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Irish women have an aversion to compliments. They rebuff them with: ‘Thanks, Penneys’ best’

Irish women find flattery abhorrent, writes Emma Comerford, who says this is why they are advised against dating French men.

Emma Comerford

In her new book ‘Irish Bitches Be Crazy’, Emma Comerford gives her satirical and razor-sharp observations on the Irish woman. In this extract she tells us why Irish women have massive personalities and why they can’t take a compliment.

WHAT DO YOU get if you cross the life and soul of the party with an insecure people-pleaser? An Irish woman, of course!

We are a mass of contradictions. For the most part, we are genuinely uncomfortable receiving compliments. On the other hand, the mere hint of a slight or insult turns an Irish woman into a snarling she-devil. We never complain in restaurants and avoid confrontation at all costs.

Yet our favourite pastime is complete character assassination. There are a number of explanations for this phenomenon. Firstly, having been born lacking in the looks department, we have compensated by developing massive personalities.

It’s a well-known fact that Irish men are intimidated by stunners. They are happier with a woman who laughs uproariously at their jokes and knocks back pints of Guinness all night. We aspire to being one of the lads, and what better way to achieve this than to utilise the word ‘fuckin’ as a one-size-fits-all adjective and adverb.

An Irish woman will arrive into the pub on any given night and announce loudly that ‘it’s fuckin’ freezin’ out’ and that she’d ‘murder a fuckin’ pint’. With those two sentences she will have caught the attention of every Irish male in the vicinity. As the night progresses, our heroine is seen to have the time of her life as she works the room like a society hostess with Tourette’s.

As the level of inebriation increases, so do her charms. By closing time, her peals of laughter are accompanied by the fail-safe knee-slapping routine. She may not be the best-looking woman they’ve ever seen, but at least 70% of the Irish men in the pub want to marry her at that point.

Massive personalities

Irish people love to laugh and, by that rationale, they love people who make them laugh. We will forgive many things, but having no sense of humour is considered a cardinal sin.

Adulterers, thieves, bankers, lying scumbags, crooked politicians – it doesn’t matter how serious the offence is – they can expect nothing less than immediate absolution as long as they are brilliant craic.

Most massive personalities are generated from a very young age. Traditional Irish families were large, and an average-sized family in the 80s had in excess of seven children.

Parents were busy and attention was scarce, and so it was important to establish yourself as a ‘character’, thereby guaranteeing a disproportionate share of your parents’ affection. If that didn’t work, you were reduced to bed-wetting.

A guaranteed way to become the most celebrated child in an Irish family is to start swearing at a very young age. If an Irish child has reached the age of three and has not yet told someone to ‘fuck off’, there will be a certain amount of familial concern. The inoffensive child may be brought for a hearing test or even a developmental check.

There will be huge relief all around when eventually the slow starter calls Granny ‘a bollox’. Everyone will fall around laughing, delighted with the child. The child’s mother will proudly relate the story to her friends and colleagues.

All of this will have taught the youngster two valuable lessons about being Irish: firstly, a lack of vocabulary is easily remedied by cursing, and secondly, as long as you can make people laugh, you will be loved by everybody in Ireland.

School years were spent perfecting the massive personality. This was especially useful if you found yourself in the home economics class when certain other girls were learning Honours French.

Being the class clown was an excellent antidote to education and ensured enormous kudos. Constant swearing and the ability to blow perfect smoke rings at the back of the bicycle shed were mandatory skills. Performing well in school was something that only gobshites did – everything was secondary to being the life and soul of the party.

Homework and studying were unnecessary evils, and little thought was given to how this might affect her choice of profession. Any discussions in the 80s regarding an Irish schoolgirl’s future took place during Career Guidance, which was delivered at one sitting by an elderly nun.

Girls were presented with three life choices: become a nun, a teacher or a nurse. Attending college was something you did to facilitate becoming a teacher. Any other course of study was considered pure affectation. But all of this was immaterial; you had no career concerns because you were brilliant craic. Everyone knew that this skill would ensure that you sailed through life. No one would ever be able to resist your Irish charms, and this would bring the requisite fame and fortune.

Aversion to Compliments

Recent sociological experiments carried out at Athlone Institute of Technology have proven, once and for all, that Irish women have a genetic aversion to compliments. A voice-over artist was hired to narrate a number of audio compliment recordings, thereafter known as the

‘Grand Cake, Nora’ series. A cross section of Irish females were restrained then subjected to the recordings, played in a loop with ever-increasing levels of volume. Scientists proceeded to study the reactions of the women. Initially, the recordings appeared to have little or no effect. The women could be seen to accept the compliments with a slight incline of the head and some gracious murmurings.

Before long, however, the women’s discomfort manifested itself. They began shifting in their seats and the occasional facial tic was observed. After approximately three hours of intense flattery, some of the women broke down and wept.

Others reacted with violent outbursts. ‘Sure look at the state of me’ and ‘My house smells like shite’ were just some of the denials that can be read in the transcript log. The experiment was supposed to be conducted over a period of five days, but it had to be stopped after just one day as the extreme stress and anxiety experienced by the Irish women was deemed detrimental to their long-term health.

So why do Irish women find flattery that abhorrent? Is our self-esteem so low that we cannot imagine anyone being appreciative of our looks? Maybe it is because Irish men are not prone to lavish praise.

Consequently, we are unpractised in the art of graciously accepting a compliment. It is therefore inadvisable for Irish women to have relationships with French men. They cannot curb their natural obsequiousness and, sadly, the Irish woman will find his gallantry nauseating in the extreme.

It will all end in tears (probably his) as his little Irish fleur will eventually announce that he has her head wrecked and that she is off to find herself the perfect Irish man – preferably one who will take her for granted and make insensitive comments about the size of her arse.

This affliction is so ingrained that we cannot even receive compliments from other Irish women. Even an innocuous situation where a friend remarks ‘I like your top’ can cause consternation. You would think that any woman would be pleased to be admired by her peers. Au contraire, the average Irish woman will react in one of three ways:

  • Rebuff the compliment by belittling the item under discussion, e.g. ‘Oh, this old rag? I’ve had it for years’ or ‘Thanks, Penneys’ best.’
  • Immediately draw attention to a perceived failing: ‘Yes, but have you seen the size of my arse?’ or ‘Look! I have psoriasis all over my elbows.’
  • Parry the compliment with a return compliment, thereby making them feel uncomfortable. Better still, introduce a bit of paranoia into the equation, such as ‘I was just saying to Mary the other day how well you are looking’.

Firstly, this lets them know that yourself and Mary had a rendezvous to which they were not invited, and secondly that they were the main topic of conversation.

Emma Comerford worked as a motorbike courier, fruit-picker, welder and building surveyor in different locations all over the world before settling down in the IT industry. She lives in Galway with her husband and two children. Her new book is published by New Island is out now

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Emma Comerford

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