I love my friends. And I love hen dos. My face, less so.

The Great British Hen Do. Now and Then.

The hen do. That time-honoured rite of passage that divides women roughly into two camps — the ‘hell yeah, make it as tacky as they come, I want to lick cream off an orange man’ faction vs the ‘no fancy dress. No willies. No veil. Just a nice dinner with friends please’ team.

For me, 2016 marks a decade of hen dos. My first experience was organising my sister’s hen in 2006. I still remember how excited I was — it felt so grown-up and novel, spending a day and night with a group of women I’d always looked up to (Mum used to make Emma take me out with her because, well, I didn’t have many friends of my own).

We’d done the Mr & Mrs quiz with Chris, we had group t-shirts, we had willy straws, we were a group of loud, proud girls having the time of their lives in London, and people looked at us wherever we went. I LOVED it. And I’ve loved every hen do ever since — looking through old photos as I wrote this, I almost burst with the happiness that female friendships bring.

But times they have a-changed. The past year has brought home, in glorious technicolour, the differences between a hen do at 23, and one at 33…

A guided tour of the (early) 20s hen do

Wearing matching team t-shirts with an embarassing / sexy / compromising photo of the hen, and individual nicknames. Mine was Melons. The mind boggles.

Frantically going from one activity to the next. Brunch — organised fun — spa treatments — dance class — organised fun — quizzes — dinner — organised fun — forfeits — dancing — snogging someone (not the bride. This isn’t a stag) — home.

The full accessories kit. Sashes for all, L-plates, veil, bunny ears, garter, willy stickers etc.

If staying away for the night, snacking on a balanced mix of Pringles, Haribo, hummus and chcolate fingers (of the Cadbury’s variety).

Fancy dress chosen to expose as much flesh as possible. Bear in mind these were the days where I still consumed 4000 calories a day and couldn’t afford a gym membership.

Getting a National Express coach home in the morning (if no one had borrowed their mum’s car).

Screaming ‘why don’t you come on over, briiiide-to-be’ to the tune of Valerie at the top of your lungs in the club

Spending hours getting ready in case you pull (again, not the bride, this is NOT a stag).

Reading Mr & Mrs answers off a sheet of paper printed out at work, and having to imagine how awkward the poor guy felt when asked by a cackling woman he hardly knows ‘where’s the most adventurous place you’ve ever had sex?’

Sticking actual photos haphazardly into an album for the hen to treasure forevermore.

Falling asleep on the sofa fully clothed at 4am.

Doing endless dares and forfeits in the club, designed to talk to as many men as possible, and preferably get as many kisses / pairs of pants as possible.

Drinking bottle after bottle of Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc at a push.

Conversation consisting of how you’ll be at least a director, if not on the board, by 30; how to live in London for less than £1200 a month; whether you should text the guy you met in Walkabout last week and see if he’s about later.

Me being the first one to go home

A guided tour of the (early) 30s hen do

Wearing face masks of the groom. Probably to hide early wrinkles.

Taking an afternoon nap between daytime activity and evening fun.

Breakfasting on pastries, artisan bread, Neal’s Yard cheese and filter coffee in the morning. This was my hen last year, at 32. It was genuinely the best morning of my life.

Fancy dress chosen to exude class, sexiness, allure. And the benefits of cutting down to just 3800 calories a day and running once a month.

Various hens breast-pumping throughout the day and complaining of ‘rock-hard boobs’.

Tiny babies being brought to the venue to be breast-fed during a lull in activities. Lots of hilarity about husbands being the strippers.

Hens bringing their own herbal tea or lemon for the morning.

Husband and toddler collecting mummy in the morning. Lots more hilarity about husbands being the strippers.

Staying in the VIP section of the club in order to get a seat and hear each other talk.

Spending hours getting ready because it’s the first time you’ve been out dancing in 6 months. Then going absolutely mental after one G&T when Billie Jean comes on.

Watching an elaborately-produced iMovie Mr & Mrs, complete with sound effects, choreographed sequences, and props.

A beautifully-bound coffee table book with tasetfully-arranged photos and advice on marriage.

Taking your make-up off before bed and putting on eye cream.

Desparately trying not to talk to any men in the club because you just want to have fun with your girlfriends OR relishing in more male attention than you’ve had since you got into a long-term relationship.

Drinking glass after glass of prosecco and bespoke cocktails spun from smokey whiskey, ginger liqueur and lemon juice.

Playing the ‘who-do we think will get divorced first’ game (morbid but strangely compelling…)

Conversation consisting of — how often you change your bedsheets; the great baby-led weaning debate; joint bank accounts vs financial independence; finding a meaningful, well-paid career while actually enjoying life.

Me being the first non-pregnant one to go home.

Bring on the 40s…