I had to work late on the night in question, so I arrived to the stag just after 10pm. This may have been my saving grace, as the group had met earlier in the afternoon, so at time of my arrival they were well oiled. I received a very warm welcome and within a few short minutes, I had a pint of the black stuff in my hand and the conversations began …
Irish men are traditionally known to be stoic, hiders of emotion and unable to express what emotion they have. However, this was not the case on the stag. The conversations that unfolded were open and honest, there was nothing hidden or held back. These men were affectionate to each other, albeit with a good dose of slagging in the mix. What was evident from this was the inherent trust that existed between the men.
I was enjoying myself, the black stuff was good and the conversation was mighty. One of the men felt it was time to do shots! He asked me what shots we should get? Both of us felt very old in that moment, as neither of us knew what shots were in vogue as they say. “I haven’t a clue what to order, the last shots that I did were Slippery Nipples … or were they Baby Guinness? Ask the bar man what shots are in at the moment” I said. I continued on chatting and drinking. The shots arrived; he had gone for a traditional choice – Sambuca. We cheered and toasted as we drank back the sticky liquorice alcohol.
Soon the conversation moved to “what are we doing next?” There were many jestful suggestions from the men:
“Lets go to a casino-strip club” ... “Do they have casino strip-clubs in Ireland?” ... "Let's do a line of coke"
“Lets get a tattoo” … “Yeah let’s get a tattoo” ... "No lets get a line of coke tattooed into us!”
In the end we very happily settled for heading to a different pub around the corner and having another pint! At this stage we were all successfully talking rings around ourselves, and the manly displays of affection were becoming more frequent and overt. Group hugs and man cuddles were dished out. One of the men, who had consumed more than a few alcoholic drinks, was dancing in what can be only described as an interpretive style and he was receiving attention from many women. Note I just said attention … it was not necessarily good!
Having filled our bellies with more beer that question came up again … “What are we doing next?” With general consensus achieved we stumbled into a taxi and headed further in to the city centre. The taxi ride was interesting to say the least. We lost a few good men along the way but eventually arrived at our next destination. What then unfolded was a continuation of the conversations that took place earlier, maybe with a little more depth, or maybe it was just repetition?
My stag experience was fun and interesting. It was a lot less wild than I imagined, it was a night like any other really. However, there was depth to it, an additional layer of meaning in the interactions that took place during the night. It was both a celebration and a farewell. The stag himself may have been teased and made fun of, but there was an over-riding sense of affection between the men and a closeness that would not have been evident in a normal night out. Some of the men told each other how much they meant to each other, and although the big “L” word was never mentioned, other expressions were uttered, such as “I’d die for him and he would die for me”.
One observation that struck me, relates to the affection and emotion between the men on the stag. Although affection and emotional expressions were evident throughout my time at the stag party, I wonder would these have occurred without the lubrication of alcohol? I believe not and this suggests to me that stoicism remains entrenched within some men’s constructs of masculinity. In Ireland, alcohol provides “legitimate” means for men to express emotion and affection. However, it’s a pity the cloak of alcohol is necessary for this to take place in the first instance.
None-the-less, the stag party is a significant ritual and life event. It brings men together and irrespective of the means, provides an opportunity to display affection, and reaffirm bonds and friendship. It is an important narrative in the wedding process. Although alcohol is deeply entwined in the stag ritual, however, it is by no means the most significant part. Equally as important the men spoke about the other things they had done as part of the main stag event; they ate together, bantered, talked and played many sports.
Unfortunately my time at the little stag had come to an end, the boss was on the way into town to collect me. So, with a take-away pint of Guinness in hand, I bade the men farewell and I took flight up through the bustling streets to find my carriage home! My first stag may have only been a little stag and may well have been tame in comparison to others. There were no facial tattoos, no strange little monkeys, dodgy drugs or tigers in the bathroom; only a group of men drinking and chatting, doing dodgy dance moves, singing favourite jingles and sharing sneaky cigarettes in the beer garden! But say nothing to no body about the sneaky cigarettes because .... what happens on the stag, stays on the stag … unless, of course you are writing a blog about it!
© Clay Darcy, June 2014