Meet the Irish American Princess. She’s Catholic, she’s wealthy, she’s popular – and she’s way out of your league.
Perhaps you’ve heard of her sisters, the Jewish American Princess, the Cuban American Princess and the Italian American Princess.
Well just like these types of culturally-specific royalty, the IAP is a product of immigration striving. The grandparents and parents work hard so that the next generation can be hoisted up to the next level of the immigrant story.
These days, the IAP, also known as a HAPPIE, or Hibernian American Princess, is known to travel in groups, has her own career but is looking out for Mr. Perfect Irish Catholic with whom to move out to the dream house in the suburbs and start making baby Shannons, Taras, Colleens and Erins.
While HAPPIES can be first, second, third or even fourth generation Irish, they all have two common ingredients: they are raised to belong in the Irish Catholic American society and be proud of the country they came from.
Proof that HAPPIES are a legitimate group? They’re the demographic for products such as Claddagh-style rings.
Charlie Bennett, the owner or the Seaware jewelry corporation in Pennsylvania, reports excellent sales for the $1,000+ Irish American Princess ring, which he christened himself.
"I guess it's a reaction to the Jewish American Princess but the market is out there. I sell a lot across the U.S., as well as in the U.K. and Ireland,” he told IrishCentral’s sister publication the Irish Voice.
The healthy sales figures are an indication that the Irish American Princess is alive and well, and interested in rediscovering her roots.
"There was a time when Irishness wasn't talked about if you wanted to get ahead. Grandparents and parents didn't talk about it. Now you can get ahead and show pride in your Irish roots – there's a generation change there," Bennett said.
An example of a self-described Irish American Princess is author Mary Ellen Sweeney, the Irish Culture Editor for the women’s Web site BellaOnline. Sweeney frequently admits in her column that she is an Irish American Princess, but likes the term HAPPIE even more.
She comes from first generation stock who were eager their daughter rise to a higher station. Her father, from Donegal, was a sandhog supervisor.
"He was a striver, no doubt about it," she said.
Sweeney was raised to be a princess.
"I was the eldest, so it was natural. The price for being the princess is that you have to be in charge for the next generation. You host the Christmas dinner because you've been raised to know how to make plum pudding, you know to call a priest if someone is ill, you know what to buy for weddings," she said.
Sweeney was also taught that priority number one was finding a suitable Irish Catholic husband.
"You go along to Knights of Columbus dances, where your parents watch you like a hawk. You fall for a gorgeous piper but you're being watched!" she said, recalling her New Jersey upbringing.
Eventually, she did marry a man from Dublin, just as her parents had wanted, and introduced him to her father in church.
"It's your father who crowns the princess, that's why it's so important," she said. Sweeney is delighted the Irish American Princess is finally getting the attention she deserves.
"You hear about the Jewish American Princess all the time, and you hear about the Italian American Princess. The Irish American Princess comes first in the dictionary,” she said. “It's time we were finally placed up there. It's time we were finally recognized.”