Ever wonder what to get someone whose marriage has ended? Consider the gifts recently bestowed upon Mike, soon to be divorced, at his “rebachelor party.” Chinese steel balls—“a symbol of your recovered manhood,” as one chum put it. A copy of The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed by pickup artist Mystery. “Read the intro and the conclusion now and you can put it to work tonight!” quipped another buddy. A voodoo doll, given the name of Mike’s ex, which was supposed to make nagging noises when poked with straight pins. (After repeated pricks it was discovered the doll didn’t work—perhaps to weary Mike’s relief.) And a customized grey T-shirt with the words “Single again!” emblazoned in navy across the front. Amid the ruckus enthusiasm, Mike mistakenly put it on backwards. Machismo jokes ensued: “His wife used to dress him!”
Inside a masculine, wood-panelled lounge in Toronto’s financial district, replete with leather high-back chairs, antler chandelier, autographed hockey jerseys, pitchers of beer, and a moody painting of a garter-and-stockings-clad French woman in her boudoir, Mike officially celebrated his second coming into singlehood. His wife left him last summer, and since then life had been all grief and heartache. (They’d been having trouble and wanted to live in different cities.) The carousing rebachelor party was the perfect antidote—Mike had an excuse to gather with his best friends, laugh, dance and meet new people, especially women. In letting loose, he started to let go. “It provided me with a little more closure,” he says.
Mike’s not the only one realizing the benefits of such festivities. A Flickr.com photo collection called “Charles’ Rebachelor Party” documents a celebration of newfound freedom in Austin, Texas. A chef prepared conventional bachelor food with a chic twist, including truffled macaroni and cheese and gourmet versions of Twinkies. Guests bounced on an inflatable jumping gym and whacked pinatas. There was booze and lots of boogy-ing. Scattered throughout the party place were business cards and matchbooks with Charles’s telephone number and the words “Call me” scrawled on them. Not to be outdone by the opposite sex, one woman chatting online with a friend about an upcoming rebachelorette party chortled: “Wear something fabulous, go out with your girlfriends, drink cosmopolitans and flirt like a tramp.”
Parties like these are each as unique as the wedding that came before it, says Nancy Ross, a Toronto relationship therapist. But one thing is critical to their success: “This needs to be done from a place of rejoicing and self-healing, not with energy focused on the past or resentment,” she says. (Mike’s voodoo doll was given in fun, however sardonic.) “It’s not a piss-you party, it’s a yay-me party.”
Over the last few years, divorce fetes have become popular, but they sometimes have an undercurrent of vengeance. Heather Mills marked her horrendous split from Paul McCartney by taking 25 loved ones (including her makeup artist and personal trainer) on a $427,000 trip to Richard Branson’s Caribbean island, all before most of her settlement started rolling in. Mike insists there’s a difference between the two types of bashes. “A divorce party is condescending to your [former] partner,” he says, like taking pleasure in the pain of the breakup. “That’s not something to celebrate.”
Ross believes the need to mark the beginning of a new stage of life is human nature. “In various ways this has been going on for a long time,” she says. When she and her husband broke up more than 30 years ago, she and some friends lit candles and had a smudging ceremony. She thinks the recent trend toward jovial, showy parties is a more optimistic way of embracing the future. “The fun, playfulness, energy, turning the intensity from sadness into joyfulness [and] focusing on the possibilities” are positive, she says.
Mike’s rebachelor party was such a hit that one buddy piped up with a proposition: “The rebachelor party should be used as a model to expand the stag franchise!” He’d been to a few baby stags already, so why not introduce more reasons to celebrate? The group was giddy with anticipation: there could be home-buying stags, home-repossession stags, and lost-your-job stags. The possibilities were endless.
“This was a trial balloon,” says Mike about his party a week later. “In the future, I think people will be taking it a lot further.”