Do young men really need me to show them how to misbehave?

I’ve been invited to a bucks’ party and I’m deathly afraid. I’m afraid I’ll revert, for one special evening, to the person I once was on those faraway nights of binge and exuberance when we broke laws, bones and bonds, nights when damage was fun and we played hymns on police sirens as if they were church organs. God, they were terrible times.

A bucks’ party is such an anachronism it’s like being invited to a hanging, or to tour the Playboy mansion wearing a silk dressing gown before an evening of fondue and slides. Will there be strippers? (Are there still strippers? Or have they gone the way of wheelwrights?)

The bucks’ party is a time-honoured if tired tradition.Credit:iStock

It occurs to me I’ve been invited to this bender as a type of mentor, and as guarantee that the day lives up to its loathsome potential. Does my godson, the buck, see me as a senescent guru of monkey business? Probably. “Better invite Uncle Anson, there’s a chance this thing won’t go off the rails without him.” Damn, is it still up to me to show young men how to misbehave? Perhaps the young (minding their Ps and Qs and patting themselves down for unconscious biases) need guidance in the awful freedoms we took for granted in the days when the bucks’ party was life’s most dangerous celebration.

The shtick is that marriage equals prison and a bucks’ night approximates a kind of pre-sentence spree – a lavish last meal before they strap you to the wheel of matrimony. But I know a young guy who recently went to a bucks’ party at a winery in the Yarra Valley and at the next table was a party of eight-year-old girls wearing jodhpurs. Pony club had just finished and they were sucking down smoothies while blurting anthropomorphisms about Trixy and Painter and Marigold. Some last wild ride that turned out to be for the groom, swapping horsey tales with a sugared-up pony club.

I’ve been to bucks’ parties last century that are best left there, forgotten, along with the wars and diseases at which that millennium excelled.

My own was held at Lynch’s restaurant in Domain Road – an unhappy choice. The place was filled with Toorak matrons schmoozing their landscapers, sucking caviar and cocaine through little straws, all of them totally unprepared for the war we were about to wage on ourselves and the wounds we’d inflict. A brother-in-law spiked my drinks and I joined the fallen in the ladies’ loo before the entree. Many pioneers of the boob job had to wade through my blood to have a tinkle (it’s the sound of Toorak urine) that night. I got married with stitches in my face, ingloriously disfigured by Lynch’s sanitary napkin disposal unit. No one’s proud of that. The evening slid into a dumpster so fast it’s not even a story we can tell for a laugh. Why do men enjoy reducing their friends to idiocy?

I fear some vestige of pride will take hold of me and force me into a role I haven’t played for decades. I’m worried I’ll feel the need to show young men how to fully commit to base conduct. There is a dark glamour in outre behaviour that exists yet, in spite of the zeitgeist, and boys/men still compete to be the titleholder. After an hour’s beer am I prepared to sit back and let some sockless Millennial take the title? I hope so. But the Camerons aren’t good at letting someone else be the alpha danger clown in the house.

At one bucks’ night in Chinatown, my brother, sensing an unwelcome encroachment of decorousness in himself, jumped out an open window three storeys up and caught onto a lamppost and shinnied down. This was proper bucks’ party behaviour circa 1970, but it was many decades after that and he was 45, still holding a merlot when he got to the footpath. It was not only risky, it left the young things who had been going proudly berserk dropping their pants and dancing to Eagle Rock feeling like they’d let the groom down.

In truth, nothing’s as banal as young men feeling the brotherly obligation to be wild young men together. Unless it’s old men trying to eclipse young men’s barbarity using flashbacks from foolish times. Bucks’ parties are a ridiculous vestige of an age that stank, and when this one starts to kick off I will sneak away into the night. I will not let pride draw me back into bygone bedlams. I will not.

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