The Growth of Privacy; Day 13 – Who Do You Think You Are?
FEBRUARY 16, 2020
One of my first jobs was working for my aunt Margot in a little hotel she and her husband Colm ran in Dublin when I was a teenager.
Margot and Colm had met as students of hotel management in Shannon in the sixties. They ended up having what was to my mind an incredibly exotic life working in hotels across Europe before they set up on their own.
When I was a much smaller child Colm had managed a large hotel in Kerry, and I vividly recall going there to stay one Christmas. The trip was via Glengarriff and Kenmare and involved what has always remained for us a famous journey along a mountain road through the Caha pass. I appreciate now that the scenery there is fantastic, but the real draw for us at the time were the tunnels. It was a journey full of are-we-there-yets that seemed to last forever, but really only takes little over an hour.
Staying in a large hotel was an extraordinary treat as far as we were concerned, combined with the fact that many other relatives had gathered there, because of the family connection. I was young then, still in primary school, though I can’t quite triangulate the date; Santy still knew where we were and delivered like a pro right to the hotel room; so that may give you an idea of the stage we were at.
I remember one thing in particular: they had a fancy dress ball (party, whatever; I’m calling it a ball, it was a ball right).
The fabulous thing about this fancy dress ball was the hotel had costumes!
By way of a little context here, fancy dress as a concept in Ireland when I was growing up was crap. There is no kind way of saying this; it blew.
And I know, because we had TV and I knew what fancy dress parties, or costume parties, were like in America, I had seen them on the telly.
This was not our reality.
A fancy dress party when I was a kid (the good ones mind you) involved a hard plastic mask of some description, with a tiny little breathing slit that you could just squeeze the tip of your tongue through (and cut it in the process on the hard plastic edge) secured by a thin piece of elastic around the back of the head affixed by two, usually dodgy, staples. It was a practical design nightmare and the elastic always came loose at one of the staples.
This mask, if you were lucky enough to have access to one, could be accessorised by a black plastic bin liner or similar (model’s own).
And that was usually it.
It may not shock you to learn that I never liked fancy dress.
But that Christmas was different, the hotel had what I recall as a magical treasure trove full of costumes that you could use (the reality of old clothes recycled by young children was probably quite a bit funkier, but my memories suffer no such hygiene based squeamishness).
For some reason, I chose a sailor’s suit. It even had one of those flat hats with the little blue ribbon on it. I looked like an extra from On the Town.
I’ll never forget it and it felt ridiculously great to be wearing it.
And I’ll also never forget arriving into a room full of adults and one of them made a funny remark about how proud I was of myself. For the life of me, if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t swear to what he said. But to this day, I can testify to what I heard: “who do you think you are?”
Cork people are considered by other Irish people to be notoriously full of themselves. It is said that a Cork person with an inferiority complex is one who thinks he’s just as good as everyone else. Indeed, if the inferiority complex were to get so bad that the Cork person wished to end it all, the preferred mode would be to climb to the top of their own ego and throw themselves off.
But among Irish people, even between those annoying cocky Cork people amongst themselves, tall poppy syndrome is rife. You get above your station at your peril.
And as I grew older I noticed this to differing degrees in different places: school, college and ultimately in a legal profession not known to be populated by withdrawn bashful types.
The default position was that it really didn’t do to draw attention to yourself; you had better just keep your head down, earn your spurs and wait to be recognised.
But when should this magic recognition happen?
And who is going to bestow it upon us?
“Never” and “no-one” are what I have since discovered are the answers to these questions.
It is one of the reasons why you will find many Irish people struggle to accept a compliment gracefully; it’s just baked in the DNA, one really should not be so brash as to draw attention to oneself in the first place.
And yet, what I have also since discovered that this is some of the worst bullshit we’ve ever allowed ourselves to accept as reality.
Because, as it happens, whoever you think you are, you’re right!
And if you have the knowledge, expertise, experience, and plain desire to help people, people who you actually understand and can relate to and who need and could really use your help, how on earth are they going to know about it unless you tell them?
Yes, tell them exactly who you do think you are.
Flor McCarthy is one of Ireland’s leading lawyers and a recognised expert in marketing. He has particular expertise and hands-on practical experience in privacy, data protection and GDPR issues for marketers. He is certified by the Law Society of Ireland in Data Protection Practice and lectures lawyers on data protection practice and compliance. He is managing partner of a multi award-winning niche legal practice. He has been in private practice for over 20 years and has been elected by his peers to sit on the exclusive Council of the Law Society of Ireland, the governing body for Irish lawyers.
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