St. Patrick’s Day Straitjacket

by Elizabeth McGinn on March 18, 2021

Creative Non-Fiction

Photo courtesy of

by Fiona Clarke ’23

It’s almost that time of year when I can’t tell whether I’m embarrassed or sunburned. Every year, I think, “I won’t get sunburned, it’s too cold, or cloudy, or I’ll only be outside a few minutes,” and every year, I find out the hard way that no, I can’t stand outside for ten minutes without getting what Gordon Ramsey might call “a beautiful sear” all over. Well, I guess it’ll be appropriate to mark St. Patrick’s Day with a peeling forehead. (I imagine my ancestors will smile down upon me—eternal rest granted unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them and not scorch them).

I’ll probably be spending St. Patrick’s Day in some kind of straitjacket, because if I were to hear that (expletive) song “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” well, I don’t know what I’d do, but it wouldn’t be pretty. I don’t mean to be harsh—hold on, what am I saying? Of course I do: Unless you really want a reminder that your blood is in fact red, not green, then keep that song the hell away from me. My blood is boiling just thinking about it.

In case it wasn’t clear, I have mixed feelings about St. Patrick’s Day. I like it in and of itself, in fact I love it, but my spine curls around itself like an old phone cord at an overabundance of green glitter, and there are few things I hate more than the cutesification of alcoholism. And that goes for you, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”—I am here picturing myself in the righteous rage of George Bailey rising up to denounce Mr. Potter and all his flunkies, but they have all painted themselves Kelly green and are wearing a sparkly green top hat that’s just begging to be knocked off.

Why the long face? you say. Why such rage? you say.

First of all, three of the lines from the chorus of this benighted song are pilfered from other Irish songs, good songs. I can and will name these songs: “I am the wild rover” is from “The Wild Rover,” best done by The Dubliners. “My eyes, they are smiling” is a reference to “When Irish Eyes are Smiling;” Bing Crosby’s version is the classic. “I’m seldom sober” is from “Carrickfergus,” best done, without question, by The Chieftains & Van Morrison. Now I’d consider the use of any line from “Carrickfergus” a grave offense, because it is a great song, and as far as I’m concerned “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” is so far removed from the realm of ‘good songs’ as to be practically dancing the macarena on sacred ground. But the use of that particular line, “I’m seldom sober,” just beats all. The line works in “Carrickfergus” because “Carrickfergus” is a sad song, the “sad reflections” of a dying man, and being in a continual state of intoxication is a sad thing. But in “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” it tries to turn something sad and bleak—alcoholism—into something fun and zany, an attribute of someone you’d want to party with. It just doesn’t work, because it reeks of untruth.

The other four lines of the chorus are half-assed collages of terms that will together conjure hackneyed images of Ireland, such as “whiskey” and “dancing” and “luck.” It’s likely that the writers of “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” had no intention to write a great Irish anthem, that they intended the song to be to Irish music and culture what pancake syrup is to maple syrup—that is, a tasteless, sticky mockery of something good. I suppose the counterargument is that that’s exactly what makes it good, that it does what it was intended to do, but I’ll be damned if I start believing that art’s value lies solely in the intentions of the artist. (No, I don’t know what the intentions were of the particular artists behind “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” and no, I don’t really care either.)

By the time this issue is published, the day in question will have passed, and I hope you haven’t gotten any emails from Public Safety alerting you of brawls between drunk leprechauns and unidentified female students with brown hair, approximately 5’4 (fine, 5’3 and a half). I hope I made it through the day without getting into any brawls with leprechauns. But if I did, I sure hope I won. I probably did.