kids you're watching on TV today.
Doug liked me just for the fact that I "wasn't a total fuckin' pussy" like the other dudes who worked in the warehouse. Which is a serious blow to them considering that I wasn't much of a tough guy myself. Doug would go to Spring Break every year in Florida even though he didn't go to college (one of my personal favorite Doug facts). He'd then share the pictures with me, telling me about the girls he banged, wanted to bang or would bang next year and never forgetting to include breast size and slammin' body type. Besides the fact that I listened to stories about his drunken motel sex (who wouldn't?), Doug also liked me because I was Italian. And even though I was an Italian who dressed like a "fuckin' preppy goofball." I was still Italian no less. I have to admit, I liked Doug too. Much like the appeal of the characters on the show, you could say he was a lot of things, but affected, pretentious or reserved were not amongst them.
One time I met this Italian girl and I told her that I was Italian. In her thick accent she asked me "where in Italy were you born?" to which I answered that I was born in America. Her response was blunter than a butter knife, "well then, you are not Italian, you are American." The funny thing was, instead of getting annoyed, I heard her words, and they sunk in deep. She was totally right. Just like any second generation kids are totally American. I witnessed this phenomena in Home Depot just the other day. A Filipino mother was scolding her kid with "Alam mo ang iyong mga araling-bahay?!" to which he replied in an accent as thick with annoyance as any preoccupied and homegrown American teen "yesssssss, mom.. I'll do it when I get home.. okay!?" It doesn't matter where you come from, if you raise your kids in the U.S., they will be Americans first and foremost. So even though Doug and I might have had ancestors from the same European country years ago, to me we were just two Americans more accurately described as Guido and Preppy than Italian and Italian.
Which is why Jersey Shore doesn't bother me. Those aren't Italians or Italian-Americans or even New Jersians. They are Americans. Totally clowned out and ridiculous ones, but still Americans. If someone watching that, or The Sopranos, gets a different idea about me because of it, well, that's almost so ridiculous it's just funny. I really believe if more people would recognize the fact that we are all overwhelmingly related though Americanism than any other historical and cultural ties, we'd all be a little better off for it. Our common history and culture includes Big Gulps, Big Wheels and the Notorious B.I.G. which, for better or for worse, trumps wherever our grandparents came from. At least that's this guido's take on it.