“But Andie, it’s your last chance at freedom!”
This is what my father told me when I informed him that I wouldn’t have a bachelorette party, and instead would go camping with Patrick and all our best Texas friends.
My dad was disappointed that his daughter wouldn’t be vomiting behind a strip club at 3 a.m. But I just got back from a wonderful camping weekend, and I’m confident in saying that I don’t feel any less “free” for opting not to spend a few hours in close proximity to a banana thong.
To be fair, I think my dad was trying to play along with the idea of bachelorette parties as Hedonistic! Ladies! Doing! Lady! Things! — I’m going off Wikipedia on this, so there’s no way I’m wrong — which are a relatively new phenomenon in their current incarnation. He thought he was being super funny progressive guy who’s totally down with penis straws.
Oh Lord, let me never derive my sense of lady freedom from a penis straw.
Bachelorette parties are spin-offs, obviously, of bachelor parties, which began, hundreds of years ago, as a dinner the bridegroom threw for his buddies before the wedding. In the spirit of gender equality, bachelorette parties were borne of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. All well and good! More gender equality! Yet somehow, they’ve turned, stereotypically speaking, into debaucherous nights of embarrassment and ill-fated frivolity. I dreaded that for myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about frivolity. And debauchery. What I’m not all about is the pressure to participate in something epic that would be tied into some kind of statement about who I am as a woman and, soon, a wife. I don’t need a “last chance” at fun, because I don’t expect that being married will somehow strip me of my ability to enjoy myself.
April 20th, 2012 is not the last day of freedom I’ll ever have. It’s not the last time a friend can call me and say “Hey, I’ve had a shit day, can we get some beers”? It’s not the last time I’ll ever be fun. It’s just the day before my wedding.
What I do like about bachelorette parties is the idea that friends — especially women friends, who are so important to have — make a pact with each other to support each other and always laugh and have fun together regardless of whether they’re married or dating or single. Sealing that with a great party is awesome.
But the expectations surrounding the bachelorette party were daunting to me. I’ve only got a few very close friends, and my extended friend group is spread out both geographically and in terms of lifestyle. The pressure to perform “bachelorette” with a group of people who may or may not know each other and who may or may not think dancing on the bar seems like a swell idea intimidated me.
In the party family, bachelor/ette parties are closely related to New Year’s Eve: you go in with high expectations, and at the end of the night, if things haven’t been Epic with a Capital E, somehow the night is a failure. New Year’s Eve always ends with someone puking behind a gas station at 3 a.m. New Year’s Eve always ends with a desperate drunk text. New Year’s Eve always ends in disappointment, because New Year’s Eve can never be the thing it’s built up to be.
So we went camping instead. I didn’t have to feel conspicuous at the gay bar wearing a dick crown and a feather boa — celebrating marriage at a club geared toward a group of people who legally can’t in Texas makes me feel deeply uncomfortable — and I also got to hang out with Patrick. I mean, I’m marrying the guy because I seriously prefer parties he’s at to parties he isn’t at. So it felt right.
Of course I hope that getting married doesn’t negatively affect the relationships I have with my friends, and while a bachelorette party is a great way to connect and relax, friendship takes maintenance. It takes day-to-day attention and communication. I’m not sad that I won’t have memories of my persons of distinction stuffing singles into a glitter bra, but I would really be sad if I couldn’t remember the last time we just hung out and talked about “Mad Men” for a couple of hours.
I really recommend this co-bachelor/ette party tactic to other people who feel, like I did, that having a whole big gender-defined thing wasn’t really “us.” Our trip was a great reflection of mine and Patrick’s joint friend group, and a reflection of the kind of fun we like to have. Which is to say, fun that happens with a campfire and a case of beer and classic country on the boom box.
There were still disappointments — one of my persons of distinction, Lauren, who helped organize the whole wonderful trip, wasn’t able to go because she was newly minus a gallbladder. I missed her the whole weekend, not just because she’s a great friend but because she’s personally responsible for teaching me about the wonders of camping. I was sad I didn’t get to share that with her.
But I’m also confident that I’ll have many, many opportunities in the future to make up for it. I don’t think marriage has to be about secluding yourself and your relationship from some kind of outside life. One of the reasons we’re having a wedding at all is because I want my friends and family to bear witness to our marriage and support it so it can be as strong as it can be.
I think it takes a village to raise a marriage. In our case, that village is a tent city in Tyler, Texas, strewn with orange streamers, where there’s always a cold Lone Star within reach and someone shotgunning it down by your side.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.