“Make sure to squeeze some Irish potatoes,” our incorrigible stepfather said.
My sister J and I, well aware he wasn’t talking about actual potatoes, turned beet red but laughed.
J and I were heading to Ireland to spend a month backpacking around the island. J was 20 and I would turn 18 shortly after arrival. We were both shy introverts, homeschooled and raised to have very conservative morals. Our stepfather could safely tease us about squeezing Irish potatoes because he was well aware it was an unlikely outcome.
This was a reasonable assessment on his part. She and I immediately turned tail and fled the first time we tried to enter a pub in Ireland and saw a dozen pairs of eyes turn to look in our direction. Casually hooking up with men we met on our travels wouldn’t have just required a different moral outlook on life, it would have required a level of confidence neither of us possessed.
By the time our month was drawing to a close we’d woken up to hot Aussie guy shirtless near our hostel bunks, and I’d been good and looked away while he got dressed. We’d spent an evening hanging out with two cute Irish brothers that worked at another hostel we were staying at, secretly dying of embarrassment over the fact that the Discovery Channel show playing in the common room was about the varied sex lives of the animal kingdom.
We’d gotten drunk with two Aussie girls, also sisters, and attempted to cajole the Irishmen in that pub to sing for us, and they smiled, laughed and chatted with us, but refused to be cajoled. We’d been invited to come to a party in Galway, but failed to attend, because we might have mustered the courage to finally enter a pub, but a party was still too much.
In Port Stewart, we were standing by the seawall overlooking the beach when we heard someone rapping on the window of a nearby house. After they’d done it more than once, I finally marched over and knocked on the door, wanting to know why they kept trying to get our attention.
That resulted in being invited in to the house party that was going on, and while it certainly looked bad on paper to be two young, pretty girls in a house party full of young men drinking and smoking weed, the result was that 17 drunk, stoned Irishmen sang us Bye Bye Miss American Pie, and then invited us to go to a club with them that night.
We did not go to the club that night. We might have summoned the courage to enter pubs, and a surprise house party, but going to a club was still too much. While walking down the street after we’d left the house party, a car full of young men stopped so one of them could try to ask me out. He got turned down. Either Port Stewart was short on girls, or tourists were considered easy, and my intuition said it was the latter.
By the time we were back in Belfast at the end of the month, neither of us had squeezed any potatoes of any nationality, but we hadn’t forgotten our stepfather’s joke, and decided we’d turn the joke on him. Since we had some time to kill, we went to a local grocery store and picked out two small potatoes to bring him as a gift.
The clerk turned out to be a cute and personable Irishman, who was naturally curious as to why our purchase consisted solely of two small potatoes. J and I turned beet red but, being forthright and honest people, told him the story. He laughed and said we’d need much bigger potatoes before handing us our bag. As we turned to walk away, he called out that the potatoes were actually almost exactly the right size and J and I turned beet red, again, and hurried from the store without looking back.
Sadly, our Irish potatoes never made it into the hands of our incorrigible stepfather, because they were seized in customs when we arrived back in the US.