When men are the reason girls dodge slumber parties
Is avoiding men helping or hurting girls and women with trust issues?
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on January 15, 2021.
“Are her father and brother going to be there?” my friend’s grandmother asked.
I paused over that question, wondering how were my father and brother relevant to me asking my Girl Scout friend come over for a slumber party. I’d had plenty of them growing up, usually with my brother randomly coming in to scare the bejesus out of my friends while wearing a Jason mask and my father trying as much as humanly possible to stay out of the way — minus an offer to cook breakfast. He and my mother would peer into the living room or my bedroom to make sure we were all still breathing. Other than that, we were left to our own devices.
So when I asked my friend why did this make a difference, she shrugged and said her grandmother forbid her to spend the night at any house with men living there. My mind was blown. These weren’t randoms. This was my mother’s husband of more than a decade (now 40 years) and my biological father. The other “man” was the bonehead who’d been my roommate up until I was almost 7 years old. Although he was seven years older than me, he definitely was not considered a “man” as a teenager. This was the same guy who negotiated toys with me — 30 minutes of me playing G.I. Joe meant he would humor being Ken while I played with Barbies. (Ken always ended up speeding away in the convertible and hanging out at Castle Grayskull though.)
I couldn’t let this explanation go. I went to my mother to explain to me why her grandmother would be so opposed to men being in a household. I watched my mother awkwardly try to explain where this woman was coming from, to the eyes and ears of a pre-teen. Eventually she stopped trying to sugarcoat the issue and carefully discussed how sometimes there are circumstances in which men touch women inappropriately. My head could have exploded. I could not fathom the thought. I was more repulsed by the entire idea of it than frightened. I shrugged — and continued to have sleepovers with other Girl Scout friends and my other neighborhood friends who I attended school with.