Bachelor parties are a little bit like funerals, which are not for the dead but for the living. Bachelor parties are not for the groom; they’re for his male friends. Like a corpse in a coffin, the groom is actually just a kind of living prop. An excuse for a group of men to gather for a night of heavy drinking so they can ask themselves existential questions, like “Is commitment the antithesis of the male identity or its most perfect expression?” Funerals are places to say goodbye to loved ones; they’re ancient rituals that allow us to let go. Likewise, a bachelor party allows a man to break up with what he has known, and prepares him for an adventure that, if pop science is to be believed, has only a 50 percent chance of succeeding. Those are terrible odds, but you can’t win big unless you go all in.
A bachelor party is a sacred event where the man tribe symbolically says farewell to one of its warriors. Our culture has so few public ceremonies where a boy becomes a man. One of the essential elements of a bachelor party is ribbing the groom about all the freedom he’s about to lose. The groom is mocked, beer is poured down his throat, and boobies bounce in front of him. He is warned of all that he will be losing and taunted for willingly giving up the sloppy fruits of singlehood.
And in the morning, he will proceed on his journey to adulthood. I define adulthood as that stage in life when a person takes responsibility for all of his or her decisions.
All bachelor parties should be equal parts desperate, melancholy, and unsatisfying. The measure of a good bachelor party is the regret afterwards. The pounding headache, the bile stains, the stripper who said she was getting a Ph.D. in macroeconomics and everyone believed her and that’s how she wrung wallets dry. Oz is great and terrible, but the truth is behind the curtains. The same can be true for the player’s life – it’s a lot of noise, but that noise comes from a tiny trumpet.
Because if debauched bacchanalia and lone wolf freedom were life’s ultimate and most exquisite rewards, then no man would ever get married. But it’s an testament to that flawed, over-hyped institution that so many roll the dice on what is essentially a very nice idea: that there is one person out there who knows the login and password to your heart. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing bachelor parties. They are the only part, besides the open bar and cake, of the wedding tradition that I get excited about. Bachelor parties aren’t the sordid bro tangles that most women think.
A friend of mine was married recently. He’s a good egg and his now wife is a saucy dark-eyed beauty. They asked me to be part of their wedding, and while details were being discussed, I made mention of the bachelor party. My friend and I exchanged naughty glances. While he was in the bathroom, his fiancée (and now wife) lovingly looked me in the eyes and said, “Have a safe bachelor party.”
The subtext, of course, was “If he’s damaged in any way, decorated with hickies, or lobotomized by liquor, I will staple your balls to your chin.” In her eyes I saw the fear. It’s a fear most women share, I think. In their heads, they seem to imagine a bachelor party that resembles one of Caligula’s massive orgies. Slave girls feeding frats boys reclining on pillows. Casks of wine drained. Her beloved fiancé positively surrounded by naked women. Pools of water bubbling with bodily fluids. You know, your average episode of “Jersey Shore.”
But bachelor parties are usually the opposite. They’re like a dog’s breakfast – messy, stinky, and undignified. My friend’s bachelor party ended up with him passed out on a couch well before midnight.
I enjoy bachelor parties because they’re such swamp discos. I enjoy using my friends’ impending nuptials as a reason to indulge in the joys of bachelorhood, even when I know those joys are a thin gruel indeed. I enjoy the camaraderie of the party, which I imagine is akin to the bonds of combat, if very distantly. We few, we happy few, we band of bros. There is a point in every bachelor party when all the men are, briefly, 12-year-old boys who have transformed a tree into a fort with the power of their collective imaginations. In that moment, life is a riot of possibilities. Plans are hatched, and adventures are conceived. A boy’s dreams can fill the sky. His ambitions are fierce and bright and noble, as are his loyalty and love. During every bachelor party, there’s a moment of combustion and all the men are sitting there on a tree branch, legs dangling, talking so fast that the words have to stoop to catch their breath.
And then the beer. The AC/DC. The pranks, busted balls, and jokes about horse cocks. There’s food and more beer and the beginning of a fight. Which is quickly resolved. There is also the threat that the boobs presented are the last new hooters the guest of honor will ever see, and that guest of honor will blush. He’ll think “you guys haven’t seen my girl’s titties. And you never will.” Then, in a few hours, he’ll be thinking “This McGriddle went down better than it’s coming up.”
Nothing says “successful bachelor party” better than a toilet seat spackled in guts.