My grandma has her first scotch around noon. She’s not an alcoholic — her first scotch normally lasts for a few hours. But it’s warm in Huntington Beach, and why not take the edge off with some Johnny Walker and a few ice cubes?
She wears orange on St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t understand this as a kid, but after a few history classes and a semester in Dublin, I get the offense. If I didn’t know her, I’d even be personally offended.
I was raised Catholic. Not Rick Santorum Catholic, nor John Kerry’s version. I remember being dragged to Latin mass Sunday mornings, but my mom never let me go to the antiabortion rallies the rest of my catechism class participated in. My grandma is a good old hardworking Protestant and loves to have fun at the expense of everyone around her. Hence the orange she will be wearing March 17.
It’s hard to measure how much she wore off on me. Before I was old enough to go to school, I spent five days a week at my grandma’s house while my mom worked. These were days of countless National Geographic documentaries, though it was almost always the same video on hammerhead sharks. She would make me frostingless strawberry Pop-Tarts and then add powdered sugar to them because I complained the sprinkles’ crunch reminded me too much of sand. She taught me to use candied Fruit Roll-Ups as straws for coke and made sure I ate gingerbread men feet first so they endured a long, slow demise. I carry most of these practices with me, though I’ve definitely gotten over my fear of crunch.
A few years ago at Christmas, my cousins and I finished dinner and were going out for a smoke. As we were walking toward the screen door, we heard screams from across the room: “Smoke inside. You can smoke inside.” My grandma is not a smoker, and the majority of my family hates the habit. But she is a woman who listens to Coast to Coast with George Noory and taught me everything I know about chemtrails and the Fed’s role in killing JFK, so secondhand smoke is one of those things that she chalks up to propaganda. I’m sure that, deep down, she knows the health risks, but because most of my family is science friendly, she assumes the opposite.
Basically, my grandma was and still is very similar to the kind of person I will probably turn out to be. And looking at her, I’m totally okay with that.
It’s not that being a contrarian is inherently cool or will win you friends — it isn’t, and it wont. In fact, it’s most likely going to make you “that guy” or “that girl” at the party. Everyone is agreeing that “Doug” was the best Nickelodeon show ever, and you have to open your mouth and say, “Well, actually, the best show was ‘KaBlam!’” Who in their right mind would advocate against “Doug”? The contrarian, that’s who. But it’s more a gut reaction than an actual position.
I like to think of it as if I am defending the little guy, the one who gets picked last in gym class. It’s a really American thing, if you think about it, taking up the cause of the underdog. Yeah, “KaBlam!” wasn’t as good as “Doug,” but it doesn’t deserve to be forgotten in the dustbins of history. There’s something endearing about Henry and June, even if their adventures didn’t hum along to “Killer Tofu.”
The world needs contrarians to keep everyone in line. Without them, conversations would be pretty boring, and there would be no one to take on the collective ire of the group. Some might throw the word “ass” out there like it’s meaningless, but when thrown at the contrarian, I’d say it’s probably warranted. Own your new name. Make it yours. And know you’re being selfless in the act, or you might succumb to the majority’s praise of In-n-Out — seriously overrated.
I don’t plan on sporting any orange this Saturday. In my mind, that one falls under the “too soon,” category. But pretty much every other option is on the table. People ordering Jameson? Bushmills, please. Guinness? Murphy’s will do — begrudgingly, though. And don’t even get me started on Smithwick’s.
My grandma must be having a big laugh to herself — this way of life is pretty fun. Because of her, I know I’ll never run into a conversation I can’t fix if it’s getting too boring. The remedy: Take an unpopular position and run with it. Don’t overdue it with obnoxious theatrics, but every now and then, a word under your breath or a slight smile will do the trick.
Be it Pop-Tarts, Fruit Roll-Ups or those poor gingerbread men, she’s taught me a lot. On sunny days, I like to look up at the sky, and when I see the white smoke following closely behind those small planes I remember my grandma and think, “I should really call her.” But then I remember the more pressing issue, hold my breath and seek shelter from the chemtrail.