When I was in the sixth grade I got invited to my friend, Teresa’s, slumber party and I was so excited.
“ I was scared too because I wasn’t completely
secure in the whole spending-the-night-away-from-home thing.
But I so wanted to go. My mother went all out and bought me a
small tapestry overnight bag and a new pair of pajamas. I showed
up right on time with my hair braided, wearing brown denim
cut-off shorts, tennis shoes, and my dad’s old sailor hat turned
down. Teresa’s mother was nice to me and showed me into the
living room where I waited for the other girls to arrive. A lot
of girls came. Girls I didn’t know at all. Girls I knew only as
acquaintances at school. The room was filled with girls, but there
was no one I knew well enough to really talk to.
A bunch of boys came over later. We all trudged out to the
patio, and most of the kids sat cross-legged in a circle with a
Coke bottle in the middle. That was my first and only time to see
a game of “Spin the Bottle.” I stood off to the side with a hand-
ful of other girls who didn’t play. I didn’t want to play because
I didn’t believe you were supposed to play games like that as a
Christian. And I didn’t play because I had no desire whatsoever
to kiss a boy. To kiss anybody. Good grief, I was eleven.
I don’t remember anything else we did that night. I don’t
remember talking to a soul the whole time I was there. I’m sure
at some point Teresa must have acknowledged my presence;
after all, it was her party.
I took my sleeping bag upstairs to the big playroom where
we would all be sleeping and found a spot in the corner next to
the TV where Wolfman Jack was hosting The Midnight Special.
I watched the other girls traveling in packs and pairs, giggling,
bumping into me as they were playing with each other, and
glancing at me with an, “Oh, sorry.” I wanted so badly to be a
part of them, to feel like I fit with them, but I just didn’t. I didn’t
hide out; I had been taught better than that. I went ahead and
acted as if I was supposed to be there and as though I was having
as grand a time as everyone else.
Later I went into the bathroom and changed into my pajamas,
pajamas like no one else had on, crawled into my sleeping bag, and
in the midst of whispered conversations in the dark, and bursts of
laughter from girls still awake downstairs, I curled up with the TV
and let Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” lull me to sleep.
That night serves in my memory as a metaphor for how
I’ve felt all my life about being a girl. I was in a sea of girls, and
although nobody was overtly hateful to me, no one pointed at me
and laughed or called me names, I knew I didn’t belong. I acted
as though I did, but inside I knew I was all alone.”
-from Loves God Likes Girls, pp. 99 – 101.
Fast forward forty years to last week where I spent a week at a Come Before Winter renewal for women in ministry in Vancouver. The scenery was breathtaking, the food was fabulous, and I was surrounded again by a sea of ‘girls.’ When I first arrived, part of me was instantly transported back to the sixth grade slumber party, wondering if this would be yet another experience where I felt like I didn’t fit.
It’s amazing to me how those early experiences can stick with us and plant lies in our heads about who we are and how we fit with the rest of the world around us. Or don’t fit.
But last week, I found a place to belong. And you know, the more I find those pockets of people with whom I belong, the more I believe that I do fit. Believing that makes all the difference in the world.
All we needed was Helen Reddy and it would’ve been perfect.