When I was Queen of the Bachelor Party
No, I did not pick up a stripper career and hosted a bachelor party in a police officer sexy suit, if that’s what you’re thinking. I haven’t ruled it out of course, you never know around which pole you might find happiness next. But not this time. This time I joined the ranks from the parterre.
The Bachelor Party is as old an institution as marriage, and truth be told it has managed to stay ‘traditional’ much more easily than the matrimony wagon, cherishing the simple dogmas of one last hit to the head (which one, you decide) before tying the proverbial knot. As for me, I’ve always been ‘one of the boys’, that girl a guy can comment another girls’ boobs to and expect her to counter-comment with a live demonstration on the spot. I like the camaraderie of men and I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken part in a few, with boys that are now my chosen brothers.
Like Guido, a half-american friend from work in Milan (where we both live) who would bring me an apple everyday to avoid me stealing his, and listen to me blabber about sex and what I don’t understand about it. I’d hit him on the nape when he was the most concentrated and he’d hide my shoes around the office. What do you call a bromancewhen one of the two is girl?
When Guido invited me to his bachelor party, few people were surprised. And I was excited because I would have been able to exercise the surprise factor: the new boys would try to restrain themselves for a few minutes, until I would start talking about body parts and the pissing contest would begin. What I wasn’t too excited about was the idea of a nightclub (been there, done that), but that quickly became a non-issue.
Vegas, Prague? None of that. We were going on a 2 Day Survival Camp. Why stick to the usual booze ‘n boobs when you can freeze to death instead?
So it was 8 men, 4 survival instructors (called ‘The Wolfpack’) and moi.
The deal was two days in the woods by these rules (punishment being dishonor and shame):
- no food
- no shelter/tent/sleeping bag
- no change of clothes
- one match only to lit a fire
- burn what you chomp
- hike, shut up, hike
Paolo, the Head Instructor, reminded me once again of why I love wild things. It’s a calling of sorts, it’s disguised and I know that, but sometimes I am face to face with it and its raging makes me happy.
He introduced everyone, but said we were not to snap any photos of him. Whether it was for a criminal charge on his head or else, we will never know. Angelo, Billy and the rookie instructor Alberto all looked as if they could kill you with a toothbrush, and the briefing room we were in looked like a torture chamber.
“You are welcome, urged really, to leave if you don’t feel up to this”.
They gave us a jute sack to build our makeshift backpack, and our first knot lesson. “Girls are always better”, Paolo said as I teased the boys for not being ready yet. My pride was pumping. The shoulder rope-straps hurt as we hiked up the mountain to the camp, cursing quietly, and when we arrived Livio the Botanist took us for a walk to teach us which plants we should avoid eating to avoid dying. He didn’t look as badass as the instructors, but I paid a lot of attention to the alpine salad recipe nonetheless.
After that we chomped enormous chunks of wood for the fire we were (hopefully) going to lit later. Each one of us had a personal knife we brought from home, and an extra tool the instructors gave us. Saws and machetes. Machetes and boys: this was so much better than a nightclub (for me at least). We stuck to the steep slope of the mountain and seesawed wood for a couple of hours, then learned how to carry them aboriginal-style and went back to camp. I was appointed Master of the Knives — which meant I had to make sure none of the boys got killed by theirs or left them hanging somewhere in the woods. No need to say I busted their balls for 2 days and made sure they all resented me for it.
Paolo then showed us how to cut 8 different sizes of wood pieces from one single 30cm long chunk. Then Alberto lit the instructors’ fire. After that we started the process ourselves, secretly planning the best way to snuggle and warm up through a night with no fire. By then I had bonded with most of the boys, the friendly pissing contest was working and I was asking myself why it is that so many girls wouldn’t find this as entertaining I did. I felt like there is so much of my femininity I still have to learn, but this kind of skin just fits so nice.
We got a fire. One of the boys managed to lit his and keep it up for a couple of minutes before it died. I broke my match without even lighting it. But the instructors were impressed with my wood tower and decided to give me another match. My fire thrived and I remembered what it felt like to be in the woods with your own fire. It had been too long, boy or girl. This is the kind of person I enjoy being.
Later that evening, we were all abruptly taken to the middle of the woods and left alone in the dark, to experiment how it would be in a real survival situation: alone, cold, scared. I knew the boys were all in a few meters range from me, and as my senses heightened I though of my friend Guido, getting married at 29 and living the life he loves. Everything in that situation mashed together so many aspects of this world: the difference between men and women, the differences between men and nature and everything that ties us all together nonetheless. I think it was the safest I felt in a long time.
We spent the night taking turns to keep the fire going, and the next morning we found the groom cuddling with the best man to try and keep warm, a sight that has been very well documented for ransom purposes. That night was one of the longest nights of my life. I spent it cursing at the fire for being too hot up close and too cold a few meters away, while most of the boys were calling for the ‘Booze & Boobs’ routine for whoever got married next.
The next day we built a trap for what was supposed to be a small rodent, though it ended up being suited for large insects, and on the way back to the Wolfpack HQ, I was already missing it.
100 meters from destination, they made us turn down a steep hill, until we were by the side of a river. We forded the river upstream and got wet up to our… well, boobs. I was laughing and freezing, the boys were laughing and cursing. The instructors were splashing us in the attempt to demonstrate how random nature is. I took my boots off and walked the rest of the road barefoot.
Paolo smiled at me, he could tell how happy I was. He had said the day before that he could tell I am a walker and that made me proud.
We got our diplomas, and I promised I’d be back. Suddenly the boys remembered it was a bachelor party and we all joked that if Guido survived the weekend, he’d have no problem surviving marriage. Before we left camp, up in the woods, they called us one by one for a little test on what we had learned. But since I came in last, they only had one question for me: “Are you an animal?”.
“Hell yeah”, I replied. And the gender thing was gone. What was left was a pack of friends, an excited groom, and a bounty on whoever’s head was going to suggest anything like this ever again.
Originally featured on the blog Hike a Boo by Chiara Nanni on September 22nd, 2015.