My fiancé's bachelor party forced me to learn a hard lesson about relationships.
Being the modern, liberated, well-educated woman I am, I never thought I would mind the man in my life going to a strip club. Years ago, I would even occasionally join my guy friends for an evening at a gentlemen's club. It meant free cocktails all night, and have you ever seen the ladies' room at a strip club? The restrooms are girly bonanzas that range between the cosmetics aisle at a drug store to a miniature Sephora. Plus, strippers on their bathroom breaks have the best gossip.
Fast-forward to 2008—the year I got married. As bachelor party talk began, it never occurred to me that a strip club might come into play. In the three years I'd been dating my fiancé, he'd never been to one, so I just didn't consider it. I've known plenty of women who have "forbidden" their husbands from seeing exotic dancers, but I didn't think my fiancé needed another mother. The strip club conversation simply never had a place in my relationship lexicon.
A week before our wedding, the least-planned bachelor party known to man had finally arrived. The event was on the books for six months, yet the groomsmen waited until they got in the car to decide where they were going. That's when I got the "Strip Club Call." My future husband was going to spend the evening surrounded by scantily clad women with enormous breasts; he might get a lap dance; he would for sure be looking at naked women all night, just as he was about to marry me.
And, suddenly, I was furious. My head was reeling, but I tried to express my distaste as serenely as possible, which resulted in the overly calm voice that in horror movies indicates possession by an evil force. The conversation went something like this:
"Wait, you're upset? You never told me I couldn't go!" (Maybe he does need another mother). "But the guys have it all planned out!" (A plan they made five minutes ago).
"I can't tell them to change the plan!" (Sure you can: "Guys, I think it's pretty disrespectful to Emily if I to go to a strip club a week before our wedding.")
The whole time I was creepily calm.
He went to the strip club.
Meanwhile, I went to my girls. It took calls to several of my bridesmaids that night for me to work through how I felt. I've always been confident in my looks, but suddenly this event shook my assurance. Is there something he wants to see that I don't have? I was also mad at my stereotypical reaction. I felt like a cliché that you see on those horrible wedding reality shows. The fiancé makes a fool of himself by "acting like a man" at his bachelor party, and when his bride finds out, she makes a fool of herself by screaming and lunging at him. You always wonder, "Why are these two even getting married? They have no respect for each other." Were we no better than that?
Then it came to me: We were better than that. We had a tremendous amount of respect for each other, and I had simply dropped the ball on communicating. I hadn't taken the time to examine my feelings, or express them to my future husband (a good habit to have when committing to spend the rest of your life with someone).
The next day, the defense for Team Man was working overtime: "We just talked and drank! No one even got a lap dance. We might as well have been at a bar!"
"Then why didn't you just go to a bar?" Zing! That's 150 points for the double X-chromosome.
Holding his party at a strip club suggested he needed one last hurrah before we got married, and it offended me. I thought our marriage was one long hurrah—something we looked forward to, not something from which we needed a reprieve.
Sure it's idealistic, but if you can't afford some idealism the week before you get married, when can you? The strip club wasn't the issue; it was the timing of the visit that bothered me. So when he promised to never go again, I could honestly say I wouldn't care if he did. We'd already be married during that next visit; it wouldn't be a statement about our impending union.
I learned the hard way how important it is that I'm fully aware of my feelings. Just because I didn't have a problem with strip clubs when I was young and single didn't mean that I wouldn't find a visit to one disrespectful and hurtful the week before my wedding. More importantly, no matter how good your relationship is, the guy you're with can't know how you feel if you don't tell him!
I've put my "strip club" lesson to good use in my marriage. From the mundane, "When I'm under deadline, the noise of the television is very distracting," to the more significant, "Sure my family's crazy, but you're not allowed to say they are." When I tell him how I feel, my husband is quite good at respecting those feelings. So perhaps I have to thank my husband for his pre-wedding faux pas!