Ahhh, the sleepover.
A quintessential part of the American childhood.
Just the word “sleepover” probably stirs up fond memories of late-night giggling, poorly painted toe-nails and itchy sleeping bags.
For me, it dredges up the crying jags and calls to come home in the middle of the night.
The panicky realization that I was actually expected to sleep at some point.
The horror of having to pretend to LIKE pizza and ignoring the aching pains that followed due to lactose intolerance.
My top 3 worst sleepover experiences, in no particular order:
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
Maybe it was the title of the movie that had the parents confused.
Sleeping, like a “sleepover.”
Maybe I had led a sheltered life, never having seen a movie that was rated R by the tender age of 8.
But, I could not hide my shock and dismay as we huddled onto our friend’s fluffy, pink twin bed and watched Julia Roberts being raped by Patrick Bergin.
The first sex scene I had ever seen and it was a portrait of a violently abusive marriage.
At this age, the mere mention of sex made my throat swell-up with anxiety.
As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and just thinking about sex was likely to earn you a ticket straight to the fiery pits of hell. (At least in my prepubescent mind.)
At first, I tried to nonchalantly cover my eyes.
That wasn’t going to work.
There was audio.
Can’t cover your eyes and ears simultaneously.
So, I did what any other slightly hypochondriacal youngster would do.
I pretended to feel sick, rushed out of the room and spent a good portion of the evening engaging in calming banter with my friend’s mother. (No mention was made of their incredibly poor choice of films for the sleepover.)
(By the way, I adore that movie now. I guess it’s kind of like, ‘I can watch it now without wanting to die or praying for forgiveness! I win!’)
THE MANSION UTI
My father was a math teacher at a prep school for rich kids.
We didn’t have much money (understatement) and frequently found ourselves with incredibly wealthy friends.
One of those kids lived in a mansion with an olympic-size swimming pool, complete with high diving board and an ice cream parlor.
They were having a birthday party for her brother and I swear to God, they had the longest, most phenomenal Slip ‘N Slide I had ever seen. It ended in a pool that was way bigger than the above ground one we had in our backyard.
Needless to say, I was already intimidated by the home, the toys, the yard, the pool.
Just looking at my friend sitting with perfect posture while playing at her grand piano was enough to make me feel inferior for JUST BEING.
It was around midnight when I started to realize I was suffering from the world’s most wicked urinary tract infection. Dear God, the pain!
I wasn’t keen on being there, but I wanted to impress my rich pal, so I tried to suck it up, tough it out, biting into the provided pillow to try to keep from screaming.
I finally broke down and called my mom and whispered through tears that my private parts were en fuego.
I’m sure you’re already thinking you can guess how this sleepover went. But, wait!
It was a sleepover at MY house and I was NOT the one who puked.
It was my neighborhood friend.
She ran for the bathroom.
She only made it to the hallway.
It was projectile.
It was shocking.
It was the look on my father’s face while he was sopping it up that I will never forget for as long as I live.
He looked like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in any movie for that matter.
These and also the glaring facts that some parents are also perverts, some guns are left unlocked and some alcohol is on the bottom shelf are the reasons why I will never (don’t hold me to it) let my kids sleepover.
And your (vomiting) kids can’t stay either.
It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love.
When I reminisce about the idyllic Christmas mornings of my childhood.
The lying awake for a signal from my parents that it’s acceptable to dig under my bed for that first hidden gift, the teaser of what was to come.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, swishing on socked feet into a living room packed with presents, pouring across the floor like a tidal wave.
My brothers and I clambered around on the Oriental rug, digging through our stockings for the tiny gifts hidden among the cheap chocolate, held afloat by a single orange.
Our bellies still full from the smorgasbord of Teriyaki steak skewers, stuffed mushrooms, sweet and sour meatballs and cheese spread of the celebrations the night before.
In Florida, there are no snow flurries to usher in a white Christmas, but it didn’t stop me from believing I heard the jingle of sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
It was a huge family affair. My Uncle, Aunt and cousin would come to town from Cincinnati. We’d brave the chilly waters of the Gulf on their behalf and gather sand for luminarias to line our walkway at home.
My grandparents would come down from Massachusetts and our entire holiday herd would go to the St. Pete pier where I would beg my parents to buy me overpriced colored rocks masquerading as gems.
Every year, we would eat at Arigato Japanese steak house, a huge splurge for a family of 5 living mostly off a math teacher’s salary.
