The Jersey Shore has come under fire lately with the cast of MTV’s reality hit The Jersey Shore bringing scandal, promiscuity and shame to the state’s scenically beautiful and actually quiet beach communities.
I grew up on the Jersey Shore in a small area called Herbertsville. My street overlooked the Manasquan River and I spent the better part of my childhood summers going to the beach everyday, spending time fishing with my dad off the local bridges, wishing I knew how to surf and knowing exactly when low and high tide was in order to better time my childhood crabbing adventures.
What you see in the media is not a true representation of the Jersey Shore, the sandy paradise that has been reminisced about by artists and New Jersey natives like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. In New York, residents call people who come in and rudely flood the city’s streets the “bridge and tunnel” crowd. On the Jersey Shore, locals call all the New Yorkers and those from Northern Jersey, “bennies.” Bennies are those people from out of town who bring revenue and bad behavior to the shore towns from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Although the local businesses benefit from these visitors spending summer spending and sunning (from Memorial to Labor Day the rent for a beach house can fetch well into the five digit range), most of us can’t stand the conduct of these bennies. The locals in towns like Point Pleasant, even have an informal “Bennies Go Home” Parade Labor Day weekend.
The people you see in these reality TV shows are bennies who aren’t from the Jersey Shore, just using it as their summer playground, and don’t encapsulate the charm of the true Jersey Shore locals. I grew up going to the Thursday night fireworks on Point Pleasant Beach, looking for bathing suits at Brave New World each spring, enjoying ice cream from Hoffman’s in Manasquan. Saturday night adventures in my twenties involved going to the Tiki Bar during the off-season (a real local will never go there in the summer, because it’s all bennies). In the winters, the atmosphere is like a high school reunion every Saturday night. Locals never frequent these “benny” spots, such as Seaside Heights in the summer. We even have “locals only” beaches to purposefully avoid this crowd.
So the next time you turn on your television and see obscenely tan young people behaving badly, remember that’s not the real “Jersey” way. Yes, this culture is embraced by some, but the locals, in reality, are better behaved. Want to spot a real Jersey Shore resident? You will find them sitting on their porches, enjoying a good Jersey Mike’s sub, and staying far, far away from Snookie and her crew.