Despite the penis straws, I'm really into bachelorette parties. But we shouldn't need an excuse to hang out with our friends.
"Bachelorette parties should not be about the dick," my friend Sophie announced before unveiling her masterpiece.
The cake was curved into the shape of a nude female body, reclining under a layer of mocha brown frosting. Her hands were posed behind her head; a beach hat obscured her face. A man's head—complete with chocolate shaving hair—was buried between her legs. Her lady parts were obscured by a single red rose. Snaking down her torso was the inscription, written in cream-colored icing: "Here cums the bride."
When I laid eyes on that cake, I realized why I kind of love bachelorette parties.
I didn't always feel this way. Before I went to one, I was the girl at the next table secretly making fun of them. At their worst, bachelorette parties are tacky, obnoxious affairs that culminate in puking, drunk bickering, or the sudden realization that formerly close friends have drifted apart. The penis paraphernalia, try as we might to render it ironic, is irritating to the outside world. And the whole premise is depressing: One last night of freedom before a woman is whisked away into the isolation of marriage and family? Sad! Unfortunately, that's precisely why I like them. A bachelorette party is an all-too-rare moment where significant others don't get in the way of friendship.
This was my second party in two months, both in honor of college friends I love dearly but don't see enough. The first one involved a delicious restaurant, free-flowing wine, and yes, dick straws, although the pink boa and tinted sunglasses ended up making my hippie friend look more like a tripped-out Janis Joplin than a bachelorette party cliché. The second one was at a friend's apartment, enhanced with better-than-average accoutrement—that cake, glowsticks, classy underwear, homemade cocktails—and finished off with dancing at a local bar. Both nights lasted until the wee hours of the morning, and both nights were some of the best quality time I've spent with my college friends since, well, college.
As sad as it is, the assumption that our friends will disappear after they tie the knot has the ring of truth, and it often happens well before marriage. Couples have a tendency to hibernate, letting outside friendships whittle down to fleeting bonding moments on special occasions. Even these designated nights aren't always safe: A birthday dinner or a new-job celebration can be rife with friends texting their significant others—or worse, accompanied by the others themselves, who can always prematurely end the night by tugging on their girlfriends' arms and whispering that they have an early meeting tomorrow. Some people are better at managing this problem than others, but a version of the "couple cave" can happen to the best of us. A bachelorette party is one of the only times when female friendship unabashedly comes first.
Of course, the parties wouldn't exist if our culture quit prioritizing romantic relationships at the expense of all others, or closed the ever-widening gap between single people and nuclear families. Once we're married, our friendship communication skills can drop off. As Kate Bolick pointed out in a widely discussed piece in The Atlantic last week, the unfinished business of a marriage-centric society is to be able to cherish all kinds of love—friend love, extended family love—besides the kind signified by a ring and a wedding dress.
Every weekend should be like a well-executed bachelorette party: fully present women enjoying each other's company (and confirming a woman's right to get laid properly). We shouldn't have to come up with excuses for seeing our friends on a regular basis. For now, though, I'll take what I can get—with or without dick straws.