In all my years, I have come to a few conclusions about life:

  • If you have a craving, it's never advisable to opt for the low-calorie, fat-free version of whatever it is in an attempt to be healthier
  • All parents will, at some point, think negative things about their children that they will never say aloud
  • There is no state whose citizens have more state pride than New Jersey. (Texas, you probably tie NJ in terms of pride, but you cannot surpass our fist-pumping enthusiasm.)

Until I was 10, I grew up in New Jersey. In my memory, I recall my neighborhood as basically just one massive, collective backyard, and every now and then you could pop into someone's house for Kool-Aid. I recently revisited and found, to my surprise, that I had remembered it fairly accurately. The summer I was 10, I moved to Connecticut, and though I fell in love with my adopted state completely, New Jersey still had a special place in my heart. Well now I'm back, bitches! And guess who I brought with me? That's right: my two children! (Well, actually, I brought one of my children with me; the second was born right here! My very own Jersey girl!) And you know what? I'm absolutely delighted I can give them a New Jersey childhood, because there's so much to recommend growing up Jersey.

It's Beautiful Here!


New Jersey has this crazy reputation as being ugly. So you'll pardon me if I get a little defensive or "Jersey" about this particular topic. Ahem...

You want some natural f***ing beauty?! I got your natural f***ing beauty right here!

Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

BOOM! It's like Middle Earth here in The Jerz!

Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Or maybe you want some goddamn bucolic pastoral scenes!

Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Quaint villages? Fuggetaboutit!

B.P. Price/Flickr

You can take whatever charming Victorian architecture you have in your hellhole of a state and shove it, because look at this!

Jeff Kubina/Flickr

Get over here, you mook! I've got seascapes so pristine they'll make you cry!

Barbara L. Hanson/Flickr

Now, are we clear about just how beautiful the Garden State is? If you're still confused, maybe a trip out to the Pine Barrens would clear it up...

Erm, not in a Sopranos kind of way. They're just really pretty, too. See?

Andrew Leahey

So, yeah, New Jersey is positively teeming with natural and man-made beauty, and it is fabulous to grow up amid all of it.

Great Adventure!


Don't get it twisted, it may technically be "Six Flags Great Adventure," but no one calls it "Six Flags." It is "Great Adventure." PERIOD. And if you're lucky, an adult in your life will take you there on Spring Break or summer vacation and it will be magical. You will get a Loony Toons sweatshirt in the gift shop after you stupidly go on the flume ride first and get all cold and wet and it will serve as a year-long reminder to bug them to take you again as soon as humanly possible.

Great Schools!


While there are certainly schools in New Jersey that must improve for the sake of their students (notably Newark public schools, which received a $100,000,000 gift from Mark Zuckerberg five years ago), New Jersey education is consistently rated among the best in the country.

The Shore!

Martin Lewison/Flickr

YAS! Summer means it's time to "go down the shore," which, if you're from New Jersey sounds like a perfectly normal thing to say, but if you're from anywhere else makes you arch an eyebrow and say "Do you mean 'Go down to the shore?'" Those people are haters: Don't let them dim your glow. (True fact: I only learned "go down the shore" was a Jersey thing last month, when my husband made fun of me, and then proceeded to tell me I also say "go down the basement.")

The Jersey Shore is a magical place that seems not to have changed since the mid-'80s. From the rollicking waves of the beaches to the deep fried and sugary delights of the ride-filled boardwalks, there are few places that encapsulate every stage of childhood quite like the shore.

Taylor Ham/Pork Roll


Depending on where in New Jersey you live (North or South), this processed meat goes by one name or another. (Stop trying to push "Pork Roll" on the rest of us, South Jersey — it'll be Taylor Ham until the day I die.) What is it? Think... Spam, but not canned, and not quite so... Spammy. It needs to be refrigerated, and it's easier to cut thinner slices rather than have it chunked. It's awful and delicious. This is, incidentally, another thing my husband had to tell me is not available everywhere, just New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. Allow me, as a representative of New Jersey, to offer my condolences to the rest of you poor schlubs who don't get Taylor ham. Growing up, Sunday morning is an egg sandwich on a delicious New Jersey bagel (you're not the only ones with bagels, New York) with a healthy slab of Taylor ham at one of our many diners. Heaven. You know what else tastes like heaven?

Our Pizza!


Yo, New York, I'm happy for you and imma let you finish, but New Jersey has the best pizza of all time. No. No, I will not back down from that statement. New York will always feel like home to me, I love it, and there's a lot New York does better than New Jersey, but New Jersey pizza is just categorically better than New York pizza. Now I'm not saying all pies are created equal: some New York pizzerias are better than some New Jersey ones. But if you take our pizza industries on the whole, I'm sorry, NY, but there's just no way you can compete. We don't make a big deal about it because we don't have to: we know we're better, and we don't need you bacciagalupes coming in here to "discover" our pizza and then write about it as a New York Times trend piece. Of course, as we all know, pizza is the ultimate kid food, so growing up weaned on New Jersey pizza is a damn privilege for the children of this resplendent state.

Proximity To Amazing Cities!

Fun Fact: The Statue of Liberty is a Jersey Girl! Though She faces New York, she lives in New Jersey!

Though New Jersey has some pretty cool cities of its own, it is between two very large, internationally known cities: New York City and Philadelphia. A quick train or bus ride gets you into either, so field trips for a Jersey kid are pretty sweet. As Jersey kids get older, than turns into telling your parents you're "sleeping over Becky's this weekend" then taking a train into NYC and hanging out on St. Mark's until Sunday afternoon. But as fabulous as those places are, it's still nice to rest your head in Jersey when the day is done.

Images: JFleischmann/Flickr; Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr; B.P. Price/Flickr; Jeff Kubina/Flickr; Barbara L. Hanson/Flickr; Andrew Leahey/Flickr; Martin Lewison/Flickr; Buba69/Flickr; Giphy (5)