Joys of Modern Life: 50. stag nights

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The Independent Culture
LIKE THE Tower of London, pigeons in Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, the sight of 20 boozy blokes lurching arm-in-arm from bar to bar is a quintessentially British sight and one of which we should be proud.

The stag night provides spectacle and entertainment for all, not just those downing pints in record time and behaving badly in a tandoori house. The hapless fellow secured to a lamppost with clingfilm, completely naked, is selflessly providing fun and photo-opportunities for tourists, who can return home with snaps illustrating the charming eccentricities of British life. Indeed, the stag night can provide entertainment for millions, with celebrity anecdotes gleefully retold in the tabloids. Look at Mark Bosnich - Manchester United's new goalkeeper - who found himself in custody after an alleged incident at a lap-dancing club in Birmingham, days after signing with the club and hours before his wedding.

You might think that it's just a piss-up but, in fact, the stag night is an important rite of passage, a landmark passed on the journey through the seven stages of man (although one that Shakespeare, inexplicably, seems to have missed). On waking the morning after, mouth furred and clothes ruined, the celebrant knows it is time to put aside these childish things and assume the weighty mantle of new responsibility.

At a time when experts warn that men are increasingly isolated from any sense of community, the celebrations provide a vital link to our feelings of masculinity. It endorses our very sense of worth, and is a fine way to counter intimations of pre-millennial futility. Is there not a place in our increasingly effete society for a bit of blokey fun?

A vital part of the warp and weft of the culture, the stag night is as much a badge of national identity as John Major's old maids on bikes, cricket and warm beer. There will be those who say the stag-night escapade is one of those ceremonies which, like Trooping the Colour or voting in European elections, is past its best-by date. Largely drained of meaning, it is increasingly the stuff of urban myth, the groom waking, penniless and naked, on the Isle of Man, hours before his wedding in Woking. But how wrong they are.

The reality is that stag nights are vital for a healthy economy. Think about the number of men getting married each year. Estimate that each groom-to-be waves a fond goodbye to his bachelor days with a few drinks, multiply that by 10 or 20 to include his mates, and then add the price of a curry and a cab home for each participant - that must represent a significant chunk of GNP, an economic boost for pubs, lap-dancing establishments and minicab firms.

Most importantly, the stag night is good, clean fun (well, clean-ish). What better excuse for the pints, the novelty cocktails, the chicken tikka masala (and then the head down the toilet)? We wouldn't have it any other way.

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