When I was in fifth grade, I attended my friend’s eleventh birthday party. It was supposed to be a really fun, cake-eating, party-all-night experience. (This really meant staying up having stuffed animal fights until midnight. We were so hardcore.) I showed up feeling happy and excited–I had even brought my favorite pajamas that I’d gotten for Christmas a few years earlier!
Almost as soon as the party had started, I started getting this feeling that the other party guests felt a strange animosity toward me. My suspicions were confirmed when we started playing the M&M game (I don’t remember the rules, probably because it was the lamest game known to humankind. Shh, don’t tell those girls). I think I pushed my hair behind my ear or something, and the other guests looked at me like I was the grossest person ever.
“Ew! You can’t touch the M&Ms! Go wash your hands! Ew, that’s so gross!”
Confused, I obeyed and went to the bathroom to wash my hands. Neither my hands nor my hair were dirty. I washed my hands anyway, though. Maybe there was a bug in my hair. I don’t know, I thought. Wait, wouldn’t I have noticed that, though? When I came out of the bathroom, all the party guests were laughing like it was going out of style.
News flash: washing your hands is hilarious.
I think we played on the Wii after that. Guess who didn’t get a turn?
Then we went down to the basement, where we’d be sleeping. The rest of the girls wanted to play spoons (the card game), but I really wanted to play with the dollhouse. I was less mature than them in that way. I could care less about a bunch of plastic spoons and cards, I wanted to use my imagination and create plots with the beautifully detailed doll furniture and semi-lifelike plastic figurines! Enthusiastic, I suggested playing spoons after playing with the dolls. They declined, naturally. I didn’t take it too hard–I just joined their game. After all, what could be so bad about sitting in a circle with all the cool kids?
Well, everything. They kicked me out. Their reasoning was “if you want to play dolls so much, just go play with the dolls!” I don’t believe I’d said a single freaking word about the dolls since my suggestion had been shot down, but I guess they thought I had. Maybe they were hearing things, I don’t know. Whatever it was, they made me go in the back room with the dollhouse and the cat’s litter box. I remember staring into that litter box on the verge of tears, trying to feign interest in the shape of the pellets. Because honestly, what’s the point of playing dolls if there are no friends to play with?
Eventually, I came out of the back room. They’d finished their game and were all dressed in their pajamas already. My pajamas! I remembered, racing to the bathroom to change. They will redeem me! Surely they’ll love my pajamas. And if they love my pajamas enough, they might love me!
One of the girls suggested having a contest. The person with the best pajamas would sit on the highest stair, the second best would sit on the second-highest stair, and so on. My confidence was soaring. I will win this! I will sit upon the highest of stairs! Then it will be my turn to look down on the other girls! My hopes, unfortunately, were not met. A girl with blue snowflake pajamas threatened to cry and go home if she wasn’t awarded the top place, so that ruled out any chance I’d get up there. I wasn’t crushed, though. Second place was still an option!
Second place was given to the birthday girl. Still, not enough to dampen my hopes. When third and fourth were given away, however, my confidence began to fade. I finally found myself sitting on the last stair, feet touching the carpet.
To my little ten-year-old self, I no longer saw a fashion PJ contest. I saw a beauty pageant–one that I had failed miserably. It was almost a turning point in my year as I looked up the stairs and saw the face of each girl, smirks fixed on me. They’d been mean to me, laughed at me, and when I thought I’d have a chance to win them over, I’d failed. I’d failed at the one thing I thought I would have going for me.
As we rolled out our sleeping bags, the girls clamored over who got to sleep next to who. Nobody fought over who got to put their bed next to mine. I ended up sleeping on the end, because no one had wanted me in the middle.
Since then, I’ve had this thing against being on the end when I’m around my peers. Being in the middle means being wanted, loved, and accepted. Being on the end is, well, being on the end. It’s where the wannabes are.
Or I’m just over-thinking things again.
I came back to my friend’s twelfth birthday party the next year (when the other guests found out I’d be attending, they groaned). The same sort of thing happened. I was forced into the Disney princess tent in the corner of the room while the rest of the girls did whatever they wanted. Occasionally, one of the girls would peek inside the tent, laugh rudely, and scamper away just to taunt me. Later, my friend told me that she’d never touched the princess tent since I’d been in it.
News flash #2: my very presence is contaminating.
At the end of the second horrible party in a row, my friend told me “I’ll just throw a separate party for just you.” She did. Well, there was no cake or anything. We rode our bikes around awkwardly until it was time to go home.
When it was my turn to turn twelve, I decided to throw my own party. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with my friend’s terrible guests. I invited about six or seven other girls to my house for a sleepover. I was excited and ambitious for the success of my party. What could possibly go wrong?
My guests formed little groups and sort of did their own thing. What seemed like an innocent pillow fight turned into a beating, almost. One girl ran into the other room and started crying. It happened again. The next morning, my party guests kind of ignored me, so I went down to the creek near my house, alone, and splashed around while the other girls hung out in my basement.
Finally, I gave my guests little dolls as party favors (it took me a while to grow out of dolls). One friend stole some Barbie clothes from my house and took them home, another girl told me she didn’t like it and planned on giving it away to charity.
News flash #3: Don’t give dolls to twelve-year-old girls. They will give them to charity.
That was the last sleepover I had for several years. I can’t forget the time this girl looked down my pants at this one sleepover when I was ten or so. She literally just like pulled the waistband of my pajama pants and looked down them! Yet another reason to hate sleepovers.
The good news is that I’m finally making up for all the lost memories–the times I’d been robbed of. My friends now are the best group of people EVER, and they don’t give a rat what my pajamas look like. I’m not forced into the other room, they don’t accuse me of being gross for pushing a strand of hair behind my ear, and they include me. I’m accepted!
I think I’m at a point where I can almost laugh at all the bad sleepovers I’ve had before. Laughing is just as beneficial as crying sometimes. The more I talk about these specific bad experiences, the more I laugh. The more I laugh, the more I realize how ridiculous all those other girls were. Honestly, pajama hierarchies? Contaminated princess tents? Really?! Sometimes I need to cry about this, and sometimes I need to laugh.
So I laugh with my friends about it. The other girls were just ridiculous. And honestly, my friends and I have way more fun than anybody in the world, I think. We accept each other, care about each other, and laugh with each other. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
News flash #4: Abigail is worthy of being loved, and she has the best friends in the universe who don’t care what her pajamas look like.