Tuesday, May 18, 2004

PJ parties grow up

Sleepovers can give thirtysomethings a chance to connect and reflect

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

They're thirtysomething married moms with a host of responsibilities, but suddenly, they were in junior high again: all it took was a weekend pajama party.

"We did stuff like got out nail polish and painted our nails," Sue Ernst says. "And we looked through magazines together, and talked about hair and fashion and all the girly stuff."

Pajama-party friends
(Brandi Stafford photo)
Ernst, a 35-year-old mother of two from Bridgetown, pitched the idea to a group of 10 female friends: They would rent a house in Kentucky, a couple of hours from their homes, husbands and children. "I just thought it would be fun to have an old-fashioned sleepover again," she says.

She's got company. Ask around, and you might be surprised at the number of women having pajama parties. Think of it as girls night out, only in.

It's a chance for women to step out of the daily routine, reconnect with gal pals and perhaps return (temporarily) to the days of their adolescence. Any free night will do, although some women schedule sleepovers to coincide with special events, such as the Super Bowl.

And at least one business has been created around the idea. A company called Ultimate Pajama Party (www.ultimatepajamaparty.com) holds weekend sleepovers for women at hotels in selected U.S. and Canadian cities - with lots of food and lighthearted seminars on topics such as fashion and cooking. An event is being considered for Columbus next year; the coordinator is Belinda Wiley; (614) 764-0137.

"It's hard, now that kids are involved, to get away," says Christie Schmidt, a 36-year-old mother of three from Mason. She's a close friend of Ernst, whom she's known since elementary school in the Oak Hills district. "We had been talking about (a sleepover) forever. Really we just wanted to hang out. That was what was important."

A secluded Kentucky setting seemed perfect. During the day, Schmidt, Ernst and their friends rode horses and went canoeing. In the evening, they sat on a wrap-around porch in their pajamas "and ate and talked and reminisced," Schmidt says.

Into the wee hours, they reminisced about their school days. And parties. And prom dresses. And guys they dated, some of whom they ended up marrying.

Talk sometimes serious

"My stomach muscles were actually sore after the weekend from laughing so hard," Schmidt says. "We just had a ball."

But the talk turned serious at times, too, and included topics such as marriage, child rearing, value systems and religion, an indication that the friends, and their friendships, have matured.

Jeanne Wolf was there. She's 36, has three young children, with another on the way. The Loveland woman says she enjoys seeing her friends' spouses and children, but "sleepovers are great because we can stay up all night. No one's in a hurry. It brings you closer, because it's a reminder that these people are there for you, like they always have been."

Indeed, the women say they've grown closer during difficult times, such as when Schmidt's brother died of leukemia several years ago, and Ernst's mother passed away last winter.

"This is a group I can always count on," Schmidt says.

But it's not easy finding a weekend when they can all slip away from families. It's been two years since the Kentucky sleepover. In June, the friends plan on an overnight at Belterra Casino.

Sharon Carter can count on a sleepover at least once a year. The 50-year-old Bond Hill resident has a standing invitation to attend a pajama party in Canton, Ohio, with her sister and a half-dozen girlfriends every Super Bowl Sunday.

"We eat, drink, play cards, get in the Jacuzzi and hang out until the Super Bowl starts," Carter says. "We wear team colors and have party favors. We usually take a nap sometime in between the start of the game and the ending. We get back up and start all over again."

Sometimes, Carter says, the overnight is at someone's home; sometimes it's in a hotel suite.

'Girl time'

The Comfort Inn on Fields Ertel Road is a favorite sleepover site for Christine Shimrock and seven of her Mason neighbors.

"We're all scrapbookers, and we're all moms," says Shimrock, 38. "Finding time to do both is virtually impossible."

So they've checked in to the hotel on a half dozen occasions for marathon scrapbooking sessions. But it's more than that.

"It's girl time," says Shimrock, who has five children, none older than 8. "We're catching up. It's like one continuous sentence. All the stuff we can't fit in (while chatting) at the bus stop or in the driveway. It's our socialization without (a child) pulling on our pants, saying, 'I need a drink.' "

Schmidt and Ernst can relate. That's why they are in the early stages of planning what could be their ultimate sleepover.

"We've always said we're going to go on a cruise when we turn 40," Ernst says.

"Maybe we should do it when it when we're 39," Schmidt jokes, "as a last hurrah."

Old-fashioned? Or not

What happens at a pajama party for grown-up girls? Maybe the same thing that happened 20 years ago. Or not.

Stay up all nightStay up all night
Make prank phone callsReconnect with old friends
Talk about boysTalk about husbands
Offer relationship adviceOffer parenting advice
Hope teenage boys will crash the partyHope teenage boys can't find you
Use Ouija board to learn answers to life's great questionsPlay Scattergories
Try on everyone else's clothesFret over childbirth's effects on the body


E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com

PJ parties grow up
Singles can mingle in PJs
Film fest seeks movies with bugs in 'em
Nonprofit boutique cuts prices on clothes
Kraft: Cicada items keep emerging
'Picture' this cosmetic line
NBC will unveil five shows in fall
Raymond's back for a season
TV's best bets
Orman to speak at Aronoff today
Writer's Day can get you started
Best sellers: What's hot in the Midwest