The Sleep Over

I am participating in Ashley and Emily’s Summer Blog Hop. Their ongoing theme is Remember That Time… an opportunity to draw upon stories from our youth/past. The prompt this week is Remember That Time… You Went to a Sleep Over. I immediately thought of a particular sleep over, from the year I was almost twelve. This one is a challenge; I’ve changed the names, to protect the innocent kids we were.

The year I turning twelve was an awkward year for me. Having moved to the small town where I would grow up, only two years earlier, I only had a few friends, and I was only close to one of them. My father had been killed in a car accident when I was ten and a half, and my world felt very upside down and confusing. My Mom was working; I was taking care of my siblings and the house. Roles were blurred— I didn’t spend a lot of time doing “kid stuff,” like going to sleep overs. It would take a while for me to build some solid friendships, and that year I was still a bit lonely.

There was a girl my age, who lived relatively nearby.  We didn’t have that much in common, but proximity threw us together. Jan was an awkward kid, but it was a time when girls our age still played with Barbies (even if we didn’t want too many people to know).  Jan didn’t have many friends either. I was grateful to be invited over, happy to have a friend to hang out with, and relieved to get out of my own house and out from under the responsibilities I had there.

Jan’s home was so totally different than mine; her family from a different world altogether. Our house was filled with the stylish furniture that my mother believed made a statement.  My family was loud and volatile: either very happy, or very unhappy— there was little middle ground.  Jan’s small house, from the early 1800s, was always kept dark and quiet as her very conservative mother suffered from “spells.” I would later come to understand that she likely suffered from migraines; but, back then, it just seemed mysterious and strange that the house was always dark: the curtains drawn, lights kept low or off, and the house absolutely silent.  We often played outside, or with our Barbies in her large bedroom upstairs; but, we always spoke in whispers while inside, as her mother was often resting— damp cloth across her eyes, on the sofa or locked in her room.

Like the rest of her home, Jan’s room was dark and simple. There was little color or spark to their world.  Older, plain furnishings in olive greens and bland browns, with heavy, dark curtains on all of the windows.  Here house was always tidy and clean. My mother had bright yellow sofas and bold prints on the walls.  Our house was often in a state of messy flux— not dirty, but disorganized. However, it was the quiet of Jan’s house  that was most striking to me. Mine was bright and loud. My siblings and mother were constantly in motion; there was a continuous buzz of sound, while I could only hear the ticking of the wall clock in Jan’s kitchen when we went to get a snack, or the creak of the wooden stairs when we went up to her room to play.  Jan’s home was an escape from my familiar, but I was constantly second guessing whether that made me comfortable or uneasy.

In the 20/20 glare of hind sight, there had been something about Jan that made me uncomfortable from the start. Her affect was a little off; her ability to read social cues was obtuse.  However, her proximity brought us together, and I was relieved to find companionship. When she invited me for a sleep over, it was the first since I’d moved there. I was thrilled. The fact that her house made me a bit uncomfortable, didn’t matter as much as the idea that I felt a sense of inclusion that had been missing since we moved.



That night we lay in our individual twin beds, set up on opposite sides of the room. As I lay there in the dim light, I could see Jan’s face as we whispered and shared our thoughts. Out of the blue, she asked “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to kiss someone— I mean, have you ever kissed anyone?”  I felt a rush of ambivalence fill my chest. I was curious about boys; I’d wondered about how it all worked— how it felt. But aside from the many crushes I had, I had certainly never kissed anyone. Um, no… I’ve never kissed anyone, but yeah, I guess I think about what it would feel like. Why, have you ever kissed anyone? She was quiet for a moment. “No. I’ve never had a boyfriend.” Me either. I felt relieved, glad that I wasn’t that out of the loop. Sometimes, I practice kissing my hand, I ventured. She sat up in her bed and looked over at me. Without her glasses, I knew she couldn’t really see me very well. I held my palm up to mouth and showed her my most amorous kiss, and we both laughed. Then, we both stopped talking and I eventually fell asleep, not entirely at ease in the house, or her room.

