Susan Daly: When it comes to hens, I'm a chicken
Call me old-fashioned, but a hen party's not a hen party without a good selection of Willies. Oh, unshield thine eyes. It wasn't THAT kind of evening. For one thing, the hen didn't want to be called a hen.
There were to be no L-plates, no presents of edible underwear, no undie-cover stripper policemen, no banana splits topped off with provocative balls of strawberry ice-cream. I'm with the hen who wouldn't be called a hen on this. Ritual humiliation is so over-rated.
But, as mentioned, a hen night without Willies is taking the mickey. So she was given a special envelope containing pictures of famous Willies to take home and enjoy at her leisure. There were Willies of all shapes and sizes in there ... Willie O'Dea, Willy Wonka, William Shakespeare, Liam Neeson. Just their faces, mind. We wouldn't do that to the girl.
And really, that was enough smut for me. I have to admit I hate the traditional hen night where everyone is expected to act like an extra from a Carry On movie.
Someone hired a stripper for me at an occasion once -- totally, deeply, inappropriately out of context at the time -- and I don't think I've recovered from the trauma yet.
I suffer Memento-style flashbacks whenever Right Said Fred pops up on the radio. For the most part, I seem to have blanked it out. All I really remember is smiling manically at the poor guy and saying, "Er thanks very much, that's grand now, really, that's fine, thanks." It must have been like performing for your nana.
I also take issue with the notion that wearing a plastic booby bib is 'traditional'. And if by chance it is written into the Domesday Book that, lo, a bride-to-be shall drink from a penis-shaped straw on the eve of her nuptials, does that mean it's right?
There used to be a wedding tradition in Anglo-Saxon culture for the bride to pass her shoes to her husband who would then tap her on the head with them. (Short translation: I'm in charge here now, woman.) If we can do without that charming bit of Anglo-Saxon legacy, we can probably do without emulating their ancestors -- a hen party from Newcastle trawling Temple Bar's finest 'nite' spots.
At least the trend for forcing your ladies-in-waiting -- sorry, female friends -- to spend a few hundred euro on a weekend away to celebrate your fantasticness before they 'lose' you to marriage seems to have bitten the bullet. One woman I know was asked to attend a week-long hen party masquerading as a girls-only holiday. There was nothing relaxing about the rigorous schedule of spa appointments, lavish dinners and long-haul travel demanded by the bride-to-be.
By contrast, my friend's sister recently had an afternoon tea party with some close gal pals and relatives. There were cupcakes, there were Rice Crispie buns and there were a whole lot of women breathing a sigh of relief.
Do men have this problem? I've heard a few male friends groan at the prospect of yet another weekend of being shot in the face with paintballs. Enforced fun is no fun at all.
Back to the hen that wasn't a hen. Lack of edible knickers aside, there was another noticeable break with tradition. Everyone seemed to actually like one another. This isn't always a prerequisite for hens. In cases where the poor bridesmaid ends up inviting everyone the bride has ever had contact with, for fear of being glared at on the wedding day by some distant cousin, it can be a dangerous mishmash of personalities.
I had the (mis)fortune to attend one such a gathering a few years back. The work crowd didn't like the old school friends. The rowdy old school friends irritated the relatives. Someone wasn't drinking and sent back the second bottle of red ordered for her end of the table because she decided they'd already had 'enough'. Another insisted that as she didn't have a dessert, she wanted her share of the bill deducted.
There were tears in the Chardonnay and at least two storm-outs before the night was through. At least it bode well for the marriage staying together: I'm not sure the bride would ever want to go through another hen night.