This, my friends, is a drink order known as the “Four Provinces.” This particular selection of Irish beers can be obtained at the Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. It consists of Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp, and Kilkenny beers. I can’t remember now which brand was the oldest, but I do remember Guinness was the newest.
Most people who know me know that I do not like the taste of beer. In fact, I don’t really like the taste of alcohol in anything. It might come as a surprise, then, to learn that this order of the Four Provinces was delivered to my table at the restaurant and pub last week.
My last name – Sheridan – is very Irish in origin. In fact, I believe at one time it was actually O’Sheridan. At any rate, without going into a needlessly long geneology lesson, the roots of my family are based in the Emerald Isle. Even though I have never explored these roots in depth, I’ve grown to strongly identify with Irish culture. And, since the Irish are know for their consumption of alcohol, I figured in order to be a real Irishman I’d need to at least sample a little beer if I was going to be in an Irish pub.
My plan seemed to be rolling along smoothly as my wife and I sat and listened to Irish music, watched the Irish dancers, and admired the Irish decor. Everything fell apart, though, once I actually had to taste the beers. With all due respect to my ancestors, they sucked. All of them, with Guinness probably being the worst of the bunch. Not that I’ve ever tasted it, but I can only compare the sensation of drinking Guinness to downing battery acid. I took maybe two small sips out of each glass, and then I was done.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with myself in that moment. I mean, this was my chance to fully embrace the Irish experience, and I couldn’t even finish one glass of beer. I still list a trip to Ireland as the number one item on my bucket list, and being in that pub felt warm and comfortable, almost like home to me. In an odd way, I consider myself an Irishman by heart. I couldn’t hold my alcohol, though. Does that mean I’m not as authentic as I thought I was?
Of course, the reality of the situation is that there are probably plenty of men in Ireland who don’t like to drink beer. In my mind, though, at that moment, I had somehow convinced myself every male over there walked around with a draught in his hand 24/7. It’s like this a lot for me. Every other guy at the pool knows how to swim. Every other guy knows how to work on a car. Every other guy knows how to fix up a house. I’m always the one who doesn’t feel genuine.
I was listening to a podcast recently where someone with dysthymia (or Persistent Depressive Disorder) made an observation along these lines: Since dysthymia isn’t full-blown depression like bipolar disorder, they sometimes felt as if they couldn’t even get being depressed right. It was as if their disorder wasn’t quite severe enough to make them “successful” at being depressed. I thought this was both a sad and pretty self-astute observation. Sometimes you don’t even feel like you can even get it wrong correctly.
The cruelest part of all these comparisons, though, is that the assumptions they lead to are never completely true. Plenty of guys can’t swim. Plenty of guys know nothing about working on cars. Plenty of men know nothing about home repair. And just as there are probably plenty of men in Ireland who don’t drink beer, there are an awful lot of people out there who “only” have dysthymia who can rest in knowing that their disorder is no less daunting than anyone else’s.
So even though I couldn’t handle the Four Provinces, I’m pretty sure they’ll still allow me to enter Ireland one day and fulfill my dream. If not, maybe I’ll just make a tour of American-based pubs. I’m pretty sure I’m a real American … right?