Sleepless nights: Dreamy slumber parties star gossip, gorging, games
By Ina Hughs
Ah, sleep. Most kids think it’s a waste of time, but mamas and poets are nuts on the subject. Mamas tell you it’s just what you need to have rosy cheeks, good grades and a place in heaven. Poets call it “Nature’s soft nurse” and a kind of “dewey-feathred” medicine. Even Shakespeare, in “Macbeth,” sees sleep as a wonder drug that “knits up the ravel’d sleave of care.”
But then, Shakespeare never went to a slumber party.
Most boys don’t. But to the average American girl, between the ages of, say, 10 and 17, slumber parties are as important as pizza, add-a-beads and Judy Blume.
Slumber parties not only unravel the sleeve of care, but also are effective at unraveling parents’ nerves, their weekly grocery budget, and their friendly relationship with neighbors on all sides.
Yet, it’s a dreamy birthday present for a 12-year-old girl. It’s kind of a pubescent rite of passage. Some people call them “sleepovers,” “spend-the-night-parties” or “pajama parties.” But a slumber party by any other name would still be as loud.
If Julius Caesar had faced an army of preteenage girls when he crossed the Rubicon, the whole of history might have been different. Like Caesar’s army, they come, they see, they conquer.
They come — in their darlingest battle garbs: Holly Hobbie nighties with lacy hoods, their brother’s football shirt, footed longjohns with the snaps in the back, flannel patchwork granny gowns. They come in a tidal wave of pillows, stuffed animals, giggles and hairbrushes, and the den floor turns into a sea of sleeping bags.
Not the outdoorsy, pea green variety from the Army-Navy stores (oh, horrors!) — but quilted, easy-zip, multicolored sleeping bags sold in the girls’ department for just this occasion. Everything from Chewbacca to Lifesavers made into a sleeping bag — so when they’re all spread out, the den looks like a Barbie-doll campsite.
They see the friends they just left two hours ago at school, but they hug and squeal like long-lost sisters. They see the bags of Doritos and Milky Ways laid out on the kitchen counter and fly into them like buzzards to their booty, crunching and munching through the whole night’s garrison of snacks before suppertime.
They see the telephone and, with hands over the receiver and shushing up those who egg them on, they play that age-old game: dial-a-victim:
“Is your refrigerator running?”
“Then you’d better go catch it!”
(The joke never gets stale, from generation unto generation.)
Slumber party time: Some of the best growing up
And, finally, they conquer. Through the night, they whisper and shout their way through earthshaking problems, everything from new hairdos to old boyfriends to middle-aged parents. They may watch their first late, late horror movie; read their first True Confession magazine, paint their toenails purple, or air some deep conviction for the first time. Through the curious mixture of ouija boards and private confidences, some of the best growing up is done snuggled down in a Snoopy sleeping bag on the den floor at 4am.
By dawn’s early light, the place ls a ghostly beachhead: the bodies lie all about, embalmed with sleep, each with a good case of laryngitis and hungover from their junk food sugar highs. The TV hums away in a blue-green test pattern, and it will take a vacuum cleaner with the heart of a Sherman tank to make its way through the popcorn hulls, pizza crust and pull tabs.
But, shhh! At last they’re asleep. Hush, hush, whisper who dares; tiptoe quietly back up the stairs…
“Hey, Mom! What’s for breakfast?”
The rite stuff
Here’s a checklist of what’s needed to throw a slumber party that will be the proper ritual for a teenage girl who is celebrating a birthday or the news that she won’t have to wear a retainer anymore. Guests can be supplied on short notice.
ONE large or semi-large den from which all breakable ashtrays, pointed-edge furniture and X-rated reading material has been removed.
TWO willing hands (at least) that can unstick sleeping bag zippers, applaud the new disco steps, and clip bubble gum out of tangled hair.
THREE times as much powdered lemonade, frozen pizza, sour cream potato chips and sliced apples spread with peanut butter as you think they can possibly, at the very most, eat in one night.
FIVE rolls of tape to put over your mouth because even the earplugs won’t keep out all the noise. Try not to forget that you’ll ruin your daughter’s life forever and ever if you shout, stomp and salivate. Besides, it won’t do any good.
SIX hours worth of games like I Doubt It, charades, Clue, scavenger hunts, balloons blown up with messages inside and Yahtzee — and don’t be surprised when they play giggle belly, human pyramid, and jump-on-the-beds instead.
SEVEN very good reasons why they can’t go out and roll someone’s yard with toilet paper.
EIGHT maids a-milking. After the pizza and the chips and the apples come the Rice Krispie Treats, and those require umpteen glasses of milk. Chocolate shakes may be required as well.
NINE double-lock doors between the family pet and your guests, because what chance does a schnauzer or a St Bernard have in the face of such dangers as pop bottles on the edge of tables and tasty little socks all lying about — not to mention the kids who may not want their faces licked or their pillows sat upon.
TEN hours of negotiated peace following the sleepless night. If necessary, fight dirty and make them clean the whole place up while you slumber.