It seems as if the whole country takes some perverse pleasure in watching the TV reality show "Real Housewives of New Jersey" and making fun of the women who star in it, who are a pretty wacky and dysfunctional crew.
But having recently had the opportunity to spend some time with REAL real housewives of New Jersey (not the ones on the show, but real real ones. Stay with me here), I can tell you that the TV "stars" have nothing over the real real ones, at least when it comes to stress levels.
How do New Jersey housewives differ from Arizona housewives? Let me count the ways. Let's start with the obvious fact that women in New Jersey are darker and more earthy. (And having been one of them, I say that as a good thing. Living here does not mean my hair color or looks changed, except for those random red highlights from too much time in the sun.) I've said before that when we first arrived in Arizona and my younger daughter joined a Brownie troop, she was the only non-blond in the bunch. I once overheard her described as the "dark-haired girl". That would never have happened in New Jersey, where brunettes rule.
But scratch the surface and you'll find deeper differences. A New Jersey housewife walks around with Dunkin' Donuts coffee in her hand; an Arizona housewife is rarely seen without her Starbucks.
All moms yell at their kids at some point, but New Jersey moms yell louder.
In Arizona, a woman whose husband has done her wrong will call an attorney. In New Jersey it might be a hit man.
But the biggest difference of all is that real real New Jersey housewives are more stressed and tired than housewives in Arizona. I've been there and done that, so I know the reason why: New Jersey women work harder. (And before a housewife war erupts, just sit down and keep reading and note this statement is not about whether the woman in question works outside the home or is a stay-at-home mom. Although high NJ property taxes do force many of them and/or their husbands to work long hours.)
Due to the lack of real weather in Arizona, it's easy to forget the extra work that such weather entails. As bad as it is to have to shovel snow and de-ice cars and bundle kids up like Eskimos before they can leave the house (and then have to clean the slush off the floors when they come back inside ten minutes later), real real New Jersey housewives actually experience many more stressors than that. Things more stressful than driving in bad weather New Jersey traffic. Or even good weather New Jersey traffic.
Simply getting through day-to-day life in New Jersey requires a lot of work. It seems like you're always either covering your pool for the winter, or uncovering it for the summer. The lawn furniture goes in and goes out with the seasons. The beautiful fall foliage that everyone oohs and aahs over (and says they miss by living in a place with no seasons) turns into the dead leaves which seem to descend for months on end and constantly need to be raked and bagged. Two distinct wardrobes are necessary for winter versus summer, and since most older homes don't have enough closet space to hold everything, closets must be "changed out" twice a year. And most moms have to do this not only for themselves but also for their kids and often for their husbands, then creatively come up with a space to store the out of season clothes. Personally, it used to be one of my least favorite chores.
The advanced age of many New Jersey homes compared to Arizona homes also means that at any given time the average Garden State homeowner is in the midst of some sort of renovation. Everyone I visited on my recent trip either:
a) was getting a new roof
b) needed a new driveway
c) was remodeling their kitchen
d) was replacing floors
And as anyone who has lived through a major home project and lived to tell the tale knows, that's enough to ruin a marriage and a mind.
So real real housewives of New Jersey, I salute you. People may call you rude or say you aren't as friendly as those living elsewhere, but given all you have to put up with, I say you're $!%*& Disney princesses.
Originally published on Examiner.com