“Jersey Strong” (1.3): Cracks in the Foundation

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Jayda, Creep, Brooke and Maggie meet for drinks. Jayda’s engagement ring was stolen years ago but Creep still hasn’t replaced it. Maggie has two and Jayda is super jelly. Mutual appreciation of jewelry is just one of the benefits to lesbianism. Creep thinks Jayda is internalizing other problems and bringing home fights. He insists that, contrary to what Jayda believes, he is ready for marriage.

In a weird coincidence, both Jayda and Brooke have been engaged for three years to a partner they both live and raise children with. Jayda’s hesitation is fueled by Creep’s sometimes lax sense of responsibility and childish deference to his mother, who disapproves of  Jayda. Brooke insists that even though her workaholic tendencies strain her relationship with Maggie, the real reason they’re putting off marriage is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I guess I can understand that view; by all accounts marriage crushes sex like no other. The parallels between Jayda and Brooke’s relationships suggest that fixing other people’s problems for a living might take a toll on problems of your own.

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The following day, Maggie and daughter Nicole meet Brooke in New York City. Nicole, a statuesque brunette, is turning 18 soon. She wants to try her hand at a modeling career so Maggie and Brooke are going to take her into the city. Don’t you love how northeastern women always refer to NYC as “THE CITY” as though every other city is but a humble township? I don’t. Each time someone mentions ‘THE CITY” I’m like “Oh, Beirut? Montreal? ULAN BATOR?!!”

Maggie is pushing Nicole into modeling because Nicole is tall, thin, and pretty so what possibly could be a better career path for a tall, thin, pretty young woman than being a professional object? Nicole is lovely but let’s be realistic: almost 18 is late to start in the modeling game. There are thousands and thousands of tall, think pretty girls trying to be a model and the industry treats those girls as disposable because they are. Why push your child into a career as a disposable object with minimal chances of success rather than a normal profession? One that she won’t age out of by 25? But whatever. Maggie and Nicole will be learning hard lessons about modeling soon enough.

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Brooke, Maggie, and Nicole meet with a NYC model scout and he is incredibly nice. The man books Nicole on the spot as a showroom model (translation: breathing clothes hanger) and everyone beams. Brooke is  less enthusiastic about modeling than Maggie. She’d prefer Nicole to focus on academics. This is the second time I’ve noticed Brooke wearing a brightly colored, puffy fur jacket. Today’s is magenta and looks like something Ludacris might have worn to the VMAS in 2002. PETA needs to pour some blood on that mess STAT. It can only improve.

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Later that evening, Jayda rolls up to the Strip Club for a very special bit of mentoring. Jazz, one of her young mentees, is stripping under the name “Fantasy.” In an incredibly awkward scene, Jazz does her Fantasy dance while Jayda glares on disapprovingly. Mentee gyrating. Through the lens of reality television, the strip club lights take on the same garish fluorescent quality of a supermarket, and the job of a stripper as routine and unremarkable as the job of a grocery bagger. After the performance, Jayda confronts Jazz about the potential danger and downfall of her new career path. Jazz agrees to look into any job leads Jayda might send her way, but seems resolute in her choice. Stripping is fast easy money. Why scrub floors for far less?

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At Brooke’s pad, the family is oohing and ahhing over Nicole’s new batch of modeling pics. In the photographs Nicole models a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt with a sassy smile. I won’t even comment on that. Nicole’s boyfriend Justin is around and Maggie gives him a subtle stink eye. Maggie vocally disapproves of Justin because he and Nicole are “on different paths,” which is mother speak for “He is a loser with no potential who can only hold my baby girl back.” We wouldn’t want any unsavory elements preventing Nicole from breaking into the wholly savory modeling world.

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That evening at Aljahmeir’s school, Jayda’s son just gets reamed for not turning in a school project about the Harlem Renaissance. Jayda’s education fury is a sight to BEHOLD and really should be replicated and distributed to parents of slacking children across the USA. Just lovely, really, A+. I do adore watching children be put in their place. For me the highlight of tutoring or nannying is hatching creative new tactics to jolt the little buggers out of mediocrity. Or bed; a spray bottle does wonders to wake up a prepubescent and it’s hysterical. Anyway,  after the A+ anger comes  Jayda’s A+++ guilt trip. She’s all, “You’re not just failing, you’re making me feel like a failure as a parent. Do you want to make me feel like a failure?” while the generally well-behaved Aljahmeir sobs in shame. The woman can really get through to people.

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The next day Nicole works her very first modeling gig! Super lucky that she managed to score a showroom job with no modeling experience. Nicole stands around in clothes waiting for someone to notice her clothes while hopefully noticing how boring it is to serve as a display. Maggie shows up being all “if only I were a little bit taller I could be a baller” and Nicole looks embarrassed and irritated in that special way teenagers do. Justin the unsavory element is skulking about looking affable, and Maggie tells her daughter that, according to a psychic, Nicole would soon be breaking up with Justin. Nicole retorts that, according to her psychic, it’s true love. Maggie blushes at being caught in such a ridiculous predicament and tries to casually brush the whole thing off. It’s like watching a cat recover from falling off the sofa.

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Back to Jayda. She’s providing on camera commentary when the clock strikes the hour and our heroine realizes that she needs to pick up the kids. Jayda calls Creep but when he can’t (or won’t?!) help she flies into a scathing Jayda fury. Her furies are fabulous.  I can’t even hate. Jayda manages the situation without Creep’s help but she’s still furious at his perceived irresponsibility. “When he drops the ball, I feel alone,” Jayda says. “When Creep doesn’t live up to his full potential, that shit pisses me off… I just don’t want him to give me an ultimatum of him vs. my happiness. Because I’ll choose my happiness.”

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Creep and Jayda argue behind closed doors while their worried children sit outside and try to listen. Layla, shaking, wonders aloud: “Are they going to do this forever? They do it on Friday, they do it on Wednesday, they do it on Saturday, they do it every day.”

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