What I learned on a sober stag do – Humankind

What I learned on a sober stag do

Men are better company when they aren’t drinking to oblivion

Last weekend was my cousin’s stag party. We grew up together and I have seen him fumble so helplessly so often when chatting to women, I genuinely thought this occasion might never come. But come it did. Another important thing to mention is that Rob doesn’t drink.  

So that left me and Rob’s other four ushers with the unenviable task of organising a stag party without alcohol. 

The initial meetings to discuss ideas were not promising. There was a lot of, “But how does it work?” and “he might just do shots?” For the organising committee, it was very much like going through the five stages of grief. Grieving for an event we’d never anticipated and had never planned for. We had outright denied it was possible before bargaining with him and getting angry. We even became sad about it at points. But eventually, we reached the ‘acceptance’ stage and got serious. 

Without booze, it was clear the focus had to be on activities. Maybe if we keep everyone relentlessly busy, they might not even notice, we thought. So, there we were at 9am racing around the forest with paintball guns hoping not to get stung. Paintball is paintball, not much to report. 

We left at lunchtime, grabbed a burger and drove back to the campsite where we had booked raft building for the afternoon. This was a lot more fun. A chance to share ideas and bond. A chance to push the stag in the lake knowing he was sober enough not to drown. It was a real pleasure. The supporting cast of six on the stag party were mostly strangers, but you quickly get to know people when you’re paddling on a homemade raft across a lake with them. They were nice! 

After we had showered and changed, we headed to a nearby brewery. Now I know what you are thinking: it sounds like the perfect place for a piss-up. But we checked, and they had 0% alcohol beer on draught. And pizzas. So, it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

It was going well for a few hours. Lively conversations about all thing’s marriage and children. But then, at about nine, another stag party came into the venue. I suspected it was a stag do due to the fact there were 12 blokes with just one of them dressed as a nun. I later confirmed my suspicions by asking the nun. It was also clear they were not a sober stag do, and we watched on in envy as they downed endless pints of full-strength beer.  

But as our rival stag group got drunker and louder, an amazing thing happened in that our own stag do remained chatty and fun. The other group did not. I saw firsthand how the group of men opposite became rude, lewd, loud and obnoxious. And our own group remained pleasant and bubbly. We heard hilarious stories about James’ lateness issues at work and Steve’s expertly executed trips to the pub via the flower shop where he would buy his wife flowers so she couldn’t be mad at him. 

Over on the nun’s table, the nun had got up onto the table and began dancing/stumbling whilst his mates yelled and shouted at him. I watched as the bar staff rushed over to ask him to get down, and both couples and other groups left the venue. Then I watched as the nun tripped on a beer and fell right off the edge of the table. At that moment, I was very grateful I was not part of that stag party. 

But then, as I looked around my own stag do, I realised that group was my stag group. There was only one difference. I watched that nun crash from a great height onto the floor and I thought, there but for the grace of God go I. As I watched the drunken nun writhe around on the floor and assess the damage, I realised, given the right amount of booze, we are all that nun.  

Like the couples and groups before us, we left to go into the city. We visited one more pub for live music and mocktails before spending an hour dancing in a club which I had never before realised was so badly in need of a lick of paint. And that was it before we headed back to the campsite. 

The following morning something odd happened. We all woke with clear heads full of memories from the night before. Each man emerged from their tent and looked around for reassurance from the other. We were ok. This feeling was not temporary. It was like the final episode of ‘Band of Brothers’. The war had truly ended. And they could feel secure that peace had been achieved. The sun even started to break through the clouds as the birds chirped and the air smelled of freshly cut grass.  

No one had fought, or leched or cried. We had all had a genuinely nice time.

I would recommend a sober – or at least reduced alcohol – stag do to anyone. If you don’t believe me, ask the bruised nun.