Sunday, January 16, 2011

Socializing with Sully: Moistening those dry-balls [Part 2]

In my last post, I modestly put forward that most young people in Ireland engage in an activity that is selfish and dull, and suggested that without intoxication, standing around in a loud room not talking to  your friends isn't a particularly good time.

I'm not quite sure how to start a post following up on such assertions, especially when I've never partaken in these activities myself. As a teetotaller, I feel some trepidation in dumping on the preferred Irish pastime, but I'm hoping that rather than a mere dismissal that I'm 'missing the point', someone will elucidate why I'm missing the point. Anyhow, on with the show.

I lived in Pittsburgh for a glorious, eye-opening year. My friends and I were under the legal drinking age (21 years of age still seems nutty), but that didn't stop them from consuming alcohol - it just meant that it typically wasn't in public.
"This penis-straw may be zany, but I assure you, I'm dreadfully boring"

Most evenings involving alcohol were spent hanging out in the nicest apartment available, swapping stories, playing board games, or maybe having a game of charades. On a few occasions, the cash-strapped lot of us would go out to dinner. Talking about it now is reminding me of the reaction I had at the time after years of Irish programming: "That all sounds so lame".

It probably is lame, but I had never played charades before, and my experience of board games to date lead me to believe that they were merely a tool to lubricate interactions between distant-cousins at family-holidays while the parents drank themselves silly. How wrong I was.

Anyone waiting with bated breath (hah!) for this post to see what the 'silver bullet' to a more 'worthy' night of socializing is entitled to scoff at the suggestion, but there's more to it than "board games are a laugh" - I experienced a different approach to the consumption of alcohol: it was a complement to the evening's proceedings, and not the focus of the entire endeavour.

When you're playing board games, you generally have no choice but to talk to people - whether shouting frenzied guesses or going off topic with personal interjections, it's all 'quality time', particularly since the most exciting or embarrassing moments get brought up (in somewhat embellished form) at a future get-together. It's certainly a superior method to building a rapport with someone than getting drunk next to them.

As the token Irish member of the group, it stands to reason that yanks would be more interested in what I had to say than my fellow paddies, particularly when myriad cultural differences mean you'll never need to endure a pause in conversation ["In my country, we call what you call 'sweaters', 'jumpers'"], so maybe the difficulties I've had with enjoying the Irish way of fun are just a reflection of my lack of anything interesting to say to somebody from a similar background.

Don't think that I've mistaken the part for the whole - I've been invited to 'game nights' at various households in the States, often with people I've just met, and by the end of the night I'm joking and laughing with them as if I was what their group of friends was missing all along and they didn't realize it. Genuinely fun evenings like this drive home the point that if you're looking to loosen tongues, alcohol pales in comparison to the might of forced-human interaction.

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