September 11, 2014 by Bill Johnson
A TIME correspondent tries out San Francisco’s latest startup for her bachelorette party and finds answers to the male stripper problem
The last bachelorette party I went to was just great, full of lighthearted reminiscing and champagne-guzzling—until the strippers arrived. We only ordered one and two showed up, insisting on being paid in cash. The sight of them “getting ready” in the bathroom traumatized one poor lady. And then the two of them proceeded to get so naked and so up in our faces that one attendee started yelling, “I’m Catholic! I’m Catholic!” Visions of their gyrations and motorboating lingered in the house after they left, like a really inappropriate poltergeist.
So when my maid of honor started asking about what I wanted for my own bachelorette party a few months ago, I immediately said “No strippers,” and not in the coy way someone insists they you reallyshouldn’t get them anything for their birthday. I did not want to see a penis on so much as a straw, let alone a human. And yet, there seemed to be some element missing, an equalizer for the strippers my fiancé would be “forced” to ogle by his groomsmen, and some tangible symbol of the some 3.5 billion men I would be forsaking from this day forward.
Within a certain diameter of Silicon Valley, there really is a startup for everything. This one, founded by former advertising copywriters Josephine Wai Lin and Dalal Khajah, promises a bespoke experience wherein a handsome gentleman waits on you, adores you, and responds gratefully to your every whim. With his pants on. I contacted the ladies behind the venture and they agreed to provide me with a sample ahead of their September launch. (Ordinarily they cost between about $90 and $125 per hour.)
The first step was to build him, kind of like those nerds in Weird Science. You get to pick his name, his wardrobe and his “special skills,” as well as outline tasks he should be prepared to complete with aplomb. My fiancé jokingly said we should call him Spartacus (after Hank Azaria’s character in The Birdcage), and much to his chagrin, the name stuck. I then canvassed the seven ladies attending about what they would like Spartacus to wear and what his special skills should be. It was generally agreed that Spartacus should be of the dapper “tall, dark and handsome” ilk with “soul-penetrating eyes” and “big hands.” Much more interesting, and much harder for the service to fulfill, was the skill set that resulted from everyone’s input. Here is just a selection of their requests:
- Mixology/ the ability to order just the right drink when girls say, “Oh, I don’t know. Just make me something good”
- Funny, but never at the expense of one of the ladies
- Foot massaging
- Can and will lift heavy things from time to time
- Enormous flirt but only with approved ladies
- Will point out flaws of ladies who are not in group
- Articulate, able to quote apt poetry
- Good knowledge of Texas Hold ‘Em
- Carry a giant leaf over the bride as we walk around San Francisco and tell people “No, photos please” when they stare
- Serenade the bride in a public place, loudly, even though she will act humiliated
- Propose to the bride so she can politely refuse him
- Surprise us with feats of derring-do
Based on our requests we were sent three “casting options,” which included descriptions and headshots of the ManServants. My betrothed, lying in bed with me when the menu arrived, was none too thrilled with how thrilled I was to be picking and choosing. Afterward I asked him what he was thinking: “When a ‘catalogue’ of servants appeared I wondered what criteria the choice would be made by. I was hoping that singing ability and not pecs would win out. On the other hand, what would that say about me?”
The idea of a stripper, it seemed, was in some ways more comfortable, because it was a million miles away from how I interact with him. Being a stripper, he says, is more “emasculating.” It also invites no comparisons, or at least none that aren’t entirely superficial. And I get it. I wouldn’t be worried about him eloping with Sprinkles the stripper. But if he custom-ordered a woman who could bake and do ballet, a beautiful model with perfect breasts and rapier wit, I’d lose my marbles a bit.
Read more: My Glorious Evening With a ManServant