And then there were sleepovers.
At least once a month, starting in third grade and continuing into the first year or two of junior high.
Three or four boys arrive at the host's house after dinner on Friday or Saturday night.
You romp around, playing games (my favorite was Twister), watching tv, eating pizza, and generally roughhousing until bedtime, which is much later than usual.
You all compete for the honor of sharing the host's bed. Everyone else squeezes into the other bed (most boys had two), or onto blankets laid out on the floor. Some boys bring sleeping bags.
The beefcake is amazing! You bring pajamas, but rarely wear them. You sleep in your underwear. There are cute boys lying shirtless everywhere you look.
And the touching! Nothing sexual happens -- by the time you are old enough to think about such things, sleepovers are rare. But when three boys are lying side by side on the floor, who can help but hug, cuddle, caress? When you share the host's bed, which is a little too small for two people, you have no choice but to sleep pressed together.
In the morning, you dress, have a nice breakfast, and walk home (if it's Saturday) or get picked up in time for church (if it's Sunday).
And see in his underwear.
The other guys did exactly the same thing. The guest list was always: Boomer, Bill, Joel, your brother or another friend, and the Fifth Boy, a boy you wanted to hook up with.
Sometimes it didn't work out. Once Joel invited David Angel as the Fifth Boy, but David refused to share his bed, allowing me the honor. Both Joel and my boyfriend Bill were understandably upset, but they couldn't say or do anything, since the Fifth Boy was an unspoken tradition.
In the spring of seventh grade, I started "liking" Dan, during my failed attempt to rescue him from bullies who were trying to shove him into the girl's locker room, He accepted an invitation to my house, but refused to come to my sleepover the next weekend: "Sleepovers are for grade school babies."
Two weeks later, Peter invited me to his sleepover, obviously as Boy #2 or #3, since we had already hooked up.
Peter's Mom opened the door and escorted me to the basement rec room, where he was playing pingpong -- with Dan!
"Hey, I thought you said sleepovers were for grade school babies!" I exclaimed, hurt and jealous.
"Oh...well, Peter told me how much fun he had at yours, so I changed my mind."
"You're good friends?" I asked, afraid of the answer. "Come over to his house a lot?"
"Not really. He sits beside me in Civics Class, but I've never been to his house before. He just invited me out of nowhere."
It was worse than I thought! Dan was the Fifth Boy!
The rest of the night was a battle royale over Dan. I sat next to him on the couch when we watched tv; Peter squeezed between us. I brought him a soda; Peter brought him a piece of cake. I bragged about how many push-ups I could do; Peter brought out his baseball trophies.
Finally it was bedtime, the moment of truth. There were blankets and pillows scattered on the floor in Peter's bedroom. And one twin bed.
We all stripped to our underwear.
"Dan, you're with me!" Peter said, grinning as if to say "I've won!"
Think! I told myself. Keep Dan out of that bed! "Um...are you sure? It's pretty small, and you're pretty big. There might not be enough room for Dan."
"Plenty of room!" Peter insisted. "My cousin sleeps over with me all the time, and he's bigger than me!" He climbed into bed and pulled down the covers.
"Anyway, I hate sleeping on the ground," Dan said. ignoring my red-faced jealousy to climb into bed beside him.
"But...we listened to Donny Osmond!" I whispered. "Um...we can talk about him...."
There was nothing to do but take my place beside the other two boys, and try not to listen Peter and Dan whispering and giggling under the covers.
Later in the night, I was still awake when Dan climbed out of bed, went to the bathroom, then returned and pulled up the blankets next to me.
"Did you lose your way?" I whispered sarcastically.
"Peter kicks in his sleep," he said.
I slept with Peter two weeks ago, so I knew that Dan was lying -- he just wanted two hookups. But I didn't care.
See also: A Boy Named Angel; and The Golden Boy in his Underwear