Um, excuse me... I know this is gonna sound strange, but would you mind if I gave you a piggyback ride? -- I mean, just to right over there. [long pause from me, as she's not so cute, and then looking over to see if any of her friends are] It's for a bachelorette party... no really, it's one of the things on the check-list, so it's totally not creepy I promise [showing me a glossy, professionally made 10" square card].
I told her sorry, and they left looking let down. Hopefully the pauses and comments I gave about "I dunno, sounds kinda weird" shamed them into not going through with the rest of this ridiculousness before a girl gets married. After all, nothing freaks a girl out like thinking that others view her as weird and rocking the boat. If it were a mere girls' night out, no harm done (other than growing more socially retarded around boys if every night out is girls' night out). But the bachelorette party is her last chance to have the world focus on her, so you get the most concentrated explosion of attention whoring you've ever seen.
For those who haven't been to a bar or nightclub in awhile, the bachelorette often has to do a scavenger hunt list of things like find someone to sing "L-O-V-E" with in public, wear a belt or other fashion accessory made out of Smarties, which she has to get various guys to remove with their teeth, and so on. So guys, if you ever get approached like this, do your part to end this social pollution and make them feel like they're being weird.
And since when did this annoying and shameful event become de rigueur? Well, when else did any of today's make-you-wanna-throttle-somebody cultural practices begin infecting the society? You guessed it -- the early '90s (perhaps with a few isolated instances during the late '80s). I searched the NYT for "bachelorette party," and aside from a single usage from the early '80s that describes more of a bridal shower atmosphere, the steady stream of articles begins in the '90s. Here is one from 1990. The "one last night of fun" and male strippers make it sound like it began as an appropriation of the male bachelor party.
But before long we got the attention-whore-fest that we'd recognize today. Listen to how familiar this description sounds, as far back as spring of 1996 (and given that news coverage lags behind the trends it covers, it was probably already going on by 1995):
The bride's friends made her a hat -- an upside-down pink plastic flowerpot with an enormous white flower on the side -- that she was required to wear for the evening. She also was given a list of things she had to accomplish that night. It was like a cross between an urban survival course and a scavenger hunt.
"First, she had to go up to strangers in the bar and get people to sing the theme song from 'The Brady Bunch' out loud, and she did," Ms. Drucker said. "Then she had to get a couple of people to buy her shots, and she did. We'd see her bright pink hat as she made her way through the bar. Heather's pushy, and I mean that as a compliment."
Earlier I looked at signs of how segregated the sexes have been for the past 20 years, so let's add the bachelorette party. It's one of those "girls gotta stick together" activities where their only interactions with boys are shallow and fleeting, and it's more of a goof than a sincere attempt to get to know new boys and have fun. If the poor guy goes along with their game, he's just getting used to boost their egos for a minute before they move on to some other dude for another quick attention fix. It's an awful lot like grinding on the dance floor: here she comes and there she goes -- completely unlike an intimate trust-building slow dance, which might actually lead somewhere sexual.
When crime rates began rising in the late '50s, girls suddenly came out of their self-imposed cocoons of domesticity and wanted to play with the boys. For one thing, when the world gets more dangerous, you have to get to the business of making babies sooner, meaning you begin your search earlier and at any age you try to make yourself more attractive as a potential mate. So girls become boy-crazy, which is an honest signal that she's not going to flake out -- she's too head-over-heels for you. And for another thing, greater danger makes you value protectors more, and that's overwhelmingly going to be guys.
It's only when crime rates began falling in the early '90s that girls were cured of their boy-craziness and desire for male protectors, and retreated again to the bubble of their house as a source of meaning -- only instead of vacuum cleaners and tupperware, this time it was Viking stoves, marble countertops, and chairs and lights from Design Within Reach, or perhaps some ironic retro junk from Urban Outfitters if younger.