There are many reasons why I hate St. Patrick's Day: I can't stand parades (I always get trapped in them by accident), organized day-drinking bugs me — I'm an adult, I can get drunk during the day whenever I want — and green isn't my color. But my biggest issue with St. Patty's (oh, and I also hate when people call it St. Patty's) is the tradition of "pinching," which is really just an excuse to inflict pain upon strangers. And where the hell did that come from, anyhow?
St. Patrick's Day was always a stressful experience when I was a kid. Almost every year, I'd forget to prepare for March 17th and wouldn't realize until the middle of math class that I was wearing nary a speck of green. I would slump my head in shame and let the most obnoxious boys raise welts on my arm because I, irrationally, felt that I deserved to be pinched. Am I really a spoilsport for thinking that's seriously messed up? Why do we all accept that pinching people is a "thing" on St. Patrick's Day, anyway?
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the tradition started in the 1700s in the U.S.:
St. Patrick's revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns, fairy creatures who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those who didn't wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up and pinch green-abstainers.
So this isn't even an Irish thing — leave it to Americans to up the obnoxious ante on St. Patrick's Day. If the Irish get their own day, shouldn't they get to make the rules? Now that we no longer consider leprechauns a national threat, why do we still consider St. Patrick's Day pinching a "playful" holiday tradition?
To be fair, St. Patrick's Day isn't the only holiday that attempts to justify inappropriate touching. A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with some friends at a neighborhood bar, minding my own business, when I felt something hit me in the leg, hard: a jangle of green and purple beads with a heavy gold pendant. I saw a group of guys drunkenly cackling a few tables over, so I got up and asked them why they thought it was okay to throw plastic jewelry at people they didn't know. "I'm really sorry," one of the men said, "but it's a Mardi Gras thing." Ah, right. It was Fat Tuesday. And it was like 3rd grade math class all over again: I was supposed to accept that a stranger had broached my personal space — he literally flung a necklace at my thigh from over six feet away — and acted like an twat, to boot, because of a holiday I never asked to celebrate.
In general, I find that a startling number of dudes think it's acceptable to touch women in order to start a conversation — I've had guys come up to me, compliment my hair and then reach out and grab it, "playfully" poke me hard in the arm, or simply rest an elbow on my shoulder before even asking my name. (Maybe some women do this, too, but I can only speak from my own experience.) In these situations, I almost always say, "Please don't touch me, you don't even know me," after which I almost always get an incredulous eyeroll and a whispered, "What a bitch." Maybe I'm just resentful that St. Patrick's Day gives assholes who are too insecure or obnoxious to actually attempt conversation another reason to complain about women who aren't interested in being poked or prodded or pinched. Also? Pinching can hurt.
I know — at least, I hope — that most people over the age of 12 aren't planning to go on pinching rampages tomorrow, but, with all of those drunken people running around splashing Guinness on each other, there's bound to be some unwanted groping. But I'm not going to be wearing green tomorrow, and you better not even think about pinching me.
Image via ViewGene/Shutterstock.