I hate bachelorette parties. I loathe them. I have hated them as an insider and an outsider, and I can’t recall one that I actually enjoyed. No, not even my own for my first wedding.
The worst one was for a woman I didn’t even know that well. A closer friend was organizing it, and she wanted me along to beef up numbers. We were supposed to dress in fishnets and bustiers and leather skirts, which already made getting to the party a challenge. Public transportation was definitely out.
Once I got to the party, I discovered the true theme: The Male Organ. There was a junk-shaped cake with coconut shavings on the testicles. There were trouser snake straws in the drinks. And we were forced to play “pin the penis on the groom” with a Playgirl centerfold with a cutout picture of the groom’s face on it. The game was merely baseline gross until I realized that one of the participants was the groom’s sister, at which point it became Greek tragedy gross.
And, since we didn’t all know each other, my friend had crafted willy-shaped stick-on nametags for us. Which she wanted us to continue to wear when we went out clubbing. It’s true that ten women in fishnets, bustiers, and todger-themed accessories can generally walk right past the line at any club in the world, but I’m not sure that perk was worth the cost to our dignity. And, yes, you do meet a lot of guys that way, but not ones who want to plumb the depths of your soul. Or talk, even.
Worst of all, no matter how hard I tried to “lose” my brightly colored one-eyed monster nametag, my friend kept finding it and giving it back. I dropped it in the taxi, I stuck it under tables, and I stealthily affixed it to the back of a nice but very drunk young man who had no interest in my sparkling wit, but it was no use. My eagle-eyed friend spotted it every time and stuck it right back onto my chest with a relieved “That was close!” The damned thing was like a boomerang. Well, like a boomerang, but with less of a curve in the middle.
When I finally made my excuses and left, a woman I hardly knew and who lived nowhere near me offered to share a cab for safety’s sake. The minute we were outside, she ripped off her nametag and confessed that she’d just had to get the hell out of there.
I learned to hate bachelorette parties from the outside when I worked at a comedy club. Our theater specialized in a piece in which the performers would take a volunteer from the audience and then perform a scene based on his or her day. Once word got out, we became popular with bachelorette parties. And, yes, if all went well, it was a fun and easy way to give the bride a special evening.
Only it didn’t usually all go well. The bachelorette parties almost always showed up so trashed that the staff pretty much saw them as skankily dressed vomit time bombs, and with no small amount of evidence to back them up.
I think a lot of women involved in bachelorette parties feel even more pressured to go crazy than men at bachelor parties do. Or rather, I suspect that lots of women feel the need to show that they can get just as wild as they assume men get, and that’s what leads to phallocentric drinkware and invitations to suck Jell-o shots out of the bride’s cleavage for a dollar.
The thing is, self-conscious wildness can be exhausting and distinctly not fun for insiders and outsiders alike. And it sets up a bad cycle: When things ring false, you think another drink might get you in the proper spirit, and then another, and then the next thing you know you’re blowing chow in front of an entire stage full of people who have been specially trained to mock you.
And maybe it isn’t just women. I’ve heard from a few guy friends who have no reason to lie that bachelor parties can be just as much pressure to get kee-razy and suck just as hard. Case in point: the hotel room party that my friend Dave went to that involved a pair of strippers, a string of beads, and a moment that made every guy in the room scream “NOOO!” when they realized what was going to happen and then cringe when it happened anyway.
When I asked Dave if it was sexy, he said it wasn’t even in the ballpark. But it was wild and over the top, and that’s what bachelor parties are supposed to be.
On the other hand, bachelor and bachelorette parties must be fun for someone or the traditions would die out, right? It can’t all be a matter of trying to top the last party and live up to what you assume other people’s expectations might be.
If you are one of those people who genuinely loves over-the-top raunch and you’re planning a bachelorette party, there is one cue you should take from men: They tend to have their parties in places where they won’t involve too many innocent bystanders when they get sloppy. Men pick hotel rooms, woodland cabins, or rented party rooms. Even strip clubs, while public, tend to be very controlled environments. Even the drunkest strip club patron knows in the back of his mind that there are very large men quite nearby who will give him a cartoon-style beating if he gets too out of hand.
At any rate, you’re not going to see twelve guys in a dance club compulsively screaming “WHOOOO!” in high-pitched tones and daring the hammered groom to ask if he can take your necklace off with just his lips.
Whether you’re a player or a hater, communication is key. If you’re the bride, be honest with yourself about what level of crazy you’d like the party to hit and be clear with your friends about what you’d really enjoy. And while it is your night, try to take everyone’s comfort levels into account, or at least don’t make anyone think about the size and placement of her brother’s genitalia. If you’re planning the party, really listen to the bride, and if she’s trying not to dictate the party by telling you too much, do your best to read between the lines. Don’t force her to re-live her freshman year of college when she really wants good friends, pedicures, and a trashy movie. (Conversely, don’t stick her with a high tea if you even remotely sense that she’s freaking about the fact that she’s seen her last penis that isn’t in a naughty cake box.)
The best way to ensure a truly fun evening is for everyone to be frank about her expectations and clear about her boundaries.
And the second-best way is to leave the damned nametags at home.