Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t really have to fight for our right to party in this day and age, or at least women don’t anyway since, as Shania Twain pointed out long ago, the best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun. What happens though when your own personal autonomy is removed from the equation and the choice to party is taken out of your hands entirely and becomes a resolute command? The concept of “fun” is perverted beyond all recognition until it is reborn as a synonym for misery and despair.

I recently went on my first ever hen weekend and wonder if perhaps one of the worst thing about being a woman, alongside glass-ceilings and the Madonna/whore dichotomy, is the obligation to attend such events which, according to studies carried out by me, are proven to have direct links to wishing you were dead.



Preparation for The Hen (the addition of any elucidatory noun such as “night”, “weekend”, or “party” tends to be considered superfluous I discovered) began many weeks before the event as friends of the Hen (the bride-to-be, not the event itself) jostled for the role of chief organiser. This position eventually went to a self-proclaimed “veteran attendee and planner of Hen nights” who kindly offered her services to help arrange this one.

In retrospect of course I can see that the term “veteran”, what with its allusions to active combat, should really have set alarm bells ringing. Unfortunately, as a novice I wasn’t so quick at deciphering the cryptic clues she was leaving for the rest of us, signalling that she was most definitely the master and commander of this delicate and complex operation, and that if anyone else should dare to interfere, say, by asking if maybe we could please go to the toilet, she would blow our fucking legs off. Her coded warnings that the only way we’d ever get to walk down the aisle ourselves on our own special day would be on titanium alloy like Lieutenant Dan, are so clear to me now, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Fast-forward eight weeks, dozens of emails, phone conversations and house-calls, not to mention several spreadsheets and bank transfers later, the plans had been finalized, and after various draft versions our valiant leader distributed the definitive itinerary of the weekend to all involved. She had pretty much everything covered and helpfully included a timeline outlining every movement she anticipated we’d make and a contingency plan too, e.g. after dinner on Friday night we were instructed to: “Walk home along beach, observe lovely sunset. If raining – cabs.”

The Hen had arrived! Participants expressed various levels of enthusiasm towards the weekend’s activities which were meticulously documented on camera on a minute to minute basis mostly by a woman who claimed to work in recruitment but who I assume was also moonlighting as a professional photographer judging by the way she feverishly snapped away. She demonstrated great versatility proving herself to be a skilful landscape photographer, as her collection of close-up shots of pebbles illustrated, in addition to her flair for portraiture. She even shared some of her insider tips with us, and explained how to imitate her own signature technique which involved holding the camera at arms length above ones head and pointing the lens sharply downwards at ones subject. This, she insisted, is such a flattering angle and always makes subjects look fantastic.

The results were delightful: distorted shots of us all with giant heads and teensy bodies. We actually bore a remarkable resemblance to those people in Oxfam’s appeals for just two pounds a month, except that instead of joyfully tucking into a feast of plumpy’nut and clean water from the well that donations helped to build, the photos capture us waving around fistfuls of savoury biscuits with salmon pate and plastic cups of M&S Cava.

Each shot was inevitably followed by a clustering of women around the camera and the exclamation “That so has to be your new profile picture!” This was great fun as was the hour-long game of wedding themed charades we played which featured a diverse range of films such as The Wedding Singer, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Runaway Bride, Father of the Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and so on. We also enjoyed an 80’s themed night out on the tiles even though my idea to dress up as Barrack Obama wasn’t as well-received as I would have hoped. However, the highlight of the weekend for me was undoubtedly when one of our supreme leader’s panic-stricken subordinates realized she had left the specially customized Hen T-shirts behind. Consequentially, she took a 05:30 train from Brighton to London in order to retrieve them and return before the Hen awoke so as to avoid arousing her suspicions, such was her dedication to the cause.

I’d like to say that I learnt some kind of life lesson from the experience and I suppose it has made me stronger in a way: having danced my way through Sister Sledge’s We are Family, Lipps Inc’s Funky Town, Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes the Hotstepper plus many many more, all with a massive shit-eating grin on my face I now feel like I can take on the world. However, I fear the existence of sinister and malevolent forces at work: rather like Winston Smith who eventually comes to truly love Big Brother, I too feel myself beginning to capitulate. I am haunted by the Hen and actively seek out and genuinely enjoy tracks from the weekend so that now, even as I type, I find myself humming along to Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” and tapping my foot to the beat.