Breaking Down Stereotypes (Or Not) In the Garden State

Friday, February 1, 2013

There's one block in downtown Red Bank that gives me an internal chuckle every time I pass it. It's just so stereotypically New Jersey, like a bunch of business owners got together & said to one another, "Oh, you're going in on that corner, too? Well, perfect. Together, we'll really give people something to laugh about!" I have to wonder if they're in on the joke. They can't not be, right?

On this little block are three separate business. In the center is Workout World, a national gym chain with dozens of locations across New Jersey. It uses bold lettering & a bright green color palette & goes by the acronym WOW; in other words, it's impossible to miss. WOW is one of those hyper-efficient gyms, the kind with brand new equipment & snazzy marketing, trainers who looks like they could've been extras on Jersey Shore,& did I mention that at other locations, there are tanning beds? At the gym? When you become a WOW member, you get a few free car magnets & sticker that read, in all caps, "JERSEY STRONG." As a result, the slogan is everywhere - not just on people's bumpers but plastered to stop signs, park benches, & beyond. In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I am, in fact, a member of this gym, because it's really close to my apartment & well, hyper-efficient, but each time I go, I'm rendered meek & awkward by the abundance of muscled bros & size-0 women working out in full makeup.

To one side of WOW is your one-stop location for post-gym fuel, Muscle Maker Grill. Yeah, really, that's what it's called. A restaurant with "muscle" in the name, & not of the seafood variety. This place, which is actually part of a nationwide chain, serves dishes like Champion Pasta, Lean & Mean Cheeseburger Salad, & the Rocky Balboa Wrap, each topped with condiments like fat-free sour cream, reduced-fat cheese, & "zero-carb signature sauce." Their wide range of sugar-free desserts includes... sugar-free cheesecake. And nothing more. See?! Being healthy is fun! Now go scarf a Guiltless Wrap or a Fit Salad & get to the gym, bro! Snooki & the Situation may be off the air, but the principles of GTL still reign here at the actual Jersey Shore.

And speaking of everyone's favorite Italians, the establishment that rounds out this stereotypical Garden State block party is Fixx, with two X's, a nightclub I've never set foot in. Based on their marketing materials, which are often written in Comic Sans & use words like "sexxiest," also with two X's, I suspect Fixx of catering to the fist-pumping guido crowd - though I would be only too happy to never have occasion to prove myself right. As best I can tell, it's the absolute definition of the Jersey Shore.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've been to WOW a few times & may very well someday grab lunch at the Muscle Maker Grill because their Honey BBQ Nuggets sound, frankly, a little bit delicious, actually. I may even visit Fixx someday, given that the one individual I know in town is friends with the owner. I have nothing against any of these fine establishments or the great State of New Jersey itself (no, really, I don't), but... oh, come on. I've said it once, & I'll say it again: When it comes to upholding cultural stereotypes, this place just makes it so easy.

And you know what? It's even becoming sort of endearing.

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