This weekend marked my first ever ‘stag do’ attendance. I can’t work out if this is unusual for a 27-year old – I’m aware that many people with whom I went to school but no longer keep contact are married, so do I move in particularly commitment-phobic circles or are those settled former acquaintances themselves unusual?
Whatever the answer to that particular riddle, Saturday was a bloody good day. The fashion these days might tend towards ever more elaborate (and expensive) celebrations – much to the delight of best men everywhere, I’m sure – but as an excuse for a group of friends and family to spend the day with the groom-to-be and do something different, it’s difficult to argue with the concept.
I must admit to having found it a little uncomfortable saying that I was “going on a stag do”. The kind of images that phrase can conjure up do not befit the way I like to spend my time, and they certainly don’t befit the mood of the day. It got me wondering if tradition is all it’s cracked up to be and, more precisely, whether it’s entirely necessary to stick with ‘stag’. Personally, I prefer the rather more elegant-sounding ‘elk’, if we are at least going to continue using deer-related names…
Saturday morning was spent doing a variety of activities, namely driving a pick-up while blindfolded (with a navigator in the back banned from using the words ‘left’ and ‘right’), time-trialling a Honda Pilot buggy round a short circuit, and attempting to disintegrate clay pigeons with the help of a shotgun. The afternoon was spent toiling against a slightly larger and significantly more ‘enthusiastic’ group in five games of paintball, one of which we actually managed to win.
For the evening, we went for a curry and a few drinks. The best men (for in the case of this wedding, there are two assigned to the task) arranged a theme for the night, cladding the main man in a white dress uniform ala Tom Cruise’s ‘Maverick’ from Top Gun. The rest of us donned crisp shirts with US air force badges and our very own nicknames from the film, and from thereon had to refrain from calling each other by proper names.
While city centre bars and clubs are not my natural stomping ground (that cliché being a good nomination for ‘understatement of the year’…), the most enjoyable aspect of the night was that we weren’t out to seek attention. There was nothing ostentatious or outrageous, just a group of us helping a friend have a good night. One or two people noticed, maybe passed comment or made a friendly joke, and I think one person even wanted a photo.
But that was it. Which means I really like the idea that there were people waking up on Sunday morning – bleary eyed, dehydrated and craving fried food – with hazy recollections of seeing a half a dozen or so guys all dressed in white, but not being entirely sure if we actually existed. I know most of us probably don’t have a lot in common with those 80s film stars, but that doesn’t mean there can’t have been a few people wondering exactly what bar they had been drinking in the night before.
There is one final admission I should own up to: I’ve never actually seen Top Gun. I know the main protagonists, certainly, and can hum a few bars of Take My Breath Away, but I’d never heard of my namesake Slider (he doesn’t even get mentioned in Wikipedia’s plot summary for the film!). Most intriguing, for a staunchly heterosexual man I found myself more ‘impressed’ than I would ever have expected by the sharp creases of a bunch of well-ironed white shirts (you need to be looking really hard for the mango chutney stain I accidentally got on mine). Which means I now fear ever watching Top Gun in case I start developing unwanted feelings towards Tom Cruise, particularly at the point he dons the dress uniform… And if that isn’t the complete antithesis of what stag parties are usually about, then I don’t know what is.