Last night's episode was my favorite so far! Props to Jersey because it is the only episode filmed in the Garden State. While watching it, I had a lot of emotions come up. I couldn’t stop thinking about what makes me nervous and uncomfortable and the common thread between all people.
A little known fact is that I lived in Miami for 4 years. My mom was raised there because my grandmother, although originally from Lyndhurst, NJ, lived in Miami from 1948 until she moved with me to Alabama. I, however, would say I am mostly Southern raised and proud of it!
During the episode, I made a reference that Miami people and Jersey people are about the same. So let me share a little of my story.
Chapter One: Fish Out of Water
In 2001 after my divorce, I decided to move to Miami to get a fresh start. I knew no one except for one friend of a friend and my 80 year old grandmother who suffered with senile dementia and Alzheimer's. Later, I became the guardian of her and she lived with me until her death (that is another story). So “fish out of water?” Boy do I get it! In some way that may be why my heart reached out for Jaime when I met her in Alabama.
A couple of weeks into living in Miami, I got a piece of mail addressed to the house next door, but the name on it was to JESUS BLANCO. I stopped in my tracks and thought, "Well this is some kind of joke! I have mail for White Jesus!" I lived in the community of Westchester, which is a Cuban neighborhood and let’s just say, I was the only Southern white girl around for blocks - I was so intimidated. I didn’t look like anyone I saw, and I definitely didn’t talk or dress like them either. I was petrified and so worried if I would be accepted. But this mail came for JESUS and I am going to meet my neighbor JESUS! So I walked over, knocked, and an older man answered the door. I explained there had been some sort of mistake, he had some mail come addressed to JESUS and maybe he should just take a look.
To my surprise, he explained to me he was in fact JESUS! What? He seriously laughed so hard and told me I was reading correctly, but in Latin culture it isn’t uncommon to be named Jesus (pronounced Hey-Sues!). We shared some laughs and quickly became fast friends. I think he took pity on me as he could see I was the "fish out of water." Jesus had lived in Miami for years but he came as an immigrant in the 60’s and he understood what I was going through being the new girl on the block. We laughed a lot about the fact that I had only ever heard the name Jesus in the context of church! He and his wife introduced me around to the rest of the neighbors and before I knew it I was eating fried plantains, pasteles (guava pastries), croquetas and my favorite, the Cuban sandwich!
While I lived in Miami I learned so much. My sweet neighbors always tried to “fatten me up,” as they would say, and soon I was playing dominoes and feeling like a part of the culture.
JAIME REALLY DID TURN THE “FISH OUT OF WATER" TABLES ON US BAMA GIRLS IN NJ, BUT I FEEL LIKE DANIELLE, LUCI AND I ALL ROSE TO THE OCCASION. I can’t imagine a person on this planet who can’t sympathize with feeling a little awkward or out of place at some point.
What I think the root of most culture conflicts is, are insecurities and a need for acceptance. As soon as drinks were flowing and guards were dropped in Jersey, Mary and Deena - Jaime’s friends - made me feel welcomed and I loved them for that. When I met them I was unsure. I wanted them to like me for Jaime’s sake but was afraid of a repeat of the introduction to Tracy. As soon as we gave each other a chance we got along great!