Now, nobody comes down from “up north” to take a dip in frigid waters.
The Pier is in disrepair, people kept away with a lock and chain, it’s future uncertain.
Arigato shut down in September. The owner filed for bankruptcy.
Immediately after Thanksgiving I would hold the bottom rung of the ladder (a pointless show of support) for my father as he strung the giant colored lights along our rooftop.
Now they’re considered “retro” and a fire hazard.
Now we put off stringing the Christmas lights along our porch railing because it’s such a pain in the patoot. We’re just too dang busy.
On Christmas Eve, we sat down as a family and read scripture to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We reenacted the nativity scene. I was usually stuck being a sheep by the manger, shrouded in my beloved and battered baby blanket, “Lambie.”
Now, nobody even mentions the “real reason for the season.”
These days, we are so busy redefining “family” that there’s no room to even bother trying to resurrect the Christmas traditions of our childhood.
The massive mountain of presents are now split between 4 homes. Christmas Eve with my in-laws, Christmas morning with my children, another random day with my family and finally a visit with my dad and his wife.
How does Santa pull this off? I don’t know. I just don’t know what to tell my kids.
Holidays should be about lazy mornings in jammies, cracking walnuts, watching football (reluctantly) and afternoons spent with kids crammed onto and underneath sofa beds, watching Rudolph on repeat.
Instead, I will leave work on Christmas Eve to rush home to food that I couldn’t help prepare.
Christmas morning will bring a modest delivery from Old Saint Nick.
The Friday after Christmas, it’s back to work.
Saturday, it’s the next “Christmas” with my family.
I am learning that there is absolutely no way I can recreate the magic of holidays past for my children.
I cannot pull it off.
It makes me sad and angry.
There’s nobody to blame, yet it feels patently unfair.
These days, who’s got the chestnuts? Where’s the open fire?
I’m about to tackle an incredibly touchy subject.
While passions run high in the wake of the Ferguson riots and now the Garner protests, it’s nearly impossible not to have some level of awareness of racial tension.
It’s clogging social media, sucking all the attention away from positive news stories and making everybody just feel frickin’ uncomfortable.
I don’t have some profound take on the issue. I am no expert. But, I have acquired a pretty comprehensive collection of personal experiences.
Let’s begin with my fundamental Christian beginnings.
At the first church I can ever remember attending.
My very first memories of a best friend.
Her family went to our church. Her mother was black and her father was white. I was friends with her because she was nice. (and very pretty)
My brother had a black friend from the neighborhood that came with us on a family camping trip.
I’m not trying to say, “We’re not racist! We had token black friends!”
What I’m saying is that the song we sang in our church preschool wasn’t just a catchy little diddy.
“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
It was a mantra. I pictured those kids. The red and yellow peeps I had never seen were always perplexing, but I grew up believing there was absolutely no difference between me and anyone of a different skin tone.
Accepting others, even when they are different from yourself is not something my parents just taught us. It’s something they put into practice.
My parents had black friends. We had black friends. It was NORMAL.
There were also ample opportunities for me to deny my upbringing and become racist.
One of my first elementary school crushes was on a black kid who teased me mercilessly. (Clearly, he was in love with me.) He got expelled for bringing a gun to school. (I still thought he was AWESOME and misunderstood.)
Another little black boy was obsessed with my long hair. He would sit behind me in 4th grade and pluck it out strand by strand.
It was annoying.
I was flattered! He liked my hair!!
In middle school, I had a crush on a black kid in gym class because he had a six-pack and could do several back handsprings in a row. He was a total badass. Isn’t that what all girls are looking for?
While my friends were writing their wedding vows to the boys from NKOTB, I was equally enamored of Christian Bale from Newsies and Michael Jordan.
My middle school was rife with racial tension. I was once walking down the hallway when a gaggle of loud black girls started hollering behind me. I glanced back to see what the deal was and one of them said, “What the f&^k you lookin’ at white bit&h?” They proceeded to (as a group) shove me onto the ground.
An overhead view of our school cafeteria would’ve revealed something resembling a black and white cookie. It was split down the middle, Black kids on one side, white kids (and others) on the other side.
Somehow, I always ended up on the border. The girls from the black side frequently threw school lunch food at my hair. I had to rush to the bathroom to drag tangled spaghetti noodles out of my hair, more than once.
That could’ve made me racist, but thankfully there were always OTHER black kids around. Perfectly decent, lovely human beings.
