Well, of course it wasn't. That's because I was out cold. The night before had been my bachelorette party.
My bachelorette party? Huh? That's how I would have reacted a few weeks ago. I'd been engaged for five months, the wedding was a few weeks away, but I hadn't even considered it. But a phone call from my pal Juliet changed all of that.
"So, who's throwing your bachelorette?" she inquired.
"Um, no one that I know of," I'd said, envisioning a stinky, barnlike nightclub filled with emaciated, pale male strippers flinging their sock-enhanced packages in my face. I pictured a lot of screaming, yelping women clutching at leopard-print G-strings, dollar bills in hand. That, followed by a lot of vomiting. I was thankful that sort of evening wasn't coming my way--at least, not that I knew of.
"No one is?" Juliet said. "OK, then--I'll do it!"
And, strangely, I didn't protest. Rather, I felt quick delight racing through my capillaries. I felt all jumpy and alive. I guess deep down I did want a bachelorette party.
"Well, sure, all right!" I told Juliet. "But no strippers, OK? Because I'd be really grossed out." Terms set, the plan was on.
So on the evening of Friday, Sept. 7, I showed up at the designated plant-filled rooftop bar in my neighborhood ready to revel with 12 to 14 of my chums and future family members. Overeager, I was the first one there. I parked myself at the bar and used the time to meditate on the concept of a bachelorette party. There wasn't much to meditate on, as I myself had only been to one. It had consisted of the bride and one bridesmaid spending hours in a Biloxi, Miss., nightclub flirting forcefully with every willing man in their path. It was painful, and I hoped that wasn't expected of me tonight.
My spell was broken by Juliet's arrival with a shopping bag, from which she produced a beaded tiara with attached veil. She'd gotten it in a bargain bin for $4. She wouldn't let me see what else was in the bag. I put the veil on and started feeling that tingly exhilaration I used to get in high school when I pulled the occasional funky exhibitionist stunt, like walking into Burger King in a corset, fishnet stockings, and black underwear pretending to be a hooker with my pal Sam. Interesting, I thought. Eighteen years later, just wearing a veil in a bar can bring on the same giddiness. Oh, how low my shock tolerance has fallen.
I ordered butternut-squash soup, a selection Juliet declared "not very bridal." What's more bridal, the the raw fish she ordered? Yeah, probably, if you think about it.
A half hour later, six of us were sitting at a table with a tentlike string of lights between us and the electric-blue sky. I was handed a hideous ceramic bride and told to throw it away as soon as the night ended. I was also made to don huge pink peace-sign earrings and matching necklace, and a headband and pink John Lennon glasses. I downed my second glass of wine. Girl energy was all around. Euphoria was in the air.
Next, two pals presented me with sexy purple jammies and a large plastic penis, half of which would sail across the room if you squeezed it just so. We aimed it at each other and sent it careening. Once it landed on Juliet's sea bass, then in Cate's lap. Then Juliet broke out the temporary tattoos and everyone swooned. I applied a big one with butterflies and roses on my clavicle. Then came wine glass number three. It was hard to stop smiling.
Between tattoo applications, though, a concern crept into my head: Might Juliet have hired a stripper anyway? Hell, if I was the ringleader of a bachelorette party, I'd probably haul off and hire one--especially if the bride didn't want me to. That's just the kind of ass I am. I spent a few minutes bathed in paranoia, envisioning the restaurant patrons holding their faces in sympathetic horror as some steroid-filled Romeo with stringy hair rubbed his butt on me.
But I got distracted from all that when six or seven other revelers arrived, including my man Marty's very cool mom and 22-year-old sister, who brought me long, white sorority-chick gloves to wear. We'd been keeping the plastic penis on an adjacent table; Marty's little sister grabbed it right away and handed it back to us, saying, "Mom saw this and seemed a little disturbed. You guys keep it." Whoops.
Juliet stood up and informed all that the night would include breaking into teams to do a scavenger hunt and some embarrassing stunts. These included writing bawdy poems about the wedding night Marty and I would have, and shaping bananas into anatomically correct body parts with one's teeth. I was, of course, on the banana team.
Normally I shy way from organized group fun, but this was all in my honor, and I went positively swoony. I guess my ego is more robust than I imagined. Before the bawdiness could get under way, though, Juliet passed out a Marty 'n' Suz quiz. More satisfying ego-stroking. The poor partygoers were called upon to wrack their brains and figure out when Marty and I met (December 1999), where we went on our first date (a local coffeehouse/bar), and who I'd want to be stranded with on a desert island if there were no Marty (actor Vincent Perez, if I really must choose).
Afterward--feeling, I suppose, that the stress of the pop quiz gave them some kind of moral authority--everyone started bossing me around. Juliet commanded me to eat her bok choy, which was no problem. Then Meg bought me a happy-looking little drink called a "blow job" and said I had to drink it. Turns out it wasn't a drink at all--but a shot. As a general rule, I don't do shots. Shots just remind me of horrible, room-spinning times in college after I'd come home from Miss Mae's Place filled with tequila. I'd put a moratorium on shooters years ago.
But this was my bachelorette party, and Meg had just bought this thing for me, and despite its name, it looked so innocent--like a miniature chocolate Sunday covered in whipped cream. OK, I'll do it, I thought. But then they informed me that I had to drink it without using my hands, which meant getting my mouth around the glass rim then throwing my head back and swallowing the thing. "I have to be going now," I said. I could just see myself attempting this delicate maneuver, spilling the whole thing down my front and all over Juliet's sea bass. I could also envision myself choking, the brown liquid running out my nose and tear ducts. This, it seemed, was something you had to practice at home, before you do it in front of a dozen pals and kin, not to mention dozens of strangers and a snooty waitstaff. To try and quiet the whooping womenfolk, I stuck my head down into the drink and licked as much of it as I could, like a cat. This seemed to satisfy them somewhat. They got in close and took pictures.
