In some ways, it has never been easy to be from New Jersey. Too often, we are the butt of a joke made by someone who's never even seen New Jersey. Probably some moron from Idaho. Stupid Idaho. (I've never been to Idaho.) Thanks to The Real Housewives Of New Jersey and The Jersey Shore, the long-held stereotype of a "guido" New Jerseyan has become even more ingrained in America's cultural fabric. We are described as "the armpit of America." But, if that were true, would we be the most populous state in the country? Would millions of people be clamouring to live within our noble borders? The truth of the matter is, people make fun of Jersey because they know, deep in their hearts, that though we be but little, we are fierce, and there is much to recommend this amazing state.

I am a Jersey girl (at least by some definitions; some of the lifers might take issue with that assertion). I was born here and lived in this fair state until I was 10, at which point I moved to Connecticut (which has its own mess of jokes and stereotypes to deal with, but I digress) and eventually wound up in New York City. Then I had a baby. After I had that baby, I did what a lot of people do: I moved to the suburbs. And, really, are there any better 'burbs than NJ 'burbs? With picturesque backyards, excellent schools, proximity to New York (or Philly... or both, if you're in Central Jersey), and the cheapest gas in the tri-state (that you don't even have to pump yourself), it was a no-brainer. So when the time came, I returned to the place where it all began... literally, three miles from the house I grew up in. I'm like a salmon, swimming upriver to spawn in the same place where it hatched.

But it sucks, sucks I tell you, to have to correct all these haters! How can our little ones grow up with unfettered Jersey Pride with this constant barage of Snooki jokes? (She's not even from New Jersey!) Those mooks do not represent us! New Jersey is the home of many illustrious luminaries! And so, it is for my Jersey kids that I loudly and proudly defy the following spurious lies!

We're Not All Rude


Actually, I find a great many New Jerseyans to be almost annoyingly polite... like... is "aggressively polite" a thing? And if it is, is that in and of itself rude? Did I just contradict myself? Whatever. Shut up. I mean YOU DON'T HAVE TO SHUT UP! TELLING YOU TO SHUT UP WOULD BE RUDE AND I'M NOT! I'M NICE! SO NICE BECAUSE I'M FROM NEW JERSEY! They insist upon wanting to do things for you.

As a people, we're not belligerent or itching to get into fist fights. If I had to describe the people of New Jersey in three words those words would be "outgoing," "generous," and "plucky." Hey, when you're situated between two fabulous, internationally known cities like New York and Philadelphia, you're going to go missing in their shadows if you don't speak up, and being a wallflower is not our style. We have way too much to offer to fade in the background.

It's Beautiful Here


We're "The Garden State" for a reason, people! From our verdant, rolling hills, to our woodlands full of adorable and majestic fauna, to our 130-mile coastline, it's not all Parkway and Newark Airport. Come on! Thinking that the area immediately surrounding the Newark Airport represents us would be like driving to Disneyland, getting out in the parking lot and whining that it was ugly and sucked. Ya gotta venture beyond your touchdown point to get to the good stuff!

We're Not All Italian


OK. So I'm, like, tremendously Italian, but don't let that fool you! Yes, New Jersey has a ton of my paesani (aside from New York, no state has more), but it's not all cannoli and Coppola over here. (Though, again, to be fair, it is in my house; I've even worn down my New England husband and now he uses words like "agita" on the regular.) New Jersey is one of the most ethnically and religiously heterogeneous states in the country, which is absolutely awesome. On top of that, nearly a quarter New Jerseyans are foreign born.

We're Not Bad Drivers!


AND I CAN PROVE IT! According to this study based on data from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, New Jersey is among the best driving states in the country! So everyone who uses the term "Jersey driver" as a pejorative can go piss up a rope!

(Also, anecdotally speaking, that "annoying politeness" I mentioned above totally comes out in Jersey drivers. Like, if I'm at a stop sign, someone will hold up traffic to let me out. It's like, "Actually, dude, I'm fine waiting, you have the right of way," but I just smile and wave and appreciate the kind gesture.)

It's Not All Leopard Print All The Time


I'm a girl who can accessorize with an animal print from time to time. But that doesn't mean I don't go out of the house unless I look like a jungle cat on the prowl or anything. Jersey has this reputation of being the land of leopard spots and that's just not true. The only head to toe leopard print I've ever seen in New Jersey, in fact, is on the jaguar at the Turtle Back Zoo (a lovely place to take the kids, by the bye).

We Don't Smell


OK, in industrial areas there's an industrial smell. You would get that literally anywhere — it has nothing to do with New Jersey. Most of the state is not industrial. It is pristine and lush! In my front yard alone there's a magnolia tree growing next to a cherry tree. Do you know what that smells like in the springtime, when they're blooming, pink, and magnificent? It is as fragrant as it is lovely.

Absolutely No One Says "Noo Joisey"


I honestly don't even understand how this is a thing. I have never heard anyone say this and I have known some deeply, deeply Jersey people (like my grandparents, who say things like "trueway" instead of "thruway"). If someone were to have said that, it would have been my grandpa, Tony, who had the thickest New Jersey accent you've ever heard in your life. He said "New Jersey." Because we all say "New Jersey." I mean, it's basically one of the few things North Jersey and South Jersey can agree on. (For the last effing time, South Jersey, it's Taylor ham!)

Images: HBO; Giphy(7)