Field report: inside the tween slumber party
5:15 p.m.: I have no trouble spotting the location of the ritual, as the boundaries of the pack’s territory have been marked with hot pink and teal helium balloons. Taking up position nearby, I witness the arrival of the attendees. They approach in ones and twos, greeted by those already present via a high-decibel calling system that signs the group’s eagerness to expand. These shrieks are sometimes paired with a hopping motion instigated by the alpha female who dwells within the territory. I note the adults accompanying their young quickly depart, aware, no doubt, of the danger to follow.
5:45 p.m: Pack mentality is cemented early on via the ritual sacrifice of any male present, in this case the unsuspecting younger sibling of the alpha. The young male is identified through a series of barking calls and then chased around — and through —the alpha’s domicile. Once captured, the boy (here read “sacrifice”) is forcibly led to a crude platform (“lounge chair”) and tied thereupon with pink curling ribbon and a sparkly purple belt embossed, ironically, with peace symbols. The group celebrates their victory with laughter, taunts, and a spontaneous group sing of Queen’s, “We are the Champions.” The faux kill comes quickly, after which the victim is released only after swearing to participate in several role playing activities in the roles of, respectively, a boyfriend, a misbehaving toddler and Justin Bieber.
6:30 pm.: The young male escapes with the aid of a chaperone, and the tribe feasts on large quantities of sodium, chemical additives and sugar—in this case pepperoni pizza, Cheetos, and ice cream sundaes. The young females show a strong preference for anything covered in sprinkles, and eventually fall to eating sprinkles directly from the container.
6:55 p.m.: Ingestion of brightly colored sucrose has induced a group euphoria which is expressed by dancing to Adele. As the activity reaches a frenzy, pack members lip-synch to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” thereby joining a communion of BFFs spanning at least three generations.
7:55 p.m.: Finally spent, the pack falls to the ground and begins applying tribal markings to each other via various colors of nail polish and glitter gloss. Members also groom each other, passing around bobby pins that will likely be vacuumed up until well after Christmas.
8:30 p.m.: The pack’s giggles now evolve into a whispered game of Truth or Dare, allowing the pack to engage with the larger community. For example, individuals may be dared, or in extreme cases double dared, to stand outside on the sidewalk and shout, “Honk if you think I’m cute!” to passersby.
10 p.m.: Finally the pack begins to settle in for the night. Various members vie for dominance by circling one another with throw pillows and attacking at will. Eventually group consensus decides the winner, and the new alpha determines sleeping spaces for all pack members. Arrayed across the carpet, the pack watches a movie and gnoshes on popcorn, remnants of which will later be discovered in the bottoms of sleeping bags and honored as tiny disintegrating trophies of the gathering.
Midnight: A lone member of the group fall asleep, leaving those awake to determine her fate. Will the sleeper’s clean underwear for the next day be frozen in a bowl of water? Should the others draw whiskers on her face in waterproof mascara? The owner of the domicile (also a tribal elder) overhears negotiations and puts the kibosh on any schemes. The pack takes the news hard but rallies to the knowledge that the next gathering will not take place under the watchful eyes of this particular elder.
Throughout the next three hours, the ratio of giggles to silence shifts to the latter until the last pack member falls asleep, allowing the tribal elder to placate her nerves with a glass of Chardonnay before catching a couple of hours of light slumber. She knows from past ritual gatherings that this blessed silence will too soon be broken by shrieks of laughter and demands for chocolate chip muffins.
Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist and author of the true crime memoir, No "Room For Doubt." She welcomes feedback at www.AngelaDove.com.