The wedding season approaches again, and my friends are busy getting married again. Different friends than the ones who got married last summer; that’d be just weird. Old friends, decades old. School friends. I’m really looking forward to seeing everybody again, it’s been six months – longer in some cases.
Weddings are usually seasonal. People hold off for the weather I presume; I’ve never been involved in one myself. Obituaries, on the other hand, are big business all year around. I’ve had my fair share of them. Hail, rain or snow…there’s never a bad time for a funeral. And we fucking love them.
But try explaining this strange, unspoken preference for darkness to light to a non-Spud-Head friend. You sound cruel. Psychopathic even. Sociopathic, at best. But after five years living in Ireland, an Italian friend of mine said he still couldn’t understand our national obsession with obituaries.
It was beginning to bother him. At lunchtime in work, he’d watch his colleagues flick straight to the back pages – for a quick scan through the deaths. My Italian friend wondered why they were so eager to see who’d croaked it? It made him paranoid.
But then my Italian confessed he’d never been to an Irish funeral. Immediately I understood his confusion.
An Irish funeral is like a U2 gig. It’s a unique experience you can’t fully comprehend, until you’ve actually been to one. The sandwiches, the hip-flasks, the mumbling, the keening, the shitty weather, the tears, the bus back to Offaly…
Plus, like a U2 gig, funerals have advantages over weddings.
You don’t have to be invited. You don’t have to bring a present either.
However, our Paddy-preference for despair runs much deeper than superficialities such as free drink and endless wailing. Funerals provide us with a sincere sense of ‘one-up-man-ship’ that’s simply unavailable at weddings. Because there’s nothing we Bog-Merchants love more than seeing somebody ‘with ideas above their station’ getting a good land for themselves…
Whether it’s a sparkling new Beamer get a fresh scratch down the side, or some pony fancy-shirt wearing millionaire getting crucified for tax-evasion, there’s absolutely nothing we relish more than witnessing someone getting ‘taken down a peg or two.’ Or three, if possible.
And the more publicly, the better. Obviously. Similarly, we grin through gritted teeth at lottery winners, and we do our utmost to embarrass the groom on his wedding-day.
I don’t know whether this Irish love of begrudgery is unique to us, or whether there are other peoples who revel in this same darkness, people who also shunning the light in search of that special sort of divilment craic? There must be. Unfortunately, our neighbours to our immediate east have their ‘stiff-upper-lips’ wank – so you can’t really tell what they’re thinking. Plotting our downfall, no doubt. They’ve been too quiet for too long….
Our neighbours to the west definitely don’t share our cruel preference for pessimism.
When a Yank sees success, he gets all ambitious and speculates that someday he’ll be that guy. We have a more pragmatic, realistic approach. It’s really quite different. When an Irish person see similar success, we speculate that someday we’ll get that fucker.
And by going to his funeral, getting tanked on his liquor, insulting his relations, and scoffing all his corn-beef sandwiches, you kind of are getting the upper hand on that fucker.
Plus there’s no greater physical expression of ‘one-up-man-ship’ than standing over a coffin, leaning down at a corpse all caked in makeup, draped in rosary-beads, and decked out in his best suit. As if he’s off to mass. Which I suppose he technically is.
This more realistic/pessimistic style of ambition appears inbuilt into our national psyche, no matter how many cycles of boom and bust we endure. There was perhaps a brief moment of attempted change, when we were up to our guts in cash and cocaine around 2004.
We began buying self-help books on success – obviously all written by those optimistic fucking Yanks. We also started doing yoga around that same time too.
But then the model died, it all started to fall apart, and we quickly reverted to our old begrudging, gurning ways. Stick to what you know, and all that….
Now we’re busy cutting deals with higher powers to ensure our existence. Sitting in Rooms, listening for answers.
As for this wedding; I’m looking forward to it. I’ve had my fill of funerals. I don’t like surprises. At least you get decent notice of a wedding. And I’ve got the tickets…