Oh, American pop culture... how you never cease to amaze and mortify me on a daily basis.
I can try to duck you by not watching any reality shows or reading tabloids, but then you rear your ugly head on The Soup anyway. I know the names Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian without actually having seen or heard anything any of these people have produced (and I am not linking them from my blog. They don't need any more help in their attention whoring). I immediately understand a reference to someone being The Bachelorette, but I've never watched one minute of the show. In these over-wired times, we can't help but absorb some of this slurry by visual osmosis. People continue to find new ways to make themselves famous with no discernible talents, and the audience has pretty much given up on demanding better from their media. In the past few years, it seems the standards for what is acceptable entertainment have hit such a low, I feel we should all be watching television from the bottom of a tremendous barrel.
Of course, we can choose to not look, so that it doesn't affect us. It's easy enough to ignore the TV shows directed at the lowest common denominators. Still, no matter what, certain things will seep into your brain and remain there for all of eternity. In recent years, this curse has been visited upon me thrice, in the form of the terms "MILF" and "cougar", and now with the total MTV domination of Jersey Shore, I now have "Snooki" to contend with.
Let's take these one at a time. "MILF", of course, is meant to be a compliment. It means, Hey, you might have pushed a human being (or, in my case, more than one; just not at the same time, thankfully) out of your body, but you look great now... for a mom. I suppose I should be flattered whenever someone busts out this term (although I find it beyond dated -- anyone else?), but there's still something kind of gross about it. Men say it with a subtle enough leer than you know what they're thinking. And usually, they're not men you'd want thinking about you in that way to begin with. However, having people still find you attractive after you've put yourself through the most physically altering experience of your life is not the worst thing in the world. I'd just rather not hear that term.
Which leads me to "cougar", a word that used to mean a wild cat of some size. I've already written about that particular "C" word on my personal blog, and I invite you to take a gander at how much I don't like it. I think this one is slowly moving out of the common vernacular, and I couldn't be happier. The sooner it's gone, the better
And, finally, the cultural zeitgeist that is Jersey Shore. I'm a Garden State native, raised in Hazlet, New Jersey (coincidentally, the hometown of Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola). I grew up during what I like to call "New Jersey's Golden Age": the 1970s and 1980s. My senior yearbook photo will attest that I did not (nor did I ever) have big hair. I did rock the New Jersey Girl Mullet, though, until I got wise and had it cut into a bob and dyed it Molly Ringwald Red. Lately, new acquaintances have actually called me "Snooki" when they hear about my background. Cue the blood boiling.
I would like to state for the record that I have never cooked myself in a tanning booth or slathered myself from head to toe with deep orange-brown tanning lotion. I would never leave my house with a "tramp clamp" in my hair (I own one, of course, to hold my hair back when I'm washing my face. In private). My hair has never once held a "poof". While I once had a crush on a guy named Vinnie Borusso, I have never so much as kissed a guy who would fall into the "guido" category. Meanwhile, between Jersey Shore and E!'s Jerseylicious, you'd think everyone with Jersey roots speaks like an extra on The Sopranos. I can certainly turn it on for anyone who "aks" me to, putting on a pitch-perfect impression of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. But that's not anywhere close to the real me, and it's not close to being anything like the kids I grew up with. I'm also a college graduate, I don't speak in double negatives, I have never passed out in public, and I don't wear my sunglasses at night.
The only real "Jersey" thing about me these days is the sarcastic, East Coast attitude I can throw around whenever my temper gets the best of me. When my dander is up, my use of the eff word gets much more liberal (though not around my kids) and I don't have a problem telling people what I think. Out here in Portland, where the folks are so laid back you often feel like you have to take their pulse to make sure they're still alive, my vocal ways have gotten me into trouble once or twice. I certainly dial it down when the situation (no pun intended) calls for it, but cross me and I'm like JWoww after a bad night at the club, only way less inflated. And not drunk. Or skanky.
Okay, so I can't resist a pinball machine or a sit-down Ms. Pac-Man game. If you are a child of the Dirty Jerz, you know your way around your old school video games. When I was a kid, I was always at the mall, the boardwalk, or an arcade. Or I was at an arcade in the mall. I still rock at Skee-Ball, and just the other day, I racked up over 180 million points on The Who's Tommy pinball machine (that short, dark and cute girl sure plays a mean pinball) at a dank bar in NE Portland. I know what a jughandle is, and can maneuver one just fine, even though they don't have them in the Pacific Northwest -- unless it's attached to an actual jug of some sort of microbrew. Kevin Smith was recently in Portland and used the term "Bennies", making me roar while others around me sat silent.
So, while the girl was indeed taken out of Jersey (in 1989), the Jersey will never quite be taken out of the girl. Just don't ask me to do any fist-pumping. This Jersey girl is, in fact, a lady.