As an Arts graduates of the University of Sydney I consider myself sensitive to feminism, and will gladly pontificate about the patriarchy. And yet there’s one age-old male ritual that transforms me from a committed warrior against gender inequity into a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal: the bucks night. Whenever a friend gets married, I’ll gladly set aside all my painstaking political correctness and celebrate their descent into matrimony the old-fashioned way: by regressing into adolescence.
When my friends first started getting hitched, we debated what the modern, progressive gentleman should do to mark the occasion. Should the events be classy and mature, we wondered, rather than revolving largely around drinking and silliness? One friend of mine flatly refused to have one, in response to which elaborate kidnapping plans were developed, but ultimately abandoned because of that other time-honoured male tradition: laziness.
But as time has passed, and the number of grooms has advanced into double figures, we seem to have hit upon a consensus. When a bucks night is held, all familiarity with the concept of women’s liberation is temporarily suspended.
In typical male fashion, none of us ever actually sat down and formally made these decisions, so none of us will ever take responsibility for them. You know, it much the same way as none of us blokes ever actually decided to systematically oppress women, but it just kind of happened. And so we have come to agree, non-verbally, on the definitive rules for bucks nights.
Firstly, a highly structured programme of fun group events must be followed. This may include activities like paintball, bowls both lawn and tenpin, attending horse and greyhound races, ping pong tournaments and even pub trivia. One particularly adventurous bucks’ night involved a trip to the old Korean bathhouse in Kings Cross where we all bathed nude together, in a scene we tried to convince ourselves was reminiscent of Ancient Rome rather than Modern San Francisco. (Strangely, the result was genuinely bonding.) No doubt some day, my friends and I will go the whole hog and spend three days camping in a forest, playing tribal drums and chasing wild boars.
Secondly, there’s the drinking. You’d think it might be nice to have a few quiet beverages, and chat about the major life change that a member of the group is about to embark on. Those who are already married might dispense helpful advice, and those who are single might take the opportunity to learn something about the nature of love and commitment. This is what our female counterparts seem to do at their hens nights – or at least the sort that don’t go for harbour cruises and jockstraps. Well, that never happens. Instead, we drink a lot, to the point where even some of my most mild-mannered, gentlemanly friends have been unable to stand up straight.
Practical jokes on the groom are also an essential part of the formula, and often seem to involve eating, probably because that inevitably subsequently means vomiting. After going on about the place for years, one friend was made to eat his way through the entire menu of Baker’s Delight, falling short only at the full loaves, while another diet-obsessed friend was forced to engorge himself on Pizza Hut all-you-can eat. Recently another friend was forced to eat a pie every time a team scored – at a one-sided Rugby League World Cup match. It’s not quite as exciting as chaining someone naked to the upper deck of the Manly Ferry, but it’s a lot less illegal.
The final, and most important, rule is that women are never invited. I’m not entirely sure why this is so sacrosanct, but it is, with the notable exception that – and I regret to admit this, but in the interest of full disclosure, I must – many bucks’ nights end up at one of those venues where women disrobe for money. I’ve never entirely understood the appeal of paying large amounts of money for titillation, and generally pretty tacky titillation at that, but it seems to be an essential part of the bucks night experience – even in groups of guys who wouldn’t ever dream of going to a strip club otherwise.
Above all, a bucks night gives men carte blanche to enjoy everything that we usually see ourselves as too mature to do. I’m not entirely sure I approve of the system, especially as if I ever get married, I fully expect the earlier bucks’ revenge on me to be terrible indeed. But I wouldn’t dream of challenging these unwritten rules. Because in the end, that’s all just another part of what it is to be male.