Next Juliet handed me my banana. Luckily, two others had to complete the indecorous task as well. They came and stood next to me for support. I peeled my banana by hand and immediately broke it and dropped it on the ground. I was hoping this would disqualify me, but it didn't. So while some disgruntled-looking guy across the restaurant stared at us, I had my way with the soiled fruit. Clearly I was not up to speed; when I was done my banana looked like a tired rat had torn at it. Marty's third cousin's girlfriend's cousin won. Her yellow phallus was beautiful. It belonged in some sort of medical manual.
Next thing I knew, Marty's sister was setting another shot in front of me. I protested, but she assured me that this "sweet tart" was mild and girly. In my ego-, wine-, and blow-job-induced state of acceptance and glee, I happily drank the thing. From that point on, the evening sort of swam; I can only remember a series of loose moments, with no connecting glue to speak of.
I do recall that the naughty games were halted because the persnickety maitre d' was pissed that not everyone was ordering food. He and Juliet got into a scuffle, so our undulating pack of womanhood hit the streets in search of another bar. While meandering around looking for just the right venue, my goal-oriented team members began dashing up and down the street to procure a set of men's boxers (used) as well as a picture of 'N Sync for the scavenger contest. They tried to consult me, get me involved, but all I could do was bob along slowly and blunder into ill-advised conversations, like telling Marty's little sister all about how he and I ended up making out on my couch at the end our first date.
"Ewww," she said.
Suddenly we were all in a basement bar called Hell, and several members of our party were pressuring the poor young bartender to sing a Billy Joel song. I guess that was part of the hunt. I think he sang "Only the Good Die Young." Then they were telling me I had to go behind the bar and slow dance with the young chap, high school-style, with arms stretched in front of us and bodies several feet apart. I obliged the pack and they took pictures like paparazzi. From there, the scavenger hunt/stunt thing fell apart. People just walked around Hell socializing and acting loopy.
We danced hard to some Gipsy King songs. Then I remember another entity sweeping into the bar with a veil on. Another bachelorette! In my delirium, I was filled with unconditional love for her. Apparently she felt the same way. We fell deep into a discussion about our wedding plans and our men. I remember no details of it, except that she was to be wed on the same day as me, in Maryland somewhere. I do recall that we hugged and whooped a lot.
Next thing I knew, Juliet had pressed the bartender into blasting Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," and four of us stood with our arms around each other swaying and belting out the song like it was the most spectacular, meaningful composition ever recorded. And I don't even know half of the words. Nor do I have any special memories associated with it.
Then one of the suburban moms among us, drunk as a lout, crawled over the bar and stole a beer for Marty's sister. Then someone introduced me to some Jamaican guy and he talked for what seemed like hours about his illegitimate child. For some reason I was getting all sentimental about that, and then in my haze I saw my chum Cindy, who had just shown up. Initially unable to recognize her through the sweet-tart haze, I decided it was time to switch to orange juice.
Next, I found myself on a bar stool struggling to listen to a partygoer describe her recent run-in with a burglar, but people were spraying Silly String at me, so it was hard to concentrate. Then I tried to listen to another reveler talk about her relationship with her boyfriend, but I realized I couldn't make insightful comments because I couldn't see straight. Then we tried to convince a pink-haired bouncer to let us into the dance club upstairs, called Heaven. He acted like we were putting him out, but when we got inside the place was empty. We formed a circle on the dance floor and start doing that thing where everyone takes a turn in the center. Having no inhibitions left at this point, I got in the middle and imitated Butthead from Beavis and Butthead, squatting down low and swinging my butt around.
Marty's cousin danced with the plastic penis in her hand, unconsciously gesticulating with it as she moved. This cracked me up like nothing before. I started shooting the phallus at the strangers who were now filling up the joint. People tolerated me because of the veil.
Then I danced with women--folks from our group as well as total strangers intrigued by the action and convinced that they had to dance with the bride. My eyes fell on the other bride again and we greeted each other like long-lost kin, shrieking and yelping. Then guys wanted to take turns with the brides. A bald man in a tight shirt unintentionally flung me into a wall. "Uh-oh, drunk bride," he said. Then a dude with a heavy Irish accent wanted to know all about Marty. I barely heard his questions over the thumping beat, and I have no idea what I told him. Then a skinny little man came over and seemed to want to hump all the women's legs.
Though I was weary and slouching by this point, it didn't occur to me to go home. But as soon as someone mentioned the idea, I was all over it, unable to stop fantasizing about my bed. My four-poster bed with soft white sheets and Habbib in it, and Marty too. But first, pizza. A big, greasy slice to share with Meg. After that, there were hearty goodbyes and a ride home in Cindy's silver Rodeo, though I kept protesting that I could walk the three blocks just fine.
When I got home and lunged for the Advil, the bathroom mirror greeted me with a sweaty, bedraggled, veil- and tattoo-covered mess, but a mess that had gone through a really cool American rite of passage with some very excellent females--and managed to do so stripper- and vomit-free. Plus, I had not been arrested. And you just can't ask for more than that.
Exit Stage Fright (2/26/2003)
Editor's note: With this installment we bid adieu to Germ Bag.
Cabin Pressure (2/12/2003)
Escape -- you might think it's what you desire. Until you've actually run somewhere.
New Traditionalists (1/8/2003)
It was Christmas Eve morning on Harvard Street. Marty and I sat on the hardwood floor near our...
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201