You haven’t really bonded with your girls until you’ve spent 15 minutes trying to help your best friend out of her pants.

Over the years, we’ve all spent thousands of dollars on events. Tickets to grant us admission to concerts and conventions and galas galore. Flights to send us to the destinations where we can put these tickets to use. Cabs to ferry us to and from venues. Outfits to reduce or add curves, as and when necessary.

But at the end of the day, what do you remember most from the long weekend you wasted in some godforsaken suburb of Atlanta attending the wedding of the neighbor of your third cousin twice removed? Probably the mad dash you made through the hotel lobby in your sweats when you rolled in from the salon just as the guests started arriving.

There’s an electricity that flows throughout an apartment or hotel room when its inhabitants are in the throes of a grooming frenzy. Straightening irons, camisoles, hair pins, purses, earrings, and lip liners explode into an unholy tempest, commingling across every conceivable surface – and new outfits and combinations are borne from the wreckage. One girl’s daytime belt becomes another girl’s nighttime scarf. A necklace someone else wore the previous afternoon might become the clincher on the next night’s evening look. Bracelets and earrings are mixed and matched, and crafting each individual ensemble becomes a group effort. I’ve had Ridaa handle my makeup, Farhina control my hair, Raafia manage my accessories, and Nazia critique the proceedings, all at the same time.

And amid this whirlwind of aesthetic activity, some of the best memories are conceived. Launching a rescue mission with two others to extricate Ridaa from her too-tight pants? Surreal. Beating Shyema with a pillowcase to dust off the glittery powder she managed to explode all over her new skinny jeans? Hysterical. Raafia getting trapped in her shirt? Typical. Farhina exasperatedly complaining, “I can’t believe you don’t have a full-length mirror in your apartment!” while standing right in front of one? Classic.

Leave it to girls to make a production out of preparation. When we cover up for religious functions, we spend more time styling our headscarves than we would doing our actual hair. Guys get together on a Sunday afternoon to eat nachos and watch football; my roommate Karishma and I hosted a Body Shop party where we served mini quiches and fruity mocktails while pampering ourselves with sweet-smelling products. It’s about time someone made getting ready the main event.

My usual hair-and-makeup routine typically takes me a grand total of 10 minutes, whether I’m going to work or a wedding. But when I’m prepping for a party with a gaggle of giggling girlfriends in my room? Forget it. Shakira pumps through my weak laptop speakers, random tidbits of gossip float through the air, and impromptu lessons in makeup artistry are taught by the more gifted beautifiers among us. The Zerobridge concert was a blast – but learning beforehand that applying light eyeshadow to your inner eye makes you look more awake was invaluable. (Thanks, Tina!)

Once the pre-party primping process is complete and the compliments are exchanged with overzealous enthusiasm, it’s time to take pictures to document the results. Determining which unlucky soul has to play photographer may seem a virtually insurmountable challenge – but the task becomes much easier when you have a poor bored male friend waiting impatiently in the living room that you can put to good use. Snippets of “Oh you look so hot” and “No way, you look way hotter!” are traded in between the blinding flashes of light. After everyone unleashes spritzes of diverse perfumes – leaving my room smelling like an interesting mélange of gardenia-jasmine-vanilla-potpourri-God-knows-what – we’re ready to head out.

Sorry, fellas – by the time you see us that night, the party’s practically over, as far as we’re concerned. At the end of the day, getting ready with your girls is about much more than mere cosmetic enhancement en masse. It’s a social activity, a rite of passage that unites millions of women across the world. I may not have much in common with an Estonian shepherdess with a propensity for hypochondriac delusions and an unrivaled gift for yodeling, but rest assured when she gets pretty for the town goat-milking competition with her girlfriends, she’s having just as much fun as I am prepping for a night out in New York City.

Because whether you’re headed to a tea party or to a ritualistic sacrifice at satan’s altar, all girls share the same outlook: Getting ready is half the fun.