Coordinates: Sleepover

Judy Bloom and I used to stay up into the wee hours of the night, sharing secrets in the dim glow of my floral bedside lamp.
By Kathleen Cronin

Most children sleep with plush toys or teddy bears clutched in their tiny fingers. But my sense of security has always come from the books tucked under my pillow. Authors weave tales that stroke my hair and blanket my body, leaving me warmer than any fleece throw could manage. Books do not care if my pajamas match, or if my hair is sticking out at odd angles; they are always willing to sleep over.

As far back as I can remember, I have needed to read before I could fall asleep. Judy Bloom and I used to stay up into the wee hours of the night, sharing secrets in the dim glow of my floral bedside lamp. I would fall asleep wrapped in the warm embrace of easily solved adolescent problems as I dove into a dreamworld.

My parents were equal parts dismayed and delighted by the light they saw seeping beneath my door frame well past my bedtime. They viewed it as a harmless hobby, but I considered it a mandatory ritual, the absence of which would lead to terrifyingly realistic nightmares of Cruella DeVil stealing my toddler siblings, Dracula from “Scooby-Doo” hovering over me as I slept, or an intruder breaking into my home. I often begged my parents to buy a security system, but they insisted that the locks on the house were sufficient.

As I outgrew Judy Bloom paperbacks and transitioned into young adult novels, I watched as my peers devoured books about a young wizard with dead parents—pursued by a powerful, evil force—and I took a hard pass. I did not need to worry about Harry’s safety in addition to my own, so I stuck with the novels that my friends referred to as cupcake books. They had flirty pink covers with loopy lettering and contained innocent love stories. These books kept an awkward prepubescent middle-schooler in the dark about the worst of the world, and I slept soundly under their protection.

In high school, Sarah Dessen was my plus one of choice. Her predictable plotlines, relatable qualms, and touch of humor lulled me to sleep, washing away the stress of performing in school, on the track, or at my job. With Sarah, I was just another girl in search of a boy who could love her like no one has ever been loved before; after 250 pages, I believed that happy endings were real and could certainly be mine.

Now that I’m in college, I am once again the little girl in the Strawberry Shortcake pajamas who throws sleepovers for her favorite authors, reading much too late into the night and dragging herself away to get a wink of sleep. But now my companions are much more mature. I spent two weeks in bed with Amy Poehler; she used colorful language to describe personal tidbits. Tina Fey once kept me up the whole night telling me about her career, her family, and her “Bossypants” approach to life. I didn’t regreat any of it, even when I drooled on myself in section the next day. Ellen DeGeneres made me audibly cackle over winter break, to the point that I had to make her a daytime companion because I did not want to wake my family. I have begun collecting books by badass women; more potential sleepover pals (including Amy Schumer, Hannah Hart, and Jessica Bennett) wait on the edge of my bed for their chance to spend the night.

Upon entering college, you must learn how frequently to wash your sheets, and you must decide with whom you’d like to share them. I have found that the best sleepovers happen when you invite brilliantly funny, positive women to cuddle you in the warmth of their wit and meticulous turns of phrase. I am still just as scared of the dark as my five-year-old self, but nothing can hurt me if I don’t sleep alone.