I woke in the morning to Jan’s mouth on mine, her body pressed up against me— thankfully, the blanket between us. Her sour breath hit me first, and then the vague sense of arousal I also felt. But I was totally disoriented— startled, and I instinctively shoved her hard. She fell back off the bed, got up with a shocked expression and went back to her bed silently. I lay there, propped up on my arms trying to see what she was doing, until I could make out that she lay on her bed, with her blanket over her face.

What was that! Why would you do that! I demanded, as my heart pounded against my ribs. I felt a rush of shame. I felt confused by the brief rush of arousal dipped in confusion and panic, I’d felt. If I felt something, did it say anything about me? I’m not gay you know, I said to her, to myself. The truth is I had not idea at that point what my sexual orientation was. I presumed I wasn’t gay, because I liked boys, my crushes were all boys, but the truth was, I didn’t know. I had no reference point. I said it as much to reassure myself as to define a boundary with her, but not because I actually knew anything about what I was or was not.  “I’m not either,” she whispered. “I just wanted to see what it felt like.” I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt so unclear about how to act— what to say. I just wanted to be home in my own bed, and pretend that this had never happened.

And that is what I did. I didn’t mention it to Jan ever again, and I never slept over her house again. I pushed it to the back of the gray room and did my best to pretend that it never happened. I stayed home and did chores, when Jan asked me to come over. As the years passed, I treated her with increasing avoidance, though we walked the same path to school each day and went to school for six more years together. I didn’t kiss anyone again until my junior year of high school, a week before I turned seventeen. “Sweet sixteen.” He was attractive and drunk, the brother of a friend; I was drunk too. It counted as my first kiss, though I always knew that at the most confusing sleep over of my life, Jan was my first.

When was your first kiss? How did you feel about sleep overs when you were kid? Leave me a comment; tell me what you think. Check out the other blogs in this series by visiting either of the links at the top.


About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Aging, Awareness, Blog, Can't sleep, High School, Honest observations on many things, Life, Musings, My world, Tales From the Motherland, Teenagers, Teens, Women, Women's issues, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Sleep Over

  1. Sour breath is the worst. I remember when I was a kid and they had those Listerene commercials where the couple would wake up in bed and they would say “Morning” to each other. It always made me mad that they didn’t say “Good morning”, just “Morning”. I thought that was a horrible way to start your day with the one you love. I bet they had sour kisses all day long.


  2. Wow, what a story. This is the first I’ve read about your father- so sorry for your loss at such a young age. I remember quite a few awkward sleepovers though none as disturbing as this one. I do remember calling my parents once to bring me home early in the am while everyone else was sound asleep. First kiss…. brain cells aren’t recalling it— 4th grade perhaps?


    • I’ve written a lot about my dad, Lisa, and you’ve been along for that ride… Over time I imagine you’ve just taken it in and rolled with each post in the moment. Thanks for the kind words. I decided to go with the challenging story here, but there were plenty of very traditional sleep overs as well! : )


  3. Mike Lince says:

    When I was 12 I kissed the girl next door, and she kissed me back. Then we repeated the moves several times, each time assessing each other’s technique. It was sweet, she was adorable, and we never kissed again. She grew up to be one of the girls in high school that every boy dreamed of kissing. Everyone but me, since I had tasted those lips some years earlier. It was a delicious secret, and I am sure she helped me to become a fine kisser in the years that followed.


  4. My first, and only, sleep over was an odd one. A girl in fourth grade who lived about five blocks away invited me to her home along with three, four? other girls. I was a fairly unsocial child. Our parents never had guests over, we never went to another’s house. My sisters and I were quiet – each other’s friends for the most part. I remember three things about that night: Bobby Kennedy was shot, I had to sleep on the floor under a blanket and my head on a couch pillow, and I woke about 2:00 am and walked home without waking anyone at the house I left. Needless to say, sleep overs aren’t my favorite events.


    • That sounds like a pretty miserable experience for sure! What a strange and upsetting night it must have been… Not to mention historical! Thank you so much for. Stopping by TFTM, to read and share this experience. Hope you’ll read some more and join in. Much appreciated.


