In the United States, the bachelor party (or stag night, stag do, stag party, depending what continent you are on...The concept is the same) has long been a tradition for men about to cross into the world of matrimony. Many would consider bachelor parties a rite of passage in some ways, but I think most just look at it as a good excuse to party one last time with the boys. The term "bachelor party" didn't even appear until 1922, but the concept of a final night of debauchery for the groom before marriage dates back as early as the 5th century BC...Ancient Spartans held feasts in honor of their friends about to marry and would toast them accordingly.
Now, the stereotypical bachelor party usually brings to mind images from The Hangover...The groom's party flocking to Vegas or some other notorious hot spot, engaging in heavy drinking, hotel room destruction, possible recreational drug use, and likely a trip to a strip club or two. It would make for a better movie if I could tell you that's what happened at DJ's bachelor party, but his more resembled a marathon tailgate than a bachelor party. And that was just fine for those of us in attendance.
We rented a cabin on the lake at Moor's Resort and spent all day Friday and Saturday playing cornhole, grilling out, playing beer pong, listening to music, swarpin', watching football, hollerin', hitting golf balls into the lake, and of course, drinking beer. We got so wild, Saturday afternoon 5 of us walked a couple hundred yards to the Moor Fun Putt-Putt course and got in a round of golf. We were so crazy, we took our own putters and golf balls and played without a score card. We didn't even pay the $2 at the resort office. What can I say? We walk on the wild side.
The highlights of the weekend were our epic beer pong tournaments. Stan and I were the most powerful duo, but we fell short of the title both nights...Falling in the finals after clawing our way out of the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament.
We blasted hits from MC Hammer, Boyz 2 Men, Led Zeppelin, Garth Brooks, and anything else Pandora decided to play. We went through enough tailgate food (burgers, chicken, dogs, chips, salsa, sandwiches) to last a week (we were there two days), and we made an immaculate resort cabin look like a tornado came through. It was a blast.
Standing on the threshold of DJ's wedding (it comes in just a little over 4 weeks) and spending the weekend partying with some of my best friends makes it nearly impossible not to reminisce on things. Late Saturday night, as we all sat around the table playing Circle of Death, an old staple of a drinking game, we stood up and toasted the groom to be. It got me to thinking about all the things DJ and I have been through together.
Growing up a man in this country can be tough. There are very high expectations placed on males in our largely patriarchal society, and without a brother or close friend that can understand what you're going through, it can be difficult. Don't get me wrong, I never had it bad. My parents always supported me in everything I did, they were great at keeping things in perspective, and they gave me the freedom to make my own mistakes. My dad has always been the epitome of a role model for what a man should be. But, despite that, there are things you experience in your critical teen years that hardly anyone (especially your parents that have been there before) can understand. DJ was the brother I never had, and he helped me get through some very (seemingly) difficult times in my life. Just as I know I likewise helped him.
We met in January of 1993. It had started snowing on a Friday afternoon, and we got out of school early. By Saturday morning, there was already close to 8 inches of snow on the ground with the snow showing no signs of stopping. My sister Lensey, our neighbor Katie, and I were out playing. We knew a kid our age had just moved into the neighborhood, so we decided to go see if he wanted to come out.
Decked out in our puffy winter coats, boots, gloves, and ski masks, we probably looked like we were going to try to rob the place, rather than extend an invite to come play. I knocked on the door and this lanky, nerdy kid dressed in corduroys and a Bill Cosby sweater answered the door.
"Hey. Do you want to come outside and play in the snow with us?" I asked him. We didn't even think to introduce ourselves.
"No, thanks. I think I'll just stay in," he replied. He was noticeably shy.
"Well, ok. If you change your mind we'll be back in the woods across the road."
We left and went on our way. About 30 minutes later, he came bumbling down the hill toward us. We finally made our introductions.
We still talk of that first meeting from time to time, and DJ says his mom basically guilted him into going outside to make some friends. What a loser.
