Words || Erin Christie
Coming off the back of ten years at a highly conservative Christian college, I am no stranger to discussions about marriage. At 15, I sat in a ‘Christianity in Action’ class focused on abstinence, where it was explained to us that the likelihood of our impending divorces would only increase if we did the dreaded deed prior to the exchange of rings. At the time, the divorce rate in Australia was around 50%, so my super smart pastor/teacher counted 21 of us individually and told us that 10.5 of us would be getting divorced. I decided to one-up this bastard and his totally sound and logical statement by silently committing myself to never marrying. Take that, Steve.
However, deciding at 15 to remain unmarried for life has its downsides. For one, I was 15 and standing up to authority the only way I knew how – with my powerful inner dialogue. I definitely did not account that I might, at some point, change my mind. Secondly, there’s some stuff surrounding marriage that does look a little bit fun. The decision to sign your life and surname away can always be improved with a rowdy, drunken night out with your best friends and a couple of strippers, right? And if I could do it without signing my life and surname away, well that just sounded absolutely fucking paramount. When James, my much beloved EIC, threw down the gauntlet: for our women’s issue challenge, throw a fake Hens Night and see what happens, I was right there to pick it up. However, the night itself seemed to magically split itself up into a series of miniature challenges that I really, really, really was not all that prepared for.
I’m not particularly wild, meaning that when I woke up with a seriously debilitating cold the morning of the chosen Hens Date, I decided to pile my fake bridesmaids into my little, barely functional Mazda and zoom zoom them into the city. We were all adorned with a sash: I had bride to be, three of them claimed ‘bridesmaid’, and one lucky lady was awarded ‘Maid of Honour’ by a bridesmaid, who decided she could hand over the most important role, seeing as it wasn’t ‘the real thing’. To complete the dream hen’s night aesthetic – I am wearing a tiara, made up of the letters ‘Bride to Be’ in diamontes.
Challenge one: the first challenge came when I had to wear this ridiculous get-up while filling up with petrol. At ten-second intervals, my friends would open the car door and drunkenly shout ‘pump it girl!’ We were a very believable Hens Party, if nothing else. I had to keep a straight face while the lady at the counter wished me all the very best for my marriage, and hold my head high while every other person at the petrol station gave me alarmed looks. We were off!
Challenge two: we’re standing in line at our favourite club, The Retro, in Darling Harbour. I’m searching through my purse for my license, only to remember suddenly that it wasn’t in the stack of cards I grabbed from my other bag. I was covered for all emergencies: debit card, Opal card, Medicare card, but no freaking driver’s license. Well, fuck. I stood outside the line looking, desolate, with the bouncers telling me a picture of my license would not suffice. A kind, older security guard wandered over to us and our panic-stricken faces. He looked at the photo, and at me, asked my age, my year of birth, and suddenly realised I was dressed like a prize idiot.
“Bridal party … is it your wedding?”
“Yes” I told him, looking sad.
“Oh, bless your heart. Hold on, I’ll sort this out for you.”
… I am never going out again unless I’m dressed like a bride to be. Challenge two: smashed it!
I was congratulated by most of the club, and the DJ, who my friend got to do a little shout out. One nice man who looked about 50 hugged me and told me that getting married would be ‘the best thing I’d ever do’. Then he asked when I was getting married. I froze.
Cue, Challenge three.
“September 1st!” my absolute champ of a Maid of Honour explained. Then he asked where. Mate, really? “Lillianfels!” shouts the Maid of Honour. “Oh lovely, well – best of luck!” Another hug, and he toddled off into the crowd. I am so bad at being fake engaged.
Challenge four: this one had a different tone to it. Towards the end of the night, I was dancing with my friends (quite the feat as the four of them were basically legless), when one woman spotted us, and me. She came up, kissed my cheek and congratulated me. I thanked her profusely, and she whispered in my ear that she was getting divorced; ‘Marriage is challenging, you know.’ My heart broke a little, and a better understanding of my complete and total phoniness washed over me. I wanted to snap my tiara in half and throw my sash on the ground, yell that I was on her side and not buying into the idiocy of marriage, but that wasn’t exactly right either. I couldn’t get Mr. 10.5 out of my head: and while ‘Can’t Touch This’ played throughout the club, I thought about my real issues with the institution of marriage. Divorce has become intrinsic to our culture, and I am okay with that. Beforehand, women would stay in unhappy marriages with only tradition holding them back. This would often see them staying with men who abused them, or ignored them, or didn’t love them. Reflecting on people, the only thing I think that really unites us all is a desire to be happy, or peaceful. So if divorce is just a way toward it, why is it so demonised? Why is it a threat to a 15-year-old girl who’s yet to discover her own sexuality?
Then her guy friend (who was a tad hot, ain’t gonna lie), noticed that I was the bride and started grinding on me and unbuttoning his shirt. Introspection gone. Crazy Hen’s Night back on.
Challenge five: the final challenge was getting my drunk friends home. They did not want to go home. As the Maid of Honour and myself tried to rationalise why we needed to leave, we were shouted down continuously. “NO I HAVEN’T MADE OUT WITH ANYONE YET” and “BOYS. I WANT BOYS.” Ah, that single life. Seemed so far away at that point, with my sash and tiara still in place. As challenging a challenge as it was, it was still pretty fucking funny leading the drunk, resistant and grumpy back to where we’d parked, and convincing them that I was too sick to re-park the car and return to the club while they leaned on my car, making it impossible to drive. As we hit the Harbour Bridge, I glanced in my rear-vision mirror and saw my three beautiful bridesmaids completely asleep on each other’s shoulders in my back seat, while my Maid of Honour rested her eyes next to me. Earlier in the night, I’d been able to help a friend fix a broken button on her dress by suggesting she use an earring. Crafty, right?
I might not be ready for marriage, but after this challenge I think that maybe someday I’d make a pretty good mum. How’s that for an unexpected outcome?