So there was this show on MTV, the Jersey Shore. Never heard of it? Good for you. Heard of it, but never deigned to watch it? Even better.
But whether you realize it or not, you’ve lived it. In fact, that’s why I think this show became a cultural phenomenon. It managed to capture the intense feelings that a random group of people experience in a singular situation.
Isn’t most reality television like this? Actually, no. First, many center on competitions. The contestants may share an intense, unusual experience, but they’re all about breaking out of the pack, never letting down their guard, forever announcing they didn’t come here to make friends, they came here to win. Okay, what about the Real World? I’ll give you Season 3. (It was on MTV.com recently.) Other than that, most reality shows feature participants who are hyper-aware. They arrive knowing their archetypes. The bitch, the tough guy. In the season opener of this year’s Real World, one roommate announces, “I’m waiting for the good-looking African-American guy to walk in.” And, lo and behold, there he was.
The denizens of the Jersey Shore, by contrast, arrived with a construct not well-known in the world at large, the “guido” and “guidette.” Their credo included “gym, tan, laundry” and a mystifying preference for “juiceheads” and “battlin’.” But trust the blogger behind the always fabulous FourFour to nail it in his piece on the finale, which included the roommates reminiscing about the time they had shared:
“Watching them recount the month they spent together, I almost felt included in the conversation. It struck me that regardless of what we put in our hair or how we paint our skin, as an emotional species, we share this nostalgia, this instant yearning for what just happened.”
This instant yearning for what just happened . . . What a perfect phrase. It’s not only the human condition, it’s also a curse at times. And nowhere is it more evident than among a group of writers.
I spent Jan. 16-Jan. 24 at Writers in Paradise. The faculty changes a little bit every year, yet it always bonds with the same ferocity. We work very hard, we play very hard, we laugh so much it feels mildly illegal. We are not that different from these self-identified guidos and guidettes, Only instead of “gym, tan, laundry,” we have “read, write, eat, drink.” Call us writers and writerettes. For eight straight days, I awoke at 7:30 a.m. and, on average, went to bed at 2:30 a.m. Then I came home and more or less slept for two days straight.
So, in honor of Writers in Paradise and the end of Jersey Shore, I’ll do a shout-out to my fellow faculty members, using the Jersey Shore Name Generator. So thank you to S-Train and The Tricep, for organizing and leading this conference for six years now. Thank you to Pookie, without whom nothing would get done. Thanks to Juice Box and The Appointment, whom I hope to see at Volt this spring. Thanks to the cutest married couple ever, Bones and Snickers. Thanks to Natural Light, who understands that I, like the Jersey Shore guys, need a gym. Thanks to The Paris Hilton of Trenton, who kept up with the lunacy even while drinking Diet Coke. And thanks to Tan Jovi, in and out so quickly this year, but the father of us all in some sense, given that he helped to create Eckerd’s writing program. Oh and let’s not forget The Body, who represented publishing and our three agent friends: the Tan-ticle, the Ashley Simpson of Cape May and Vibe Time. It was a wonderful week.
What’s the Jersey Shore experience of your adult life? Dig deep, I bet you have one.