For the first time ever, I'm going to the Jersey Shore this weekend, and I'm not going to lie. I feel a little bit disloyal. Don't get me wrong -- I'm super psyched for a beach weekend with the girls to celebrate the 30th birthday of one of my favorites, Sabrina.
But my beach weekends have always been limited to Ocean City, MD (and surrounding Delaware beaches), and here I am, meeting my New Yorker friends halfway up the East Coast at the Jersey Shore, home of Snooki.
In the past, if I ever mentioned Ocean City to someone who wasn't from Maryland, the response was "Oh, Ocean City, NJ?"
UM HELL no. Do I look like I vacation in NEW JERSEY? I'm sure it's very nice or whatever, but it's no Ocean City, MD. The real Ocean City. Besides (sorry, Sabrina), you guys might call it the Garden State, but the rest of us (meaning myself, the other 49 states, and the District of Columbia) know it as the Armpit of America.
So I rest my case, OCMD, the only Ocean City.
OK, the truth is, I'm not even going to OCNJ. We're going to Long Beach Island. And as mentioned above, I've never been to the Jersey Shore. It might be lovely, and totally not full of fist-pumping, perma-drunk guido kids like MTV has led us to believe. (And hell, it's not like we'll be frequenting their clubs either. There are rumors of a "Golden Girls" theme, so you know...turn down for WHAT?)
And on the flipside, I know OCMD isn't like...the Hamptons. In fact, it's a spectacular cesspool of shittiness. I'm not fooling you, and I'm not fooling myself either. But it's MY cesspool of shittiness. It's like how you can rip your family from here to next Sunday, but the minute an outsider does, you're like OH NO YOU D'NT. That's how us Marylanders feel about Ocean City.
Thus, my tumultuous relationship with Ocean City, a place with massive nostalgic value that I find myself wanting to go to every summer with equal parts fondness and disgust. Let's embark on a tour of the things I love and hate, hate and love (you decide which are which) about Ocean City.
What it sounds like in Baltimorean. The Baltimore accent, Bawlmerese, is a wretched one. It sounds something like this:
"Whad'ryu doin' this weekn?"
"Goin' downee oh-shun, hawn!"
Ocean City when you're a kid. With a year off here and there to take a couple family trips to Disney World, my summer family vacations as a kid were almost exclusively a week at the beach (god knows how my parents managed a full week there in one sitting...probably beer), and legit, NOTHING could beat them. We'd usually go down with another family, and everything was the best. Playing Barbies by the pool. Spending the whole day on the beach not giving a fuck that your turkey sandwich was crunchy because you got a little sand in there. Wiping out on boogie boards and having the saltwater burn your eyes out. Flying kites and renting bikes (I could still ride at that age). Digging for sand crabs (for some reason, it didn't bother me as a kid that sand crabs just look like albino cockroaches). Kicking ass at mini golf. And of course, spending an evening in Delaware hoovering some Grotto Pizza with birch beer. Noms ahoy indeed. OCMD as a kid was the actual shit.
The current OCMD ad campaign. OK, no joke, the OCMD ad campaign for the last few years has been just...I can't. It's on billboards in Baltimore, and they have some radio and TV spots too. The gist of it is this: There is an Aryan meathead in a lifeguard tank top who goes by the white trash named of Rodney, and he's like "Oh you're having a bad week? Cool story, bro. I will rescue you and whisk you away to Ocean City." (The beginning of a horrifying episode of "48 Hours.")
Ocean City when you're a teenager. It's Ocean City all grown up! (In your head, you're grown up.) You're 18, you just graduated high school, and SENIOR WEEK! For those of you who don't have senior week where you're from, it's when you and all your friends take the money you've earned from your shitastic minimum wage job (answering the phone at a chain restaurant saying, "Thank you for calling Red Robin, home of the smiling burger, how may I help you?") and go in together on a hotel or condo (only above the 100s, natch) downee oh-shun for the week after graduation and you RUN THIS TOWN. Or so you think. I mean, you do whatever it is you're supposed to do, right?
Troll the boardwalk at night running into everyone you know, buying t-shirts that say "Senior Week 2003" and inexplicably have the Playboy bunny logo on them, going to 18-and-over foam night clubs because you could (but why the fuck did you?), eating at BJ's on the Water because teehehe, riding the drunk bus, being BFF 4 LYFE, getting your old-time photos taken, and of course, frying that pasty ass on the beach. Oh and Grotto, always Grotto. This is the week when you vaguely begin to realize that the idyllic picture in your mind of OCMD isn't quite accurate. For me it was spotting a used condom on the sidewalk and wondering, "Is this what college is going to be like?"
The Jesus sand sculptures. Need I say more?
Ocean City when you're in college. You're no longer living a lie. OCMD is what it is. A shithole with a beach where you can have a kickass time with your friends who are now in schools all over the place. For a cheap (but not really cheap enough) price and a three-hour drive, you can get away from living at home for the summer and catch up with your friends. You can now fully appreciate the hilarity of places like Sunsations, which sells the type of cheap shit you give away at bar mitzvahs, only it's all beach-themed. You love the unironic, kitchy hotel signs that haven't been updated since the 70s. And you and your friends flat out cannot stop laughing that your hotel's (again, unironic) tagline is "simply elegant...elegantly simple."
The cuisine. Fuck BJ's on the Water, the faux fancy place you went to in high school because it has an accidental porn name. There's a Higgins Crab House on what feels like every block, you can class it up for breakfast at Dough Rollers, or hop the state line to -- you guessed it -- motherfuckin' Grotto. Also Dumser's for a milkshake, Kohr Bros. on the boardwalk for frozen custard, and Fisher's Popcorn. NOMS AHOY. (That's right, I didn't include the atrocity that is saltwater taffy...which I do still eat when I'm there but WHY?!)
Ocean City when you're in your 20s. Yeah, the rose-colored glasses are gone, but the great thing is that in place of them, everything is so horrifying, that it's goddamn hilarious. The beach is fun, but like...you can't see your feet once you step in the water. The kitch is still charming, but the trashiness is not. You're there again on senior week...only this time, you and your friends call it senior citizens week because senior week was 10 (!) years ago. You're annoyed constantly by the scopes kids, who were chosen because they are attractive 16-year-olds, and they keep trying to get you and your friends to make a pyramid or something, and you're like, "Bitch step off, I'm getting a tan and I don't need a tiny picture of me in a bikini on my keychain." You go on the haunted house ride on the boardwalk and when you step out of the crappy car, you accidentally slam your shin into the side of it and end up with a knot on your leg (even after watching a handful of other people do the same thing right before you). And you're confused about the t-shirts they're selling on the boardwalk that say "DTF." It's something that, now that you're old and uncool, you have to look up (never having watched "Jersey Shore"...ahem, Armpit), and once you do, you're old enough to be horrified that this is what the high school kids are buying these days. Forget a little Playboy bunny logo. These kids are DTF. And I'm all WTF.
All that said, you don't need the rose-colored glasses. It's Ocean City, and you've seen it at its worst. You don't need it to put on makeup for you; you love it unconditionally. You go back every summer because you love frying that pasty ass and eating Grotto. Your stomach might lurch when you remember the used condom, but you smile every time you hear "Call Me Maybe" because it takes you back to that summer when your favorite bride-to-be won a Guinness chugging contest at a completely rando Irish pub on the boardwalk (the only one that would let in the bride's underaged sister during senior week).
It's Ocean City, MARYLAND, and it's mine. Perfectly imperfect...imperfectly perfect.