The Old Man’s Pub
The final leg of my unexpected pub-crawl was realized when my friend’s longstanding wish to enter a known ‘old man’s pub’ was fulfilled when we entered the Smelly Mosher. Like a scene from a western movie, the Smelly Mosher’s patrons all turned on their bar stools to see three strangers enter their sacred domain. Entering the Smelly Mosher was like entering a time capsule to the past and provided an opportunity to experience a masculine domain that is antiquated and obscure.
The Smelly Mosher was indeed a smelly space, full of elderly alpha males. The bar man was a friendly stooped gent who attended courteously to his patrons. We sipped on our pints of Guinness (as drinking something light and frothy here, would probably not have been well received!) and tried to take this strange place in with our eyes. The Smelly Mosher despite having a large plasma screen displaying the ‘Late Late Show’ [a longstanding Irish TV talk show] it did not have a cash register, much to our surprise. Alternatively the bar man used a shelf behind the bar where his takings were casually strewn in full public view. A cash register was not all that was absent here. There was a distinct absence of women.
As we adjusted to the ambience of the Smelly Mosher, we observed the other men present. They were senior gentlemen, large in stature, who conducted themselves with authority and confidence. There was a notable yet discreet code operating; tone of voice was low, deep and hushed, body language was restrained and the men gave each other space. Eye contact was fleeting and from sideward glances. The men in this pub spoke shoulder to shoulder. This place was very definitely a man’s space, there were no women present and should there have been; they might not have been pleased to discover there were no ladies toilets in the Smelly Mosher. There was a ‘Gents’ as indicated by the unambiguous sign but no ‘Ladies’. This made for more interesting conversation. It appeared we had been welcomed into the Smelly Mosher when we realized we were being included in a ‘lock in’ [drinking after the official pub closing time, which is against the law in Ireland]. Inclusion in a lock in is a big deal in Ireland and offers great masculine prestige, and although pleased at such inclusion we did not feel we belonged. This masculine domain was as severe and acute to us, as the smell that perpetuated there, and so we made our thankful apologies. We were kindly directed through a doorway by the stooped bar man, which brought us into a private corridor, where we directed ourselves outside.
In the crisp fresh air we breathed in deeply and were silent for a time. After some moments, we continued in our search for another watering hole, one that was a little less acutely masculine and a little more male-stream.
What amazed me about my unexpected pub-crawl was, firstly the diversity of pubs within such a small geographic location, and secondly the multiplicity of masculinities that presented in these environments. Surely the pub offers a sociologist a primary laboratory for studying masculinities. In addition, it would be hard not to acknowledge the inter linkage between masculinity and these physical environments. Each of the individual pubs we frequented appeared to accommodate or in-fact were assembled around a distinct construction of masculinity. All six pubs were distilling and selling their own brand of masculinity, albeit young or old, traditional or emerging, hetero or metro, dominant or subordinate, and so on. Not only do pubs allow for the consumption of alcohol, they also allow for the drinking down of masculinities.
Barich, B. (2009) A Pint of Plain – Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, New York: Walker & Company.
Lemle, R. and Mishkind, M.E. (1989) ‘Alcohol and Masculinity’, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Vol. 2, pp.213-222.
Mullen, K., Watson, J., Swift, J. and Black, D. (2007) ‘Young Men, Masculinity and Alcohol’, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 151-165.
O’Dwyer, P. (2001) ‘The Irish and substance abuse’, Ethnocultural factors in substance abuse treatment, pp. 199-215.
Share, P. (2003) ‘A genuine “Third Place”? Towards an understanding of the pub in contemporary Irish society’, 30th SAI Annual Conference, Cavan, Ireland (26 April 2003).
A version of this blog featured on www.irishsociologyblog.com on 10/22/2013.
Clay is a PhD candidate at University College Dublin, School of Sociology. His research interests are Masculinity and Drug Use, in particular, exploring the role of drug use in the construction, maintenance and displaying of young masculine identities. Clay’s other areas of research interest include health, Irish culture and art.