She would never know it, but one of those people was Fontaine. We weren’t close friends, but in retrospect her impact was pretty profound in my life.
At a time when I felt harassed and humiliated for being white, she was sweet, smart and treated me like anyone else. She would be my science class partner without batting an eyelash.
It was no big deal. Which made it a big deal.
I went to a high school in Southside St. Pete. If you know Tampa Bay, then you know exactly what that means.
I was 16 years old when the race riots broke out in the wake of a black teenager being shot and killed by a white officer. People set fire to businesses, looted stores and even beat a newspaper photographer, all within blocks of my school.
But, I was there the next morning ready for class.
Some black kids wore black power tee-shirts and the richest of my white pals were noticeably absent. That was it.
It further solidified my belief that even if I was white and they were black, it wasn’t a “me” versus “them” situation.
I knew plenty of ghetto people during high school and college, the vast majority of whom were white.
The guy who was hopped up on cocaine, rested an axe on my shoulder and whispered, “I could kill you right now.” He was white.
The guy using scales to measure drugs with the gun in his waistband. White.
The crackhead who called me a bi*&h for hanging out on a porch during some rave party at a house because he didn’t want the cops to show up. White.
I ended up staying in a house in the heart of Southside St. Pete for many weekends over the course of a couple of years.
Black girls would glare into my car as I drove down the street, some stopping in the middle of the road as if daring me to hit them. I had a car. They didn’t have bumpers. This never made sense to me.
In an area where gunshots and sirens were the nightly soundtrack, I was given shifty looks every time I walked the dogs.
I never chalked it up to “all these black people.” It was “all these ghetto people.”
I could hang out in Pinellas Park and feel equally uncomfortable about “all the ghetto people.”
While I was treated like some kind of outcast in St. Pete, my best friend in college was a guy I called “big black Steve.” He called me “Ofay.” Although we haven’t seen each other in years, he’s still my friend.
I have encountered plenty of racist white folks and they all seemed to have one common denominator. They were from wealthy, exclusively white suburbs. Their lack of exposure seems to be the biggest problem. They just don’t know any black people, so they make assumptions. Shitty ones.
I knew a (rich, white) guy in college who once said, “I think I want to date a black chick next.”
I asked, “Who is she?”
He said, “Oh, I don’t know any black chicks. I just know I want to date one.”
It told him this was reprehensible.
I knew a guy who used to say, “There are black people and then there are ni&&ers.”
I said, “There are good people and there are bad and they are all just people.”
In conclusion: I feel like there are many factors that contribute to someone’s likelihood or improbability of being racist.
It’s your upbringing, your parents putting their beliefs into practice, exposure to people of all races and the common sense understanding that a handful of people will never represent an entire group.
It’s why I love the daycare worker who braids Alma’s hair all the time, the little Asian kid named Andy that’s Huck’s best friend at school, the crapload of Indian kids that live on our street and Doc McStuffins… finally a character of color with her own entire goddamned Disney show.
The most important thing I will ever do in my life is raise a little girl and a little boy to grow up to be good people, ones who don’t even consider the color of someone’s skin as a factor.
I think it’s a safe bet.
We have hundreds of television channels. 90% of them are showing things that are inappropriate for my children to view.
When I was a kid the raciest thing I ever saw on our six channels was Baywatch.
Now, the magic screen flickers with unpredictable images of threesomes, boobs and man butts.
Plots centered on high schoolers having abortions, real housewives beating each other up and Bachelors having sex in the ocean with one of 27 “lucky” ladies.
It makes the controversial plots of the late 80’s and early 90’s laughable.
I remember feeling nauseous and uncomfortable when Allie found a condom in Chip’s pocket on Kate and Allie.
There was the infamous episode of Diff’rent Strokes when Dana Plato’s character had bulimia.
We can thank Canada for tackling tough topics like teen drug use and divorce on Degrassi Junior High.
My kids aren’t old enough to need the “child lock” but I am starting to think they need to make one for grownups.
“Watch Mad Men without gratuitous sex scenes! See Dexter without ever having to see Dexter’s derriere!”
While our biggest current concern is making sure the kids aren’t replicating the abuse Tom and Jerry subject each other to, there’s also Victoria’s Secret ads to subtly teach my daughter the appeal of protruding hip bones and anorexia.
Thank GOD that we can now fast forward through all of the commercials, which are more graphic and offensive than anything we were forced to watch between shows as kids.
I was banned from watching Three’s Company because of their “inappropriate living arrangement.”
