Oh, you’re Irish?


This blog has mainly been my thoughts on American politics and issues so far, but I feel the need to address something that isn’t necessarily an ‘American’ thing. I certainly haven’t experienced it in New York, or DC. I’m talking about meeting people who hear ‘Irish’, and react in ways that are… puzzling.

I’m sitting in a bank manager’s office, opening an account. As I don’t have a social security number, I need to fill out one or two extra forms. “I’m actually from Ireland, I just got married to an American”, I say by way of explanation. The manager’s eyes widen slightly, followed by a conspiratorial grin. I know what’s coming, and I mentally prepare my frozen rictus smile. “I know someone Scottish, you know. He’s been here years”.

In the post office, I’m sending a package home to my mother. The woman behind the counter glances at the package, and smiles. “I thought I heard an accent! I spent a summer in London.” I resist the urge to reply that some of my best friends are Canadians, and nod with a smile.

I have to return to the bank, I need to sign another document. It’s a different person this time, necessitating a quick recap of my situation. A quick businesslike nod, and the new manager goes to collect the form for me to sign. I have a palpable sense of relief. Too soon. The manager pops her head back around the door. “My brother married a welsh woman. They have a daughter. She has elf ears”. This is a new level. I’m not sure the blank, vaguely indulgent smile will cut it here. She’s waiting for a response. “… ehh, whereabouts in Wales is she from?” I spend the next 5 minutes avoiding my wife’s ‘you brought this on yourself’ face while the manager navigates her Facebook profile to pinpoint the exact town. (It was Brechin, you’ll be relieved to know. Brechin is in Scotland.)

My wife had a conversation with a pastor just yesterday who was absolutely adamant that Dublin was part of the UK, as it was in the North. Eventually he asked my wife ‘Where did you go to school?” “Dublin”, she replied.

These are all absolutely true stories. I’m leaving out the multitude of responses that are variations on “You’re Irish? I LOVE the UK!”, which is unquestionably going to be a contributory factor in the massive stroke that’s in the post for me.

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