When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough of sleepovers at my friends’ houses. I was always grasping for invitations, saying that I had no plans on Friday night, did she? Saying, after the movie, it’ll be so late, why don’t I just stay at your place? It was obvious: I was annoying.
Sleepovers were an obsession that I can’t entirely understand anymore in my adulthood. Then, sleepovers were something of a heady drug for me. If I could get someone to invite me over to a friend's house for a sleepover, then I was on high. It’s still strange to me that I would be so forward, that I would be so addicted to something so typical and kid-like. It was one of the only times of my life where I can remember being so engrossed with being popular and fitting in with the cool kids.
Sleepovers became my default weekend activity. I had a little bag in which I kept a spare toothbrush and mini-sized shampoo and conditioners so that I wouldn’t have to pack and repack for the next weekend. By the time we reached the fifth grade, we usually slept on each others’ couches, rather than in kid-like sleeping bags, if we slept at all, so I kept my Lion King sleeping bag rolled in a bundle in my closet.
There’s something timeless about sleepovers, though, and I’m sure that the ones that I went to were the same as my mother’s and my daughter’s will be the same as mine. The purpose of them seemed to be to stay up as long as possible, to eat a lot of snacks and freak each other out. My friend Julie was tough and scarier than the other girls in our class, so at sleepovers at her house we pulled out the Ouija board and contacted our new boyfriends from beyond the grave. At my friend Caroline’s house, we would play Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board and lift our 90-pound friends into the air with only our fingertips.
We also liked to pretend that we weren’t freaked out by growing up, at the expanding and changing expectations that were going to be forced upon us. We’d stay up late, turn the TV down low and surreptitiously turn on Cinemax—Skin-a-max, we called it—and see boobs and kissing, men and women, and be simultaneously titillated and nervous. I knew that I could never do any of those things; it was impossible to think that I would, but somewhere, I guess I knew it would come in some form.
Sleepovers were a bit of taboo, a bit of fantasy. They were like booze to me at age eleven.