Now, you can watch two guys and a chick get it on in the shower on what’s supposed to be a thriller about a serial killer.
We had true drama with Mary Ingalls going blind on Little House on the Prairie.
The Cosby Show, where the most offensive thing was those Coogi sweaters.
The hot chicks on television: Becca from Life Goes On and Winnie Cooper. If you were a real perv it was Kelly Bundy.
Now Hannah Montanas transform into Miley Cyruseseses. (yeah, I couldn’t figure out the apostrophe) Britney Spears turned into… Britney Spears.
Want a chuckle? America’s Funniest Home Videos is still hilarious even though the clips are from the early 80’s.
Now, you can giggle at the guy from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia putting his dick through a hole in the wall in an attempt to have intercourse with a stranger.
How did we go from the seven castaways of Gilligan’s Island to the seven strangers picked to live in a house to the seven strangers having an orgy in a jacuzzi in Vegas? It was like ‘take one down, pass it around’ with roommates on the Real World.
I blame a cartoon for the downfall of American television. Beavis and Butthead. It’s all their fault.
I always adore when people post lists of classic stuff from the 80’s. Let’s take a trip back in time and check out some of the more obscure and underappreciated toys and shows from my childhood.
I adored mine. It was stolen by a fundamentalist Christian kid I used to hang out with. I remember her name. I will protect the identity of the thief. But, if she were ever to read this, I want it back!
The ears never got dry. It didn’t matter. I loved this moldy pup.
Clearly I have older brothers.
My mom told us to throw them all out. I hid them in my closet for years before becoming so wracked with guilt I gave them away.
Another “no-no” in our crazy Christian family.
I had an obsession with Dotty because she wore roller skates.
I was obsessed with Wordsworth because he wore roller skates. There is a theme.
When I was born, my oldest brother looked through the hospital nursery window and sang, “See in the window, it’s Hannah Banana,” to the Magilla Gorilla tune.
I wanted to be the Little Prince. Yes, Prince.
I dare you to sing the song and see if anyone is cool enough to shout “bears” at the end. I have a friend like that. (although I refer to him as a fiend not a friend)
I love Tom Hanks, but this is still the best role he ever played. Take that Forrest Gump!
I watched the CRAP out of this show.
I admit it, I had a crush on Ponch. But, then he visited my news station in Miami and was groping all of the female “talent.” Grooosss.
I don’t care if Alanis Morissette was on this show. It was awesome anyway.
That’s it. I am quitting my job and dedicating the rest of my life to creating a time machine just so I can enjoy the 80’s again.
My dad was a teacher, high school football coach and even the school bus driver to make ends meet. My mother stayed at home or worked part time. We went camping, took road trips and had family night every Sunday. We had what I refer to as the Christian Conversion Van; complete with blue shag carpeting for the interior, floor to ceiling. We didn’t have a lot of money. It wasn’t all Slip ‘N Slides and swimming pools. But, it’s safe to say I had the quintessential childhood.
Now, that I have my own children, I’m trying to figure out what makes my children’s childhood seem so vastly different.
Oh, wait I know.
I work full-time.
My husband works full-time.
My kids spend 8 to 11 hours a day with complete strangers. No wonder they don’t even vaguely resemble the children I spend a couple of hours a day trying to mold them into. By the time I get home, I’m too dang tired to be Supermom.
My mom was June Cleaver. I feel like Courtney Love.
My baking skills begin and end at banana bread. Woah, I can mix a bunch of crap in a bowl and hit “bake.” I dread the day my kidlets need help with a science project. I will probably just suggest that whole baking soda volcano thing EVERY YEAR. My mom actually made our playdough. My mom actually baked our birthday cakes. I stand in line at the Publix bakery for one and feel frazzled.
While most stay-at-home moms probably daydream about power suits, fatter bank accounts and adult conversation, I’m sitting around imagining what it would be like to rush the kids to soccer practice in sweatpants. I want to have playdough stuck in my finger nails, not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I want to smell like a campfire, not like long-day-at-work funk. I want to finger paint with my daughter and kick the ball around with my son. Instead, it’s a mad dash to feed them, bathe them and rush them into bed so they can sleep so we can wake them up and clothe them, feed them and rush them to school. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I’ve spent all of these years working overnight, working weekends and working holidays so I could give my children a better life than the one I had.
Now, I am slowly coming to the realization that less money and more time is what they need to have a childhood even a fraction as awesome as mine was. That and a Christian Conversion Van.