Today is St. Patrick’s Day and my last name is Fitzpatrick. While many may giddily wake up and cover every part of their body in green, I typically wake up on this “holiday” stressed, no will to wear the color outside of a small accessory.
Having shared half my name with this saint and drinking holiday for my entire life, there has been an unnecessary obligation to be a part of it. There has been a demand by all around me, that to be Irish (or to have an Irish last name) means my having to wake up as a leprechaun on March 17, frothing green beer in hand and Glozell Green lipstick smeared into an hyperactive smile. I coyly try to dodge this holiday, every year, only to get the same concern complaints when I don’t cooperate. “Do you need a pinch?” adults ask smiling, fingers arranged in a humanoid claw. Others will laugh, lunging into a whisper: “You know today is your people’s holiday?” What? White people? What are you talking about?
The thing about this day is that I’m not even really white or Irish: I’m hispanic. Because of a complicated inter-tangling of both identities—white skin, Irish last name, my mother being Puerto Rican, yet I have no familiarity with the Spanish language, but was required to mark all applications as “Hispanic”—I’ve instead been left outside of both identities. I dont willingly don green on St. Patrick’s Day because it is not my day. Ive never been to a Puerto Rican Day parade either, even though I’ve been invited a few times. I’ve actually never been to Puerto Rico (or Ireland, for that matter).
In this very American predicament, my being a small melting pot has given me the cultural identity of nothing. I don’t identify with anything but American and gay and “white” only because that literally is my skin color, as I am one of the unfortunate pale Puerto Ricans whose tans come in as light gold instead of an irresistible olive. I have a sense of pride in all my many selves but, even at my proudest, I dare not wave it around for risking flagrant disrespect or outing myself as a complicated mess who doesn’t really know that much about “his people.” Perhaps this is why I have never been to a gay pride parade?
So, I try not to wear much green on St. Patrick’s Day. I wear an understated something—shoes, a hat, a button—simply to avoid the holiday sticklers who pinch despite it likely being grounds for an inappropriate touching lawsuit. For those who don’t willingly wear green today, don’t feel forced. This holiday scales to the top of silly lists and undoubtedly represents antiquated depictions of the American identity. White, Irish America is not mine—nor is brown, Puerto Rican American. I’ll just wait until July 4: that’s when you can celebrate whatever America you are. I’ll even wear the colors associated with the day.