It’s funny the things we embrace and the things we disavow. I’m all about celebrating, flaunting and embracing the gay! But the Irish? Not so much.
And particularly today, I struggle with the idea of personally celebrating and/or acknowledging St. Patrick’s Day.
Yes, I am Irish (pretty near full blooded from what I understand.)
I was indoctrinated into Catholicism from the day I was born until I officially renounced the religion at age 16 when I refused to go for my “confirmation.” So I am not Irish Catholic; therefore, I would not be celebrating today for any religious affinity whatsoever.
That leaves the secular, ethnic part of the day
I have only more recently started to…embrace(?) my Irish heritage, somewhat; well, maybe not so much embrace it as not shun it anymore.
I grew up in a home with an alcoholic, abusive father (or, as I prefer to refer to him: “my biological reason for existence”,) who, along with forcing his beliefs of Catholicism on us, also shoved Irish culture down our throats. And, no, I do not mean raised us with a sense of pride in our heritage. He literally taught us to hate all things “not Irish”; to despise the British; and to believe the IRA was a peaceful organization that was doing god’s work to liberate the people of Ireland.
We were told we HAD to marry someone Irish (I married a Scottish man – I can only imagine the aneurysm my BRFE would have upon learning that) and we had Irish flags hanging from our walls and the homemade bar my father built.
All five of his children were given “authentic” Irish names (from oldest to youngest we were: Tigearnan Tomas, Riobart Eadbard, Doirinne Caoflinn, Sean Padraic, Catal Seamus) and we were raised listening to the Irish Rovers and the Clancy Brothers. John F. Kennedy was the second coming and his portrait hung in our shared family home until the day I left the portrait and the home behind for good.
After I separated myself and my life from my BRFE, I found anything Irish to be an uncomfortable reminder of him and tended to shy away from it, especially any of the music we were raised listening to.
However, eschewing all things Irish is no easy task when your name is Sean Padraic, so I have pretty much grown up with the expectation that I will be decked out in green and be drinking sunrise to sundown on St. Pat’s day. I have been questioned many times about my dislike for corned beef and cabbage, my lack of affinity for beer (that’s changing a little – not the questioning of, but the lack of affinity for,) my refusal to attend St. Patrick’s Day Parades (given their strong anti-gay stance) and my general non-embracement of all things Irish.
The truth is that I don’t feel that connected to my Irish heritage. Even without all the baggage from my history with my father tainting it, I’ve never felt particularly connected to other Irish people or Irish culture or had any true longing to “go back to my roots” or felt compelled to step foot on the Emerald Isle. (No offense, JP.) Although, I have always loved the color green, so that counts for something, eh?)
But, over time, I have slowly started to let a little of the Irish back into my life. I’ve sought out some of the music I grew up listening to (one of my favorite albums is The Irish Rovers “The Unicorn”) and I’ve started to tell people my middle name is actually “Padraic” not “Patrick.” (It gets tiring explaining it so I just say my name is “Sean Patrick” for a quick get away – not that Patrick sounds any less Irish than Padraic, per se, but people never ask follow up questions to “Sean Patrick”; “Sean Padraic” always incites follow up questions, however.) I wouldn’t be 100% opposed to attending an authentic “Irish Fest” (not a watered down, Americanized, commercialized version but a true celebration of authentic Irish Culture) and I’ve considering wearing my Claddagh Ring again. (The one I have has a triangle where the heart usually is, so it’s an official “Gay Irish” ring.) I would probably even enjoy visiting Ireland someday, I suppose.
But I detest the whole “being Irish is about drinking to excess on St. Pat’s Day” phenomenon that is happening all around me today. I don’t care that others love it and embrace it; that’s fine – for them. I just don’t want to be part of it. I also am turned off by the faux “Irish pride” thing (“I’m 1/1,000,000th Irish!” ‘Kiss me I’m Irish!” “I’m Irish TODAY!”) With everything being died green and covered in Shamrocks.
Still, there’s a part of me that wonders if I should feel more pride today or find a way to celebrate this part of who I am. So, in an attempt to fight off some of my aversion to the day, I have decided to break with my tradition of purposely avoiding the wearing of the green and go all out…I’m decked out in green from undies to tie (although I could not find my Claddagh, dammit!) and I might even consider…consider…putting on some of my Irish tunes and seeking out a traditional Irish treat today (a potato dish perhaps, but no thanks on the cooked cabbage!)
And, if you’re a cute gay guy, I just might whisper “Kiss me, I’m Irish” in your ear…