With an unsteady hand, I poured equal parts vodka and cranberry juice into an empty water bottle over the sink in my apartment. This was not typical behaviour for me, at least not since I’d been eighteen years old. But desperate times call for desperate measures. In this case, the desperation stemmed from the fact that I had a party to attend that evening. A bachelorette party. Where I only knew the bride-to-be through one of my closest male friends. My anxiety was through the roof.
I ordered an Uber pool for the first time in my life that evening. I had gotten ready to quickly and waiting at home would just drive me nuts. With my vodka bottle tucked in my coat pocket, I got into my ride and mentally prepared to socialize with a gaggle of females. The most scrutinizing species known to man.
A few minutes into my Uber trip, a passenger named Nora was added to the journey. We detoured down a side street to go and pick her up. We pulled in front of a grocery store, but Nora was not at the prearranged meeting point. We waited. And waited. Finally, a young couple swung open the car door and scooted into the backseat beside me. Nora sat in the middle between her boyfriend and me.
They were fighting. I peered out my window trying to go unnoticed. Inconspicuously sipping from my bottle, I listened keenly to their argument. At first, they tried to keep their voices low. But when Nora nearly jumped out of her seat to lunge across her boyfriend’s lap and grab his cellphone out of his hands, he yelled out first. “What is your problem!”
The driver stared straight ahead. Nora’s left leg pressed against mine and I squeezed closer to the door. She demanded, “but who even is this bitch! Why.are.you.even.messaging.her!!”
“She’s no one!” He protested, attempting to retrieve his phone, which Nora held out of reach, over my lap. Sip. I peeked sideways, over my shoulder to see his phone too.
“You know what?!” Nora noticed suddenly, opening up the girl in question’s What’s App picture and zooming in on her face. She sat quietly for a second analyzing her face before declaring, “she’s not even pretty!”
“I know!” The boyfriend agreed.
Nora wasn’t satisfied. She turned her attention to me now, despite me attempts at invisibility. Sip. “Excuse me. Is this girl hotter than I am?”
“No way,” I responded in solidarity without even glancing at the phone. I was enough of a girl myself to recognize that it wasn’t about the girl on the phone. She could have been anyone. She could have been me. No, the real issue here was Nora’s self-esteem. And potentially to a lesser degree, her boyfriend’s fidelity, though it didn’t quite sound like this was the case.
“Nora, you’re the hottest girl I’ve ever seen.” Her boyfriend told her, which for no logical reason dug just slightly at my own self-esteem. But Nora was satisfied. They proceeded to make out for the rest of the car ride. They were dropped off a few blocks south.
Due to the couple’s initial tardiness and some road closures, I ended up being 15 minutes late for the dinner portion of the bachelorette party. Damnit. I knew the bride despised tardiness. I rushed down Olde Street chugging the rest of bottle. I took a deep breath before entering the restaurant.
“Alexis!” The bachelorette greeted me as I approached the table. She sat at the center of an oval booth wearing a pink boa around her neck. “You look… pretty.”
Taken aback, I tugged self-consciously on my new black sweater. Her sweet words were accusing. Defensive. Was she surprised I looked pretty? Had she not wanted me to look pretty? Had she substituted “pretty” with an antonym?
“Thanks, you too.” I smiled brightly. I tried not to overthink her comment. Maybe she just meant what she said. I meant what I said. She did look pretty. Her hair was longer than usual, and she was wearing it down, when she typically wore it in a ponytail. I wondered if she too had a tornado of clothes in her bedroom because she had changed her outfit 25 times because she felt fat in every single one. If she had had to run to a local drugstore and buy a new kind of concealer in a desperate attempt to fix her face. Plus a new necklace and earrings to look fancy. I wondered if the thought of spending an entire evening with other women terrified her as well? Probably not. These were her friends, after all.
Dinner was great. It quickly became clear that the other girls in attendance were actually really cool and nice. I slowly started to warm up to my companions. After dinner, we spent two hours in a small room lit up by disco balls screaming along to some of the best 90s pop songs ever recorded. We covered everything from Spice Girls to Celine Dion to Destiny’s Child. I had a blast.
Following karaoke, we ended up at a dive bar across the street. After a few rounds of drinks the bride’s friends started to dissipate. Soon, it was just me and the maid of honour left with her at the table. I was exhausted. Ready to call it a night. But there was something about the way the bachelorette insisted that she was okay with ending the night right then made it evident that she wasn’t okay with it. We ordered another round of drinks.
“Guys,” the bride said as she sipped her latest margarita. Her tone was a genuine blend of excitement and apprehension. “I’m getting married in a week! I’m going to be someone’s wife!”
In that moment, I’ve never seen Aiko look more beautiful. No guessing her emotions now, her face was flushed and totally transparent. She was radiating happiness and a vulnerability that she normally worked so hard to keep shielded. Her glossy eyes were lit up with joy and fear and love.
We ended up staying at the bar until last call, the three of us drunkenly discussing marriage, love, kids, religion and boys. I felt a closeness with these women incomparable to anything I’ve ever felt with any of my male friends, her fiancé included. Something about the high levels of booze and estrogen taught me a lesson that night:
When women realize that we don’t constantly have to be in competition with each other, that’s when we’ll take over the world.