I won't say DJ and I became instant friends, because that wouldn't be totally accurate. To be honest, we didn't have much in common at first. I was really into sports, DJ was into dinosaurs. In fact, he told me in the first few days we knew one another that he wanted to be an archaeologist when he grew up. I can't say I totally blame him...This was right around the time Jurassic Park was coming out, and I'm sure a lot of kids were intrigued by the field of archaeology. I just wasn't one of them. We basically started hanging out because we were the only two boys in the whole neighborhood that were around the same age. But, we did become very close friends very quickly, despite our differences.
DJ and I were great at two things: laughing and getting into trouble. We laughed all the time and were total goofballs, something that remains to this day. And we never did anything that bad...It was more the way we tried to cover things up than what we actually did that got us into trouble.
One time when we were around 10 years old, DJ got a model car to build. The same week, he had received a brand new dresser and chest of drawers from his grandfather. DJ and I glued pieces together and painted the body of the car blue. DJ placed the little jar of paint in the box at the end of the day, and put it on his dresser until we could continue working on it the following day.
I went to his house the next day, and what we found was absolutely horrible. When DJ went to lift the box, it stuck, as if it were glued to the dresser. He finally got it free and we were horrified when we saw the silver dollar size blue spot that was right in the middle of his brand new dresser. We frantically began searching for a remedy. In our pre-pubescent wisdom, we decided we could scrape the paint off the surface with a pocket knife. All we did was scratch out a small crater. Becoming increasingly scared, we grabbed a brown crayon that appeared to match the dresser and began coloring in the crater. It did nothing but leave crayon residue on top of an atrocious hole in the middle of the perfectly constructed dresser.
Lucky for us, DJ had also recently gotten a new stereo, which was setting on the far right side of the dresser. DJ moved the stereo to the center of the dresser, towards the front...A totally inconspicuous location for a small boombox to set. We just knew it would work. Amazingly, it did...DJ's parents didn't see the spot until years later.
A few years later, when DJ and I were around 15, far old enough to know better, we were tossing a foam football across the living room. DJ's house had a high valted ceiling with a fan hanging down from the center. The power cord was about 5 feet long, and dangled directly in the center of the living room. We threw the ball dangerously close to the cord, with the fan running, several times. Finally, our luck ran out. I'm fairly certain I was the one that threw the ball. The cord was struck, swung upward, and wrapped around the base of the fan. It came to a screeching stop. We immediately turned the fan off and just stared at each other. We unraveled the cord to see about two feet of it fall to the floor. We were able to mend it, and as I often did, I left to go home before DJ's parents arrived and left him to deal with the aftermath. I'm a good friend.
Another time, DJ and I were kicking a small soccer ball around the living room. This time, we were even older...Probably 16 or 17. DJ lined up a penalty kick aimed directly at the front door, seemingly a safe bet. But, in a weird twist of fate, the ball hit dead center of the door knob and shot straight up towards one of the two chandeliers that hung in the foyer of the house. One of the plastic crystal pieces fell to the floor and the small hole at the top that hung on a hook broke off. We were in familiar territory.
We assumed this would be an easy fix. We used clear scotch tape to repair the hole, hung the piece back up on the chandelier, and stepped back to examine our work.
"You know, you won't notice it unless you look directly at it. And who looks directly at that thing?"
"I know. I think we'll be fine."
Less than an hour later, DJ's step-father Andy came home. Inexplicably, he walked directly to the chandelier and stared up at it. THIS HAD NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Why, on that one day, did he choose to do so? We may never know. But, we were caught. Fortunately, it wasn't that big of a deal and we were off the hook, minus a small butt-chewing. But the chances...Just hysterical.
I could write a novel about all of the funny things that happened between us. But it wasn't all funny. We had our arguments, we both went through rough times occasionally. But we always had our trampoline talks in DJ's back yard, and we always had one another's back. By this point, we're not friends anymore...We're family. And even though I knew I would be the best man at his wedding about 10 years ago, it is still an honor and privilege to be able to stand up there as he marries the woman of his dreams.
DJ's bachelor party was a great time for all of us to hang out, but for me it was a time to look back. Friends like that don't come around too often, and I'm extremely lucky to have one.