Dabbling In the Occult and Other Things I Learned How to Do At Slumber Parties
At some point in the lives of most pre-adolescent girls, there is presented an opportunity to leave home with nary but a sleeping bag and a Caboodles box full of cheap cosmetics and show up at the door of a friend, classmate, or fellow Girl Scout troop member with the expectation that you will not leave this other home, this place where you do not live or know that weird trick to get the toilet to flush, until the next morning. Other girls you know from similar social or educational environments will also attend, and for the next several hours until the first of you falls asleep and is mocked for doing so until the last of you falls asleep, terrified at the sounds of this unfamiliar house and thoughts of what is waiting in its closets, you will face this bonding experience together.
This is called a slumber party.
Slumber parties are different from sleepovers because while a sleepover can be just one friend staying over at another friend’s house, a slumber party involves multiple guests as well as one or more parents who wishes everyone would just leave them the hell alone with a glass of wine, already. It’s usually done for someone’s birthday or other big event (I’m thinking Catholic stuff like a First Communion or Confirmation, but maybe some girls get them for their first periods, I dunno). Everyone shows up, you eat garbagey food like pizza rolls or crab Rangoon, you eventually fall asleep, and you wake up the next morning before anyone else, breathing shallowly and wondering how long this is going to take, and then someone shows up to drive you home.
The slumber party is an important rite of passage as well as a valuable educational experience, and here are some of the things I learned how to do at them:
Practice the Occult
Probably the biggest part of slumber parties was pretending to worship the Devil and get Him to do your bidding, and historically, what better way to accomplish this than with a group of hormonally-charged females? It was at slumber parties that I felt bold enough to experiment with Bloody Mary, Ouija boards, tarot cards, and playing Light As a Feather, Stiff As a Board. Keep in mind that I am old as hell so this was in the pre-Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. No one had any idea what would happen if we started dicking around with Other Side. Could these games possibly backfire and open a portal to the netherworld? Maybe. But my odds were better at a slumber party, because not even Lucifer Himself could possibly drag all of us back to Hell.
The best part about playing occult games during slumber parties was finding out which of the girls from your class were brave and which ones were huge scaredy cats (I’m looking at you, Christy W. who had a freakout about monsters in the closet at Katie K.’s slumber party where, admittedly, we did all have to sleep in the attic and that was pretty strange). The brave girls were future coven members, the scaredy cats were girls you could tell ghost stories to and experience the exhilarating high of striking fear into the heart of an actual human being.
Find Out About Boobs
Do you remember the days before you got boobs or a period and life seemed like a lot of waiting around until either of those things happened? Boy, I sure do. Until I went to Liz J.’s slumber party and everyone was playing dress up, and I saw Andrea B. with her shirt off and became terrified that, like her, I’d grow old lady boobs overnight.
Of course, I later realized that this was an opportunity to learn that everyone gets different boobs, and that no matter what I did or did not like about my own boobs, someone else had their own collection of insecurities about theirs so we should just all shut up and pretend like we didn’t see anything.
Fail to Smoke Cigarettes
The first time I ever tried to smoke a cigarette was in Amanda H.’s treehouse. I sat in a circle with a few other girls, most of whom were already smokers. One of them passed a cigarette to me and said “just breathe in a little bit at first and then a lot,” and I did, and although I didn’t cough, I was glad that it was already dark out so no one would see my eyes cross and my face turn green. Luckily, I learned the “cigarettes are gross” lesson pretty early on, and all thanks to a slumber party.
Talk About Boys Without Really Talking About Boys
If you had asked 10-Year-Old Me what secret she’d take to her grave, she would’ve refused to answer but her thought process would have pointed to which boy she liked. This was information that wasn’t to be shared with anyone, ever, which is why it was such a betrayal when Nicole D. stole my diary during my own slumber party, read it, and shared its contents with a handful of kids, all of whom took delight in re-telling the story the next week at school. I have never been able to forgive Nicole D. for this. I occasionally look for her on Facebook but I assume she’s married and changed her name, which is good, because I am not decent enough to completely dismiss the idea of having her snuffed out.
Slumber parties are where everyone knows that you like a boy but no one ever says which boy they like, so instead of being honest with anyone, you just sit around that Girl Talk game where all the boys are safe because they’re fictional and wearing 80s sweaters.
Tell the Future
If I get to Heaven and I’m accused of wasting my time on Earth, I’m willing to bet that hours of said wasted time will have been spent playing M.A.S.H.
M.A.S.H. is a game where a 3-column grid is drawn on a sheet of looseleaf paper (preferably with an erasable pen). At the top of the page are the letters M, A, S and H, which stand for Mansion, Apartment, Shack and House. Below in the grid, the player writes four choices in each column, the columns themselves representing three categories: boys, numbers, and cars.
The boys’ names were supposed to indicate who you would marry. The numbers were supposed to indicate how many children you’d have. The cars were supposed to indicate what kind of car you’d drive, which was maybe the most hilarious part of playing M.A.S.H. because I distinctly remember a time where all I ever wanted to drive was a purple Dodge Neon.
The player then tells the other person (you always need another person, to keep you honest or something) to close their eyes while the player draws a spiral on the bottom half of the page. When the other person says “STOP,” the player must stop drawing the spiral, draw a line through the center, and count from the outside how many times the line crosses the spiral. This number is what you use to count through M.A.S.H. and the grid choices, crossing out whatever you land on when you hit the spiral number.
The idea is to somehow end up with the most attractive combination of living arrangement, spouse, children and vehicle, and the end results could make some girls burst into tears (expect I’m not the one who put Dan Quayle in my grid, did I, Cindy O.?), which is actually a pretty good indicator of everyone’s future, tbh.
Pretend Like You Don’t Have to Take a Shit
Don’t. Just don’t. Deal with the debilitating stomach cramps later and do not under any circumstances think you will able to take a shit in someone else’s house where the bathroom door doesn’t lock and you can’t even risk them hearing the sound of the fan, let alone find out why you turned it on in the first place.
This skill will later come in handy during adult sleepovers and sometimes in the office if the CEO is fixing her hair in the mirror for fucking ever while all you want to do is be left in peace so you can actually use the goddamn bathroom.
Be Incredibly Cruel
A common theme of slumber parties is bullying the person who falls asleep first. Choosing to opt out of the fun by succumbing to a basic human need was unacceptable, and any action was considered to be reasonable and necessary. Placing someone’s fingertips into a bowl of warm water in the hopes that they’d wet the bed? Brilliant! Stealing their underwear, running it under the tap and sticking it in the freezer? Hilarious! Rummaging through someone’s bag to find shameful maxi pads, which are then ripped apart and stuck all over the sleeper and their things? OMG THIS IS THE BEST, NO ONE WILL BE PERMANENTLY DAMAGED BY THIS BREACH OF TRUST.
Hang Out With Someone’s Parents Before Everyone Else Wakes Up
As an early riser, I have always been the first slumber party attendee to wander around the house the next morning. Usually, I’d end up in the kitchen talking to the parents (or whichever parent wasn’t an alcoholic). These parents usually told mine that I talked like an adult, which at the time I thought was a compliment but now I realize is creepy, and also a little bit insufferable because no one wants a sleep-deprived 9-year-old nodding her head and agreeing with them about NAFTA.