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How St. Patrick’s Day Scarred Me for Life

I grew up on a small barrier island just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, called Sea Isle City.

Sea Isle has a larger Italian population than Sicily. Italians are generally Catholic. I am not Italian. I am not Catholic. This probably wouldn’t have been much of an issue, if it hadn’t been for my mother’s meddling one fateful St. Patrick’s Day.

1978: St. Patrick’s Day. My mother, bless her little 5 foot nothing heart, read somewhere that on St. Patrick’s Day only the CATHOLICS were supposed to wear green. If you were Protestant, you were supposed to wear orange. I don’t know how she stumbled on this little tidbit before the invention of Google, but she did. Maybe she belonged to some mother’s newsletter that shared helpful tips on how to mortify your children.

We were hardly any better at being Protestant than we were at being Buddhist  I think at this point in my young life I had finally talked my mother into not making me go to Sunday School every Sunday. She had tired of the weekly argument and thrown in the towel.  But for some reason, this wearing-orange-on-St.-Patrick’s-Day thing had a vice grip on my mother. It was the 70s, so I suppose I could try and blame it on drugs, but knowing my mother that’s as likely as finding out she dated the entire front line of the Eagles.

I was never much of a clothes horse, and I was around 10 years old at the time, so when mom pulled out The Orange Dress that fateful March 17th I didn’t think much of it. I listened to the Protestant’s Wear Orange story, donned the dress, ate my cereal and went to school.

To my mother’s credit, what happened next isn’t entirely her fault. I was a little bit of a 10 year old Cliff Clavin. So naturally, I felt the urge to tell everyone in the school that I was wearing orange because only Catholics were supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s day and since I wasn’t Catholic I wore orange because my family was some quasi-Methodist… blah, blah, blah.

This whole thing did not win me any friends.  I was feisty so I’m sure I responded in kind which just added to the fire. Luckily, I was a fast runner as well, as some of those girls in my class were built very much like the 1975 Eagles front line.

This incident was just another nail in the coffin into which any potential for popularity with my peers had been stuffed long before.  I can’t say I learned anything from the St. Patrick’s Day Incident. Later in life, freshman year of high school, I let Mom talk me into wearing a frilly turquoise skirt and poofy white blouse with a western turquoise belt. I looked like the sister the Mandrell’s hid from the world – the sister with the big forehead who dreamed of being a country singing star, too, but whom they rarely let out of the padded cage.

I still have nightmares of walking down the halls in that train-wreck of an outfit.  I remember the exact moment whenI realized I was not as hot as I thought in that outfit. When I started noticing the disdainful stares of the hip girls in their E’sprit sweaters and Jordache jeans. When it hit me that in fact, I was walking around in what was basically the equivalent of a clown suit.

I should have stuck with orange.

Amy Vansant

Amy Vansant

Author Amy Vansant enjoys long walks on the beach, anything to do with her Labradoodle Gordon and frantically getting nothing useful done.
Amy Vansant

3 Responses

  1. Tim Poole

    I came across your blog while searching why protestants wore orange on St. Pat’s day. I had just posted a blog about my terrors as a 6 year old and having to wear orange on my first St. Pat’s day. Someone asked if I knew the real reason, which led me to Google and led me to your blog. Nice to know others have gone through this. Tragically, for me, your post is much, much funnier than mine. 🙂
    I am giving you the link to my post. I would be honored if you would read and comment, but please do only if you want to.
    http://poolephotographyblog.com/2013/03/17/a-wee-bit-of-the-irish/

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