Bachelorette parties force me to play a character I hate. Pass.
By Nicole Audrey Spector
As I’ve gotten older, and a little bit wiser, my friends stopped asking me to be a bridesmaid. This is smart, because bridesmaids go to bachelorette parties — and I am nobody’s ideal bachelorette guest.
I would have arrived too late, left too early, looked miserable in my “Squad” tiara and taken all the candy from the giddily gutted Pecker Bat and Balls Piñata. I would have eaten all the cheese on the charcuterie board, read aloud my book proposal in the bar and had a panic attack in the escape room. I’d also be shelling out money I didn’t have and complaining about it every time it was my turn to lay down my credit card.
Or maybe I would have had a really good time. But in the past this has not been my experience.
Of the many bachelorette parties I attended in my 20s (all cishet, I must add), I can think of only one that was enjoyable, and it broke the rules right out of the gate by inviting men. It also involved a murder mystery game in which I pretended to be a sailor, which is always a plus. The other bachelorette parties prompted me to pretend to be someone else, too — but never for fun. Or at least, not fun for me.
Who is this character I feel obliged to play at bachelorette parties? She seems to be a cross between a sorority girl gone wild and a selfless bestie who would pee on your foot if you got stung by a jellyfish. She’s loud and wasted and talks about the best sex positions for a future of absolute monogamy — all while donning necessary bachelorette paraphernalia which, according to The Knot, includes “Team Bride” water bottles and a selfie stick.
There’s nothing inherently bad about this woman; I just don’t want to be her. Yet (and this could be due to my own limited imagination and people-pleasing problems), that’s who I feel pressured to imitate (poorly) on these next-level ladies nights.
To an extent, my bachelorette aversion is quite personal. But there’s more to this than just coerced crassness and binge drinking. It’s the toxic trope lurking beneath the tulle: that women should celebrate the last night of their friend’s “freedom.”
Let’s break that sentence down like a women’s history major who has smoked a lot of weed: Women should celebrate the last night of their friend’s freedom.
To be fair, when bachelorette parties took off in the 1960s, a woman couldn’t get a credit card or attend certain Ivy League schools. Bachelorette parties only became popular because women of that era wanted to show that, just like men (who’ve been having bachelor parties since the 5th century B.C.), they too could enjoy a debauched night with their closest friends ahead of their big day. It was at once both a symbol of the sexual revolution and an acknowledgment of patriarchy.
Today, we’ve lost that rebellious spirit even as the patriarchal stereotypes remain strong. We’re not actually giving the finger to the patriarchy when we throw on our “I Do Crew” tees and play prosecco pong. Perhaps we would have been doing so a half-century ago, when we were first reading “The Feminine Mystique” and had just emerged from six seasons of Ricky telling Lucy that she couldn’t be in the show.
The parties also don’t really have anything to do with a virginal bride’s final countdown, since most of us have already had sex before our wedding night. Additionally, the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 44 have lived with a partner without being married, and according to Gallup, only 29 percent of U.S. adults even think it’s critical that couples with children be legally married.
Obviously I won’t be having a bachelorette party. Indeed, that ship has sailed. Three years ago, around the time I was getting married, a few friends offered to plan one for me. I declined, citing only one reason: the money. According to The Knot, a bachelorette party costs an average of $317 per person, and that’s just if you want to party for one day. A three-day weekend affair sets you back nearly $800 on average. The price tag, coupled with all of the reasons above, made a party seem both unfair and unnecessary.
It’s worth mentioning that my husband did not have a bachelor party. The idea of one is probably even more repulsive to him than a bachelorette party is to me. Ultimately, I’d like to see an end to all these gendered, pre-wedding festivities. But if they make you happy, then I’m happy for you — I really am! But if you’d rather not play a pink, sexualized version of pin the you-know-what on the where, come join me. I’ll be where I always am, eating lunch, alone, in the library, dreaming about divorce parties.
Nicole Audrey Spector is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and more.