Being Irish means three things to most North American people who claim descent from the shores of Érie: being a red-head (or ginger-adjacent), being Catholic, and being on extremely good terms with alcohol. Yet, I am none of these things, and my family is most certainly of Gaelic descent.
Clearly I’m not a red-head - so far from it that a lot of people think that my dark brown hair is actually black. It’s not. It’s dark brown, and I’ve never dyed it, so there. The so-called Black Irish sect of the population is where this comes from, which has it’s own interesting backstory. This difference from the typical Irish hair and skin tone could have come about from a variety of places, but I chalk it up to the fact that Ireland got invaded by pretty much every race in Europe at some point in its early history and obviously population mixing occurred.
The Steenson clan comes from the Northern part of Ireland (Warren Point & Newry), by way of the Viking invaders - Denmark specifically, hence the surname from the Danish given name “Steen” - and even from the early days we were not Catholics. Apparently we’re Presbyterians going back a bunch of generations, and besides the 3 years I spent attending the Catholic private school we haven’t had anything to do with the Catholic Church. In fact, my maternal Grandfather converted to Anglicanism, and years later when my mother heard that women were being ordained by the Anglican Church she went back to the church as well. So technically, I was raised and baptized as an Anglican, but I’ve never really had much use for any kind of organized religion besides as a social medium. And even that got old when I decided that being told that I had to live by someone else’s rules (rules created and perpetuated by a hetero-normal patriarchal organization) was not for me.
And then comes the drinking… It’s a well-documented fact that alcohol and I have a tumultuous relationship. (Is that any different than any of my other relationships? Haha…) In the beginning I drank like a fish, walked off my hangovers, and never ever blacked out. Now that’s not so true, since the last time that I had 3 Cosmopolitans in a sitting I blacked out and ended up in the Emergency Room. I still have the occasional drink with dinner, but gone are the days when I spend St. Patrick’s Day running around town drinking green shots and then be functional the next day. Apparently we are getting old.
So I’m raising a glass of Jameson’s to all the Irish-folk who don’t fit the mold - if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough!
images from Tumblr