On a sticky-hot August evening in Salina Cruz, my friend Joanne and I step into Doña Teo’s living room.
Lately the meeting place for a prayer group, it’s now decorated in my honor, with red-and-white foam cutouts of lingerie and hearts, and an impressively realistic pantyhose penis, complete with pubic hair, resting on top of a cake.
Of course I’m not supposed to know, or let on that I know, just how realistic it is. The ostensible idea behind the Mexican despedida de soltera, or “farewell to the single girl”, is that the bride-to-be is an innocent virgin who requires a non-threatening introduction to the male anatomy, lest she be terrified on her wedding night.
The thirty or so women who brave the heat to attend the party don’t much care about that, though. I only know six of them personally; the rest aren’t here so much to ease my transition into married life as to spend an evening laughing their asses off about the organ, and the act, that may or may not be cause for laughter in the privacy of their own homes.
Doña Teo pushes margaritas into our hands and Joanne as I concentrate on getting as drunk as possible. One of Doña Teo’s wild daughters pins a sequin-adorned scrub-pad to my shirt, which marks me as the bride-(and dish scrubber)-to-be. My soon-to-be mother-in-law, Doña Charo, is working away in the kitchen, but waves at us encouragingly now and then.
The games kick off with a banana-eating contest. The banana must be consumed both sensuously and quickly. There are five contestants. A skinny woman in an embroidered blouse dances around a pillar in the middle of the room, shaking her hips.
My sister-in-law-to-be is embarrassed at first, then gets into it—she’s not married and I’m vaguely surprised that she’s chosen to participate. (A few months later, the first family crisis of my marriage will involve her surprise pregnancy.)
The inflate-the-condom-without-popping-it game is next, and then a confusing word game which Joanne and I manage to win without really understanding what’s going on. At the end of each game, I am required to stand up, scrub-pad dangling from my chest, and present the winner with her prize: an elaborately wrapped Tupperware container.
Just as Doña Charo begins dishing up the food, Doña Teo’s daughters pull me out of my chair and usher me upstairs, where women in various stages of undress are complaining about the heat and putting on costumes. Another pantyhose penis, this one as long as my arm, sits on the bed.
Before I know it, I’m stripped to my underwear and a wedding dress is pulled over my head. It won’t button up in back but ni modo.
One large woman, dressed as a priest, is painting a beard on her face. Doña Teo’s daughter Mari is wearing a suit jacket and is strapping the huge penis to her waist. Her other daughter is doing something painful to my hair, trying to get the veil to stay on. Another woman stuffs a pregnant pillow-belly under her dress.
Suddenly the wedding march is playing and we’re descending the stairs. Mari waves her penis about wildly to the cheers and whistles of the guests. The priest chants dirty blessings. At frequently intervals I’m required to hold or stroke the penis.
The woman with the pregnant belly rushes in and accuses the groom of knocking her up. Mari swears to me that she’s never seen this woman before, then turns around and winks at the crowd, shakes her hips to make the penis wag. “Do you believe me?” she asks. I’m at a loss, but: “Sí, mi amor,” I tell her, making a simpering face.
When the “ceremony” is over, Mari and I dance, while the rest of the women call out instructions: “Kiss it! Hold it! Touch it!” they yell, and I oblige. When they cut in to dance with me, they bear a tequila-filled clay penis which they hold to my mouth, tipping my head back until my neck aches.
After I cut the cake (and, of course, pay appropriate attention to the penis that adorns it), the ladies begin saying goodbye. I open the presents: a tiny red thong, an electric mixer, two sets of juice glasses, sequined teal pajamas, a ceramic duck with a rather obvious seam down the middle where it broke and was super-glued back together.
Doña Teo tells us about her wedding night: how frightened she was, even though she married for love, how her mother-in-law pounded on the bedroom door until they were able to pass her the blood-stained sheet, the proof of virginity.
Photo: Joanne O’Sullivan
As Doña Charo herds Joanne and I home through the warm, salty night, I think fuzzily how I’ve been introduced to more than the male anatomy tonight.
Through a tequila haze, I picture myself married, wearing nothing but a red thong, mixing cake batter with one hand and stroking a man-sized, disembodied penis with the other, while dirty Tupperware spawns in the sink and pregnant, barefoot women bang on the windows, demanding paternity tests.