When I turned seven, I somehow convinced my parents to let me have a sleepover birthday party.
Looking back, it seems ludicrous – 10 first graders sprawled throughout our house, hopped up on sugar and and the promise of Cinnabons for breakfast. But if you know me at all, I’m sure you’re nodding your head in understanding. Yes, of course, I would be that girl who just had to have the first sleepover party, I would insist on doing something that seemed older and cooler and just out of reach, I would wear my parents down with months of nagging, all the more motivated by their initial veto of my idea.
As you might expect, it was a complete disaster – how else could the “sleep deprivation + seven year olds + sugar” equation realistically play out? I can’t even remember exactly what happened, but it was so epic it still leaves me feeling slightly guilty and icky and insecure to think about it now, 18 years later. I know at least one girl had to go home. I know that more than one girl cried. I know that when it was all over, I was forbidden from attending and hosting sleepovers for at least a year (the beginning of a popular punishment through my high school days.) And yes, my parents did seriously ground me by the year. Giving me an excellent excuse for all that drinking I did during college.
It was with this legacy of sleepover disaster that I hesitantly started planning my 25th birthday party almost three months ago. I was nervous, unsure. Despite my domestic talents (pear bread, anyone?), I really hate the pressure of being a hostess. I hate feeling like other people’s enjoyment is resting on my shoulders, like I have to pick the perfect bar and make the perfect brownies (which I did, btw) in order for my friends to be happy. Because it’s really, really important to me that they are.
These imaginary standards and anxieties (yes, I also have a recurring fear that no one will show up) usually keep me from playing hostess. But five months without talk of Dawson’s Creek, nail polish and menstrual cycles forced me to reevaluate my stance.
By December, I really, really missed my friends.
So I organized this weekend reunion, which kind of played out like an episode of This Is Your Life (yes, I admit, that reference is completely based on a brief reenactment on Real World San Francisco.) There were three girls from my elementary school, five from my middle school, six from high school. There were friends from my first job in DC, my first house after college, my first stint as an editor at my college paper.
Oddly enough, the most underrepresented group was my friends from college. Amruta and Sarah are obviously still in India, and some of my friends are boys, which automatically excluded them from the invite list (I did eventually break down and invite my gay BF, but sadly he was busy, because he just has a packed social calendar like that.)
But it wasn’t just that people were out of the country or otherwise occupied. Some of them just didn’t even know I was planning this.
I feel like I’m in this weird in-between stage with some of my college friends. We’re starting to lose touch.
It’s the distance and the packed schedules and a lost cell phone here and there. I went through it with some of my high school friends for a while, too. But when life started picking up speed, when they started getting married or losing loved ones, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t visited them at college or seen them over Christmas break. I was there; we found each other again. And I’m convinced that I’ll eventually reach this stage with some of my college friends too. But for now, until we boomerang back – not necessarily to where we were, but to a different – maybe even better – place, the bottom line is: it’s kind of awkward.
Besides, my apartment can only hold so many people. We blew up four aerobeds, took down the futon, borrowed sleeping bags from Dave’s parents. I bought beer and wine and vodka and cheese (because all girls love cheese.) My best friend and I baked brownies.
I was definitely nervous. I was scared that people – many of whom had never met each other – wouldn’t get along. I was scared that people would bail. And, most of all, I think I was secretly scared that it would all end just like my first-grade party: in some sort of dramatic blow-up that, while I might not be able to put my finger on, would always leave a bad taste in my mouth. Thirteen girls, one bathroom? It wasn’t so far-fetched.
But that’s not what happened. Everything was fine – great, even, depending on who you ask. We went shopping and watched 30 Rock and sipped sangria. We went out for a fancy dinner at a chic restaurant in University City and then out for a classic brunch at Marathon (twice.) Mostly, though, we just talked – no TV, no blaring music, not even that much booze. It wasn’t crazy or epic or the kind of weekend that gives birth to an arsenal of stories. But it was nice. And exactly what I needed.