Bachelor Party Politics
I was in Wisconsin this past weekend for my friend David's bachelor party. Quite a sight--seven somewhat nerdy but very interesting guys and I invaded Lake Geneva, staying at a fairly posh resort and spending some time in town.
The bachelor party portion of the evening was, in itself, not particularly revolutionary. We all met up at the resort, unpacked, talked a bit, then went over to the resort's water park and spent a couple of hours going down the water slides and sitting in the hot tub. After returning to the hotel, we then went through a bottle or two of champagne toasting the groom (and, in absentia, his bride-to-be). Then it was dinner at a loud local restaurant, and this is where the goofiness really began.
I'd purchased the groom a fetching baby-blue t-shirt as his "gag gift." The shirt had a large heart on the back, and on the front we had letters ironed on to read, "Hi, I'm David." (Figured it was a good way to make sure everyone knew who the guest of honor was.) David, a good sport for sure, wore the shirt the whole night long. Near the end of our meal, we noticed a table of five classy women around our age, maybe a few years younger. All of them were wearing tiaras, and the more observant of us deduced that we were seeing a bachelorette party.
Some members of our table thought it would be a great idea to get a picture of David with the bride-to-be, and this was hastily arranged. Then, we took a picture of all of us with the bride (held up sideways by a couple of our stronger members). Was silly, and fun.
After dinner we walked around town, and damn if we didn't run into bachelorette parties everywhere we went. Turning a corner, we saw another bachelorette party in a rundown bar. We were called inside to give the bride-to-be a "lap dance," which, to a man, we refused, but David did have a picture taken with her, and with some difficulty a few of us lifted this somewhat larger bride-to-be from the ground for another picture.
Walking Lake Geneva's main drag, we saw another bar and, looking inside, saw a blond, freckled, tired, and quite intoxicated woman wearing a veil. Yes, another bachelorette party, this one featuring about 20 women sitting around several tables. All of the women appeared to be in advanced drunken stupors, and after a quick picture, we ran from there as fast as was possible. (Not all of us were sober, either.)
Some of us were wondering what the hell was going on. Was Lake Geneva full of bachelorette parties all the time? Was this visitation done just for David's benefit? Little did we know that we'd hardly started.
Downtown's one crazy-looking local bar was called "Hogs & Kisses," and only a few of us had the stomach for it. So five of us went in to this very loud and rocking establishment (eventually the other three joined us, but didn't enjoy it much). Once inside "Hogs & Kisses," it became clear that we'd barely scratched the surface of wild women out of control.
I've been to bachelor parties before, although none were what I'd consider wild. One was at a strip club, which embarrassed all of us (including the groom) except for the best man, who'd arranged the whole thing--mostly, I think, for his own enjoyment.
But "Hogs and Kisses" was crazy. Groups of young women, most of them quite drunk and many of them screaming uncontrollably, filling the dance floor, dancing in a large circle, with no men in sight. Bachelorette parties all. Every group had one girl wearing either a lei, or a veil, or carrying around a large plastic penis, or some other ridiculous toy...these girls were the brides-to-be.
Faced with this insanity, we did the only thing that came to mind--ordered shots of tequila. There were plenty of guys at the bar, all watching this wild spectacle, but none were dancing. Soon enough, we started dragging David around to meet every bachelorette party's bride-to-be that we could find. David was quite a good sport about this, refusing only to meet one young lady carrying around an inflatable male doll which her friends would occasionally tell her to "get down" with.
Pictures of the depravity, devastation, and drunkenness were captured on a digital camera by one of our crew, and I'm sure that they'll be funny.
But this whole thing got me thinking about the bachelorette/bachelor party stuff. Neither my darling wife Cecilia nor I had a party like this; neither of us thought that by abandoning singlehood that we were giving up very much, so we felt no need to do things we didn't normally do (drink 33 beers, fill out checklists of embarrassing things to do, dance in large circles made up entirely of members of our own sex, get down with inflatable dolls) to commemorate it.
Of course, moving from singlehood to married life is a big change, and should be celebrated with some form of ritual--and everything about the typical bachelor and bachelorette party is a ritual. There's a meal, much alcohol, lots of sexual innuendo from gag gifts, encounters with strangers of the opposite sex, hangovers, and quite possibly some next-day regrets.
But in the bachelorette parties I observed on Saturday (and I was observing, having stayed sober), I also saw unbridled, raw emotion and passion from these women, the kind that men are often uncomfortable with. Every time a favorite song came on, everything from the ubiquitous "Dancing Queen" to Def Leppard to 50 Cent (in Lake Geneva?) to Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," these girls went freaking out of their minds with some sort of collective ecstasy. Not a sexual energy, from what I could see, but something even more basic.
For some reason, the whole thing--the loud music and dancing, the lack of interest in talking to anyone but members of their own group, the ritual drinking, the props--almost made me feel as if I were watching each group of bridesmaids/friends work out some sort of trauma about their friend going through this change. I'm probably wrong, but it gave me the impression that a very serious set of feelings were being worked out that evening.
Not having ever been to a bachelorette party (duh), it was all new to me. I had a great time with David and the rest of the crew, but I must say in all honesty that this whole bachelorette phenomenon, and the weird energy that it created, was the most memorable thing about the weekend.
And I'd forgotten how much I actually enjoyed Def Leppard singing "Pour Some Sugar On Me."