  5. mamaheidi60 says:

    I love how your posts trigger memories! I had lots of sleep overs, some with the girls in my neighborhood and some with classmates. And my cousins who lived just a few miles away. The only sleepover that I never really liked was with one friend who was quite nice, but both her parents smoked and her house stank! It never occurred to me to make an excuse not to go, and we all kept the invitations reciprocated, so we routinely ended up at her house. I was always fascinated with the family dynamics in various homes. My best friend with whom I spent the most time just lived three houses away. Her family was so different from mine, but was my second family and home. Her mom would talk about anything with us and I learned a lot about life from her. The funniest time wasn’t so much a sleep over as a nap over! I had just had my gall bladder out in my first year at college and she had just had her wisdom teeth out. I slowly made my way up the alley to her house and her mom tucked us into the twin beds and set up a little TV in her room, then brought us tea. There we were, two best friends, trying very hard not to make each other laugh because of our stitches and of course the harder we tried not to, the more we did! Her mom would come in and say, “Now you girls…!” Sixty years later and we’re still dear friends.
    My first kiss was on my 13th birthday. My boyfriend of about a year had given me a puppy that afternoon. His parents had driven him over to my house. While our parents visited, we took a walk in the little woods in the neighborhood and he just stopped and kissed me. It was so sweet. Mostly, we just held hands a lot.


  6. Dawn…you are gracious and kind to share such an intimate and early memory with us. I don’t remember sleepovers as a kid…I think they were in vogue way back then.:) But I do remember my first kiss. I was in first grade and an upstairs neighbor boy was in my class. This was the early 50’s…Cold War…shelter drills. I lived in NYC and periodically in school, an alarm would sound and all the kids would have to duck down under their desks and stay there for 5 minutes…as if hiding under a school desk in a room that had a wall of HUGE windows in the center of NYC would protect you from an atomic bomb blast. 🙂 🙂 But these drills were a perfect opportunity for stolen kisses. Harry and I sat next to each other…and totally looked forward to the drills. We also walked home together and never took the elevator…we would walk up the stairs (I lived on the 7th floor and he lived on the 8th), stopping at each landing for a kiss. The innocence of youth.:)


  7. Valery says:

    Powerful subject matter is no stranger to this blog. Beautifully written. I never would have guessed, but now looking back it all makes sense.

    Was it the following year that the sleepover was at your house? No Jan, but Donny Osmond was there, and a young Michael Jackson, and a Breyer horse that lived in moonlight on the shelf. A needle on a vinyl disc produced the music, and nobody stopped to post anything on Facebook. Not sure how many girls, but plenty of giggling (mostly about boys) and very little sleep, if any. The tables had apparently turned by then, because all the girls were trying to win your attention and friendship! I remember it was bitterly cold outside, but we all bundled up in the morning and went searching for little frozen ponds to slide on (more giggling). Your mom just seemed like the coolest lady on the planet and we hoped she’d let us stay forever. But eventually, it was time to return to the land of familiar boredom, as the cars arrived one after the other to mark the end of Dawn’s groovy sleepover.


    • Man! YOU should be writing my friend! So many memories just stung to mind, all sweet. Not sure if you figured mine out, but left an indelible mark. Live you, dear Val

      Sent from Dawn’s iPhone


      • Valery says:

        Yup, easy to figure out – made me think, “ahhh, so THAT’s why…” You always manage to write something that inspires me, tickles me or reaches deep into my soul. Oh, and I live you, too! 😉 Hehehe!


  8. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I loved sleepovers with my best friend as a kid. We had so much fun. She’s married now, so she’s outgrown sleepovers. I miss them.


  9. I read this days ago and I am still thinking about the sour breath. Aaaahh! What a way to wake up. I have really enjoyed becoming acquainted with your writing through this blog hop.


    • Thank you so much okayest mom. I appreciate you stopping in and taking the time to read my post and share some feedback. That sleep over still comes back to me, at odd times. While I’m beyond the issues that “freaked me out” then, it was such an impactful event, in my young life. I too am really enjoying the hop! Didn’t make the deadline for this one, but glad you found me. I was away, and I’m catching up now… on all those posts.



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