Between a boyfriend and boyfriend-wannabe is not a comfortable place to sit. But about two years ago, I had just that unfortunate experience. The former hailed from Beverly, Chicago, the last Irish stronghold of the Chicago South Side, the latter from Breezy Point, a Queens neighborhood so Paddy it may as well be Galway. And that was pretty much the meat of their conversation.
“We’re 95 percent Irish,” my boyfriend said.
“We’re 99 percent Irish.”
“We have the single largest St. Patrick’s Day parade of any neighborhood community in America.”
“We consume the most Bud Light per capita of any neighborhood in America.”
And so on. They went on like that for a while.
I bring this up because today is St. Pissing Contest Day—a holiday on which I can most certainly look forward to hearing similarly stupid bickering on a cruel, never-ending loop. There will be some harmless behavior. Rubes will shell out big bucks for corned beef at establishments that have bought edible shoe leather for this one day a year and said rubes will proclaim it to be just like grandma’s. Hundreds of Baileys Irish Cream cream cheese frosting cupcakes will tumble from the ovens of M Street’s Sprinkles Cupcakes. Stores will be decked out in green. But then things get fanatical. Hair, beer, bagels, cookies, the White House fountain, and the Chicago River will all be dyed green. As the day wears on, out-of-tune renditions of “O Danny Boy”—the first two lines at least—will be belted and Gaelic accents attempted. Georgetown students will compete to wear as much green as possible, and if the weather warms up in the afternoon, they will compete to wear as much green as possible in as little clothing as possible.
Most aggravating of all, many of them will compete to be the most Irish, blathering about how many of their grandparents are of Irish descent and how Emerald Isle their last names are—or how Emerald Isle they are, despite being surnamed “Budinsky.” The more committed among them will lay claim to a specific region of the country—which will always be the County Cork—and have an Ellis Island story or two. Even I’ve been guilty of a little Mick braggadocio. (Ask me about my highwayman great-great-grandfather! He’s from Cork!)
But like the Peanuts gang, we have all forgotten what St. Patrick’s Day is truly about: the opportunity to gather with friends who typically care about homework on weekdays, cast all obligations aside whether we can afford to or not, get blotto, and then not bother to hide our hangovers from professors the next morning. Or afternoon. By some miracle, a holiday that began as a fractious, aggressive display of nationalism in prejudiced America slowly metamorphosed into a holiday that fetes the steadfastness of our nation’s livers. That’s a gift—one that you don’t need to be a novelty shamrock glasses-wearing jackass to enjoy.
Today, bars that are prohibitively expensive on ordinary days will boast spontaneous happy hours, and all our favorite dives will be even cheaper than usual. Food specials will abound for no good reason other than the fact that today is the seventeenth of March, the traditional day of observance for a nominally religious holiday that Western culture slowly perverted into a day for debaucherous excess. Isn’t that enough? Today should be about capitalizing on a silly excuse for a holiday to tax our tolerance—not who can wear the most, drink the most, and vomit the most green-colored substances. So tonight, please, when Joe McHoya begins to wax nostalgic about his potato-bloated family tree, tell him to put a sock in it—or better yet, a domestic beer.
Get lucky with Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org