Women’s Retreats — Slumber Parties for Grownups

March 14, 2008
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I always loved a good slumber party when I was a kid. The unlimited unhealthy snacks, eardrum-splitting music and endless giggling held enormous charm to my 13-year-old self. But it was the element of “naughtiness” that really appealed to me. The rumors of spiked punch and illicit visits by boys. The silly games, risqué jokes and secrets shared at midnight. I still like all those things and find an outlet for them at retreats for Mormon women. (Okay, no spiked punch. And these days, there’s a firm No Boys Allowed sign tacked to the door).  Mormon women have a long history of retreats in New England, Utah, Colorado, and the Midwest. I go each June to the Rocky Mountain Retreat in Colorado. (Anybody’s welcome to join us, by the way. Check it out at rockymountainretreat.org. Our retreat, like the others, has all the elements of a really good slumber party. We’ve got tables laden with chocolate kisses, red licorice and potato chips. We stay up late and laugh and play games. We also hike and spend time soaking in the local hot springs.But there’s more. We have great speakers, who have ranged from Barbara Smith to Chieko Okazaki to Peggy Fletcher Stack. This year Claudia Bushman is coming. We sing spirituals, folks songs, and hymns in three-part harmony and on occasion we make “crafts” that would never make the cut for enrichment night (don’t ask). Mostly, though, we talk. We say the things that we can’t say in Relief Society. We talk about marriage and kids and jobs and sex. We talk about things that make us angry and ways we feel disenfranchised.  We talk about the exciting places we’ve traveled and the wanderings still ahead of us. We talk about our dreams and failures, our goals and disappointments. Heady stuff.Every year I wonder why so many women feel the need to go to a retreat. Part of the answer is obvious – retreats allow us to nourish friendships that often languish during the busy-ness of regular life. It’s a wonderful getaway, an estrogen fest that is coordinated, planned and attended by women, without a priesthood leader in sight.

But, it goes beyond that. Many of us feel permission to be our real selves while we’re hanging out in that cabin with like-minded souls, wearing our blue jeans and gazing at the spectacular mountains … or groves of New England timbers or a Midwestern lake. Why is this? What’s different from our usual Sundays when we wear our floral dresses and heels? Why do regular circles within the church feel unsafe for so many? Or do they? 

When you come down to it, do grown-up women just  need a good slumber party . . . or is there something else going on?

7 Responses to Women’s Retreats — Slumber Parties for Grownups

  1. March 14, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Wow, Women’s Retreats exposed! Let us speculate no more.

  2. March 15, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I love retreats because of the supportive atmosphere it seems to engender. We are free to let our hair down, to confess who we really are, to wear jeans and a ponytail. At the last Rosewood Retreat I took off my glasses for the whole weekend because I wanted to see everything through my spiritual eyes. It’s so great to let the inner kookiness out.

  3. paula
    March 15, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Lisa, you forgot our link:
    http://www.rockymountainretreat.org

  4. jks
    March 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    “What’s different from our usual Sundays when we wear our floral dresses and heels? Why do regular circles within the church feel unsafe for so many? Or do they?”

    Well, usual Sundays mean you come with a family (if you have one, or the people around you come with a family), you don’t have time to talk between meetings or after meetings, you have a calling to do, you see a few people you know in the halls, but how well can you get to know them at church, really?
    I had a party last night with women from my ward. 11 women to play games, some of whom I have had only breif conversations with. It was fun. I don’t need a whole weekend, 7pm till midnight was enough for me. It wasn’t a baby shower, but since I am having baby#4 in 5 days, it was good to get a chance to have the conversation drift to this major event in my life.
    Has anyone played the game “Celebrity” (might go by different names). Everyone writes down famous names and with two teams you go through the same names 3 times. First time you use words, second round you can only use one word, the third round you do charades. Its is a great game to create shared experience and inside jokes in under two hours.

  5. March 15, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Paula, thanks for catching the missing website.
    JKS, good for you for having a party with the women in your ward, especially some you didn’t know very well. This is a great way to get to know people, but most of us don’t take the initiative to invite people over. And good luck on getting baby #4 into the world!

  6. March 16, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I used to love slumber parties when I was a teenager and I still do. I’ve now been to 23 or the 25 Exponent II Retreats in New England and feel they are the balast that keeps me upright throughout the year. I see many of these women only this one weekend each year, however I feel an intimate bond with them. Hooray for Ladies Weekends, retreats, showers, whatever gets us together and talking – honestly with each other.

  7. August 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    We hear you Lisa. Maybe you should check out our ‘Simple Escapes for Women’ on our site.

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