The Necessity of Girl’s Games and Sleepover Culture: or, No Mom, of Course That’s Not a Hickey and I
When I was in fifth grade, my Girl Scout troop traveled two hours to upstate New
York for a weekend “retreat” (also known as three days of analyzing river water and
learning about tree rings). For the first time, all of the girls would get to sleep in their
own “cabin” (also known as the old storage shed with some sort of stains – mud? Blood?
Animal urine? No one knows to this day - covering the floor). Mystery fluids aside, we
were so excited to have our own space. Night fell and the sleeping bags were rolled out,
and one brave soul suggested we play truth or dare. The truths and dares were pretty tame
at first– “I dare you to stand outside without a flashlight for five minutes” and, “Is it true
you shave your legs?” There was giggling, yeah, but I was kind of surprised (and
relieved) that for the most part, everyone was being respectful of one another – questions
were asked out of genuine curiosity and no one was being picked on for answering
truthfully. We felt safe, like we were all participating in something really treasured and
sacred. It didn’t seem like anyone would dare to taint something that pure by making fun
of anyone. Eventually, inevitably, the truths and dares moved to some pretty sexy topics.
“I dare you to kiss Nathan on the lips after math class on Monday.” and, “Is it true you let
Keith grab your butt that one time?” One red faced girl, we’ll call her Melissa, who had
stayed quiet during the whole game, was all of a sudden in the hot seat – “Melissa, I dare
you to give Mady a hickey.” Not knowing what that even meant, I watched Melissa crawl
towards me and say “Sorry,” before – pardon my French - biting the shit out of my neck
for two minutes. Later, after telling my friends about the ordeal, I discovered that yeah,
this was something people did during sex, and no, I would not ever want anyone to do it
to me again (my official stance on this issue has changed, but that is a very different blog
post). The other girls called it “practicing”, the way you might practice kissing on the
back of your hand or perfecting a dance move in the mirror before going to a party. It was
never mentioned again, but it was not the last time they would “practice”, or play truth or
dare, or tell secrets, or share a sacred space like that.
A few weeks ago, when I facilitated a game of Never Have I Ever in our Girl’s
Group, I got that same feeling of comfort and trust that I did in the cabin. So many topics
were brought up – sexuality, drug use, alcohol, dating, relationships, race, gender – and
there was a genuine mutual understanding that nothing asked or discussed would be
laughed at, belittled, or brought outside of that classroom. Games like this – Never Have I
Ever, Truth or Dare – which are played most often by groups of girls in these sacred
spaces, are the catalysts for deeper discussions and explorations of identity, even if they
may not seem obvious at the time. Looking back, that game of truth or dare was silly and
exciting, sure, but it was also used as an exploration of identity and sexuality, and as an
opportunity to “practice” these feelings in an environment that made us feel safe. The
bonds formed within any group of girls are all-powerful and honestly amazing, but the
opportunity to feel safe and trusted in a group is something wholly magical on it’s own.
And I’m all for encouraging and protecting that.