An "adult" slumber party with pizza, curlers, old-time fan magazines, and talk of MEN . . .
You've got to be kidding, I thought, as this unexpected invitation transported me into my past. As much a part of American girlhood as fantasies of Mr. Right, slumber parties were sleepless, fun-filled nights spent eating pizza and giggling about -- what else? -- BOYS.
Headlined "Washington Men: An Expose," the invitation was as subtle as The National Enquirer. While I had no desire to trade vignettes and lines of Washington men (as the invitation suggested), the enterprising, gossip-loving writer in me succumbed to:
"Come, write about these tasty tidbits as long as you don't name names."
The unusual gathering came about after a consultant confided to a lawyer friend that a nameless date told her:
"I've never said this to another woman. USE ME. If you need a shoulder to cry on, or want someone to take you out, call me. If you need money, or want someone to spend the night with, call me . . ."
To which the second woman interrupted, howling, "That's got to be George. He said the same thing to me."
Believing that George is not unusual (that Washington men often recycle their lines), two women lawyers decided to invite friends (who didn't know each other) to "compare notes" at a casual slumber party.
Answering the invitation were a dozen professional women in their 30s -- single, separated, and divorced -- including government and private sector lawyers, and agency political appointee, lobbyist, foreign embassy employe, business owners, and consultants.
In between pizza and wine, this list of most-frequent lines (and the sometimes cynical translations) emerged ruring the evening:
"I'm separated." (He hasn't seen his wife since breakfast.)
"Let's play it by ear," (His.)
"I like liberated women." (Braless and earning equal pay -- so long as it's not where he works -- so that they can share expenses.)
"Let's go out Tuesday night." (He has a higher-status date for Friday/Saturday, and you're not it.)
"I have to break out date. I have a brief due." (Either he has a better offer, or he's really the typical Washington workaholic with that "brief line.")
"You remind me of my dauther." (He's in his mid-life crisis and is dating younger women.)
"Thank goodness it's out in the open so we can discuss it honestly." (When she learns of some subterfuge, his new ploy is openness/honesty -- after the fact -- to excuse himself.)
"You're too independent/too pushy." (Don't you know the man is supposed to be in control?)
"You analyze too much." (Don't bug him with feelings he can't handle.)
"You have a good mind." (Apt to be said with particular surprise if the woman also is attractive.)
"Why isn't a woman like you married?" (What's wrong with you that he hasn't discovered?)
"I've never met another woman like you." (Today, anyway.)
"I love you." (Until he doesn't, which could be after he gets his partner bedded down.)
"I'm attracted to you because you're strong." (His other woman is weak and "will commit suicide" if he leaves her for you.)
"I've never said this to anyone else before." (He's trying to make you feel special with one of his most overused lines.)
"I think we both recongnize . . . or I think we need to talk." (The sign of relationship problems before he exits.)
Among the many anecdotes related that night:
A Secret Service man who wanted one of the women to have his baby and then disappear; a man driving a station wagon (covered with small fingerprints) who insisted he was unattached; an executive who wanted his woman "by my side," but had three women (as all thre e learned) and only two sides.
Repeated over and over again were laments about dishonesty, duplicity, behavior not matching words, boring sex, mixed signals, lack of commitment, and failure to give professional support.
Sighed the consultant, "Mr. USE ME is looking better all the time."
As the evening progressed, the women shared concern -- even pain -- over the difficulty in the workaholic town of finding and maintaining a one-to-one relationship with the three entities: him, me, and us.
Before, they noted, it was all for him. Now men, as well as women, are having serious problems with equal relationships.
Questioned a high-level black bureaucrat, "I'm always meeting men with less education making less money. They're threatened and concerned because they can't give me anything. Do white women run into this as much?"
Piped up one, "Where are these men who want to give you material things? I haven't found any!"
Many of the women clearly had been hurt and resented men who come out "unscathed," as one put it, "and see no need to clean up their act." As they complained of men who were a perpetual age 5, and who might be perceptive in their work but not in their relationships, they questioned: "How can we be successful at work and as vulnerable as at age 16 when it comes to love and men?"
A surprise was on their attitudes about dating younger men. "I'm thinking," said a tiny brunette, "of passing as 18 and re-enrolling at the University of Maryland."
"Years ago," said another, "I was concerned if a man was two years younger; five years ago, five years younger; now I don't care if he's 16 years younger."
"Heck," chimed in another woman who said she just wanted to go out and have a good time, "I'd go out with a 16 year-old if he was a good dancer."
"But how do women meet nice men here?" wailed a divorcee.
Response: "Start with the premise that there are no nice men here."
A consultant reported that her separated husband frequented singles bars, found them teeming with men, and asked, "Where are the sharp women?"
"At dinner," she retorted, "with their sharp women friends."
From an outspoken entrepreneur: "You may not meet terrific men, but there sure are a lot of nice supportive women in D.C."
And then because they, too, are part of the workaholic Washington scene, most of the women at the mid-week all-nighter turned their thoughts to THE JOB. Only a few slept over.
I departed with a sence of sadness, rather than of deja vu. We had become too serious, too burned to play. We had turned possible fun into a group encounter, a group gripe.
My slumber parties of bygone days offered more giggles and dreams and anticipation. Here the laughter turned to laments and questions, and the dashing of dreams. The world is different now.
And no one even brings curlers to a slumber party anymore. Only the pizza remains the same.