"Who's this eejit?" My Irish-born mom asked me as she ironed a grey tablecloth while watching The Bachelor's Sean on a beach date. An embarrassing choice of TV viewing on my part.
She also wanted to know why more than a dozen women were "trotting off after him." Her words.
"His sunshine smile is kind of cute," I said to her TV so I could avoid eye contact.
I looked at buff, shirtless Sean look at the sand. He said nothing, for ages. His blonde date crinkled her nose. I heard a deep intake of breath from the iron.
"Worrying," mom said.
"But he seems ... nice ...?" I trailed off and thought, What am I defending?
In a country where it is culturally unacceptable to be boring, any Irish woman worth her Barry's tea bag would reply to The Bachelor's "Will you accept this rose?" with one/all of the following: "Sean, you're a muppet." "Are you having a laugh?" "Off you go there now. Bye, bye. Happy Christmas!"
Having ditched Sean, the Irish contestants would take off with the limo driver, but only if he could entertain them with some fabulous yarn or provide any "craic," which means something like fun or good times in Irish. His looks be damned.
As well as not being impressed by handsome, dull men, here are a few other reasons to admire Irish women:
They possess a high tolerance for the hardships of life. After my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago, a few months after my ovarian cancer diagnosis, I overheard her on the phone. "I used to pray that it was me, not Aisling, who was sick," she shared with a friend in a small voice. "I didn't mean me and Aisling." She exhaled with the same level of mild annoyance she uses when she has to park in the outer reaches of the Costco lot. Irish women expect life to be difficult so aren't easily fazed. Like when my mom's sister told her a darkly funny story while minding her sick husband. "Ah, Anne," my aunt said with a laugh in her voice. "You have to have a sense of humor."
They believe 2:00 a.m. is an early night. "You can find me in da club, bottle full of bub," streamed from the speakers at Dublin's Renards. Bartenders sprinted past lit up bottles of Absolut. Small groups of women in strappy heels and boxy jeaned men stood body-to-body. Just past 2:00 a.m., I was ready to call it a night. I leaned in to tell my Cork housemates I was leaving, knowing this constituted something of a moral failing on my part. "Sure it's early, girl," said Susan. I smiled and shrugged innocently, which meant Cut me some slack, I'm American. Today, many of these friends are having barrels of babies. Surprisingly little has changed. As we wrapped up a recent dinner around midnight, discussion excitedly shifted to, "Where should we go next?" Yes, NEXT. I threw back a double espresso, informing my ladies, "My sister had a baby. I'm exhausted."
They are protectors. About a year after I finished chemo, my Irish friend Suzanne told me how when I was sick, a number of people asked her how I was getting on. Given how poorly I was tolerating treatment, she decided to keep her answer minimal and vague. "I didn't want you to be dinner party conversation," she told me. I was touched that she would think to protect me from anyone who might gawk at my misfortune. Her comment felt like the most searing sign of friendship.
They've mastered hair-on-the-go. I put extra care into how I look when I fly, hoping to nab an elusive upgrade. This means I drive down 80 to San Francisco airport with my hair pinned into eight large hot rollers, along with a smidge of self-consciousness. I should feel more. Once parked, I pull out the pins and rollers and toss them onto the back seat so it looks like there was a hair mugging in my car. This is my best, yet admittedly graceless solution for hair-on-the-go. So when I recently turned into a women's bathroom at Dublin airport, my mouth dropped open like a fish when I spotted the superior Irish solution: coin-operated hair tools next to the sinks. I stared at a hair straightener in wonderment. This meant the wily women working at Dublin airport had the foresight to anticipate how the rain frizzing your hair when you're on your way to Reykjavik could be problematic. They chose to do something about this. I exited the bathroom with mix of admiration for, and fear of, my imaginative Irish sisters. If they've already figured this out, what else are they figuring out before us?
They know how to say goodbye. My favorite part of a phone conversation with one of my Irish cousins or friends is the goodbye. In their lovely lilt, it goes something like this: "Bye, love, bye, Bbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyyeeeeeee, BYEBYE, bye now, byebyebyebyebyebye, bye, ok BYE!" It makes no difference if I'm down the street or thousands of miles away; if I saw them yesterday or a few months ago. The goodbye is as warm and mushy every time. It makes me think the Irish tourist industry can continue to bang on about "céad míle fáilte," which means a hundred thousand welcomes, but really Ireland is the country of a hundred thousand goodbyes.
This St. Patrick's Day, to the Irish women in my life, I'd like to say you are flat-out fantastic. Enjoy your day.