Luck Of The Finnish

This, apparently, is Ireland.

A couple of months ago I wound up talking to an Irish girl in a bar. This was a pretty big win for me, because as far as I’m concerned Irish is basically the best accent a girl can have, immediately followed by English (Elizabeth Hurley style), Australian, English (Daphne from Frasier style), and then any other accent that isn’t South African.

I’m talking to her about her time in the States and I decide I want to impress her with my rudimentary knowledge of Ireland, so I say, “Are you from Northern Ireland…” At this point, I realized that alcohol has rendered me incapable of remembering the name of the country that makes up the rest of Ireland, so I smoothly finished the sentence with, “…or Regular Ireland?”

Fun fact: The Irish are extremely proud of their home country, to the point that referring to the Republic of Ireland as ‘Regular Ireland’ is considered ‘extremely disrespectful’, and anyone who does so is an ‘insensitive bastard’ who, rather unsurprisingly, goes to bed alone that night.

Experiences like this give you some idea of how knowledgeable I am of Irish culture. Essentially, if it’s something to do with Ireland that wasn’t mentioned in The Departed, I don’t know it, and as someone who doesn’t drink beer and prefers bourbon to whiskey I’m unlikely to take a crash course anytime soon.

So I guess you could say that the amount of enthusiasm that goes into Saint Patrick’s Day in this country is sort of confusing to me.

Now before anybody throws a potato at me, let me say that I’m all about taking pride in your country. My mother’s side of the family comes from Finland, and you’d best believe I rub it in everybody’s face when Finland cleans up at the Winter Olympics. So I get why Irish people go nuts for Saint Patrick’s Day – they’re celebrating their heritage.

What I don’t get is why everybody else suddenly decides to become Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Last Saint Patrick’s Day, I was awakened at 9:00 AM to Celtic music blasting through the apartment from my roommate’s bedroom. I poked my head into my roommate’s room to see him at his computer playing League of Legends in a green shamrock T-shirt, his hair dyed bright green, a case of Guinness at his feet and a bottle of Jamison standing sentry beside his keyboard.

“Hey dude!” He hollered over the music, briefly glancing away from the screen. Noticing my shellshocked expression, he explained, “It’s Saint Patrick’s Day.”

“Yeah, I figured it was.”

“I’m gonna hit some house parties, then head to the bars in Culver City. I’m one-sixteenth Irish, so this is like the biggest day of the year for me.” He said, mashing buttons on his keyboard as Celtic music gave way to Dropkick Murphys.

The Irish playlist continued throughout the day, and ultimately he wound up getting too drunk to go out, so he just spent the evening at home alone, gaming drunkenly with green hair.

Thing is, I’d never known that he was at all Irish before that. He’d never mentioned Irish heritage or culture – let alone the country of Ireland – before, and were he presented with an Irish girl in a bar he would probably have cockblocked himself in more or less the same way I did. Likewise, I never heard another mention of Ireland or the Irish after Saint Patrick’s Day.

I’m not looking down on people who want to get drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day or anything; I just don’t get why people feel like they have to scrounge up some practically nonexistent Irish heritage to justify it.

If you’re Irish and your homeland and culture are a very meaningful and active part of your life, yeah, go ahead and represent. If you’re not Irish and you really don’t care either way but just want to get drunk, yeah, go ahead and get drunk – I’m sure they’d gladly accept another drinking buddy – but don’t bullshit everybody else and pretend you’ve been Colin Farrell for the other 364 days of the year.

When you only want to be Irish on the day that all the other Irish people are getting drunk, you’re essentially a fair-weather fan. Irish people have had a pretty rough time in the past century – at least, Jack Nicholson said they did at the beginning of The Departed – and Saint Patrick’s Day is them celebrating that they managed to get through all that shit. Showing up and acting like you were a part of that struggle when you can’t even find Ireland on a map is like skipping out on helping a friend move but then showing up in time to help eat all the post-move pizza.

Again, you should feel free to party on Saint Patrick’s Day, but if you’re not Irish, don’t pretend it’s your party. Just take part in the festivities; don’t pretend that it’s somehow about you, you selfish son of a bitch. It’s like going to somebody else’s birthday party and spontaneously claiming to be their twin to poach some attention.

When I drink on Saint Patrick’s Day, I don’t drink because of some celebration of a vague Irish heritage I’m pretending to have; I drink because I love drinking. And when you think about it, getting drunk without any solid justification is pretty much the most Irish thing a person can do.

Truman Capps loves a good potato.