We were in a swimming pool when she popped the question. Secretly I had been hoping and waiting for her to ask me, but I couldn't be sure she thought I was The One.
Alison Comfort, the woman with whom I had shared the last five years of my life, asked me to be her maid of honor.
I said yes, absolutely yes.
That was the easy part. Now, with the wedding less than nine months away, I have to plan the shower, her present, ways to make the wedding day special, and, if I am to follow the new standard for our generation, the bachelorette barty.
According to the companies fertilized by "Sex and the City"-fied visions of womanhood, demand for pre-wedding, all-female parties has never been higher. In five years, bachelorette parties "have gone from not existing to having their own Web site category," says Nancy Johnson, co-author of "How to Host a Hilariously Fun Bachelorette Party!" and co-founder of the online store, Bachelorettepartyshop.com with her college roommate.
While the proliferation of small independent shops makes exact numbers hard to determine, Dell Williams, founder of New York City-based Eve's Garden (www.evesgarden.com), says the women's pleasure and party product business is worth millions.
"The time has come for women to get even," says Johnson, referring to the long tradition of bachelor parties. In their final goodbye party to singlehood, women want to "go really wild without being raunchy," she says.
In the course of my party planning research, however, the raunchiness could not be avoided. An Internet search for "bachelorette party" took me to several "mature content" Web sites, leading me to a catalogue of male strippers, candy shaped like male body parts, and many products unfit for description in a family newspaper. Bachelorette party games include scavenger hunts daring the bachelorette to do anything from running her fingers through a man's hairy chest to dressing up an inflatable male doll with the clothes of men she can persuade to derobe.
Girls' Night Out used to stand for pajamas and chocolate, "Grease" videos and sleeping bags.
Now it means acting like Christina Aguilera in her new "Dirty" video.
So many companies are moving toward pornographic themes, in fact, that it can be hard to find the more innocent ones. "All of those nasty porn sites are starting to sell their own bachelor party stuff and taking it down a level. People looking for bachelorette party products find the porn sites instead and don't even want to keep looking," says Johnson.
While here is a market for the Christinas among us, many entrepreneurs recognize that a lot of us are closer to "Sex and the City's" innocent Charlotte than predatory Samantha. An ad for a party organizer on a local Chicago radio station recently offered female listeners "fun love stuff in a non-threatening, tasteful environment."
Still, why would you want to take a perfectly good evening with your girlfriends and devote it only to discussions of men and all issues related to them? After all, isn't this our last hurrah for singleness? The best slumber parties when we were younger were always the ones where we stayed cozy at home, shared our deepest secrets and did each other's makeup. Once we started sneaking out and meeting boys, things got complicated.
The new rite of passage of the bachelorette party is still young enough for refinement. We can keep it from spiraling into nothing but a moneymaker for the porn industry, and nothing but a pathetic simulation of the traditional, raunchy bachelor party renowned for involving female strippers.
The most meaningful female bonding probably keeps men at a distance: In "The Red Tent," Anita Diamant's bestseller set during biblical times, coming-of-age ceremonies were sacred, women-only events. Together, older and younger women celebrated the mystery of womanhood by focusing on a goddess figurine. A male blow-up doll in the midst would have been pointless.
For Alison's big day, we're planning on keeping it a No Boys Allowed event. We might even sign the pledge suggested by some Web sites that forces participants to promise not to talk about men for the night. If we were going to invite any professional man, it would be a masseuse, not an erotic dancer. After all, we can be with a man anytime, but bachelorette night is our last chance to be just us girls.