I never snuck out, but I snuck people in. One night I had two friends over, and they invited boys that I didn’t know very well and didn’t really have any interest in having over. My house was split into two levels: The downstairs part could be locked off entirely like a separate living space, but we used it as a game room, and that’s where we were all hanging out. When my friends were leaving, I went upstairs to walk them out and noticed my dad was awake and in his office, which was near the front door. When I came back inside I tried to go downstairs to secretly kick the boys out, but my dad had locked everything up when he heard my friends leave. He told me to go to bed, but I needed to get those guys out! There was a balcony near my bedroom that looked out on the backyard, and I thought I could jump off of it with my keys and release them from their prison. I climbed over a rail and jumped—and landed on the tiled walkway under the balcony, and broke my arm! On top of that, during my acrobatics the keys had slipped from my hand and were now on the balcony floor above me. Suddenly I was locked out of my house—with a broken arm. I spotted some large buckets of paint in the backyard, and I tried to stack them up so I could climb back up to the balcony and retrieve my key, but that was stupid thinking: The paint cans came crashing to the ground, and so did I. My dad heard the crash and ran outside to find me on the ground covered in paint. At that point I had to tell him that there were two guys in our basement. He gave them 10 seconds to RUN.
My sneaking-out tactics were always absurdly boneheaded. I remember hiding in the shadow of our trampoline and waiting for my friend to honk her car horn from down the block—that was my signal to sprint across some neighbors’ lawns and launch myself into the open passenger door. But when it came to leaving the house itself, I just like walked out the back door. I can’t recall doing anything interesting during the nighttime sneak-outs—we’d just drive around at night or go to Denny’s or something.
I decided I was ready to have sex, but my parents wouldn’t let me go to sleepovers at other people’s houses because they knew I would use the opportunity to do sexy stuff. The night I decided to go through with it, I was at my boyfriend’s house and my parents ordered me to drive my brother to a little league game at the last second. As the clocked ticked down to carpool time, I lost my nerve and burst into tears and couldn’t go through with it. My boyfriend didn’t have a license, but I hinted that if he biked to my house later that night, I would be willing to “go all the way.” He didn’t live that far away, but to get from his house to mine required biking on one of the curviest parts of Sunset Boulevard, which is not a particularly bicycle-friendly roadway. He appeared at my window at 2 AM and woke me up; we did the deed, then promptly passed out. When I woke up at 6 AM and he was still there, sleeping in my bed, I freaked out and shook him awake so he could get out of there. But alas, my dad was already up and drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. My boyfriend had to crawl commando-style across the lawn so my father wouldn’t see him through the huge glass door in the kitchen.
I rarely had to sneak out, because everyone in my house was usually asleep by the time I decided to leave, but I constantly lied about where I was going and what I was doing in the daylight hours in order to stay out later or generally have more freedom. I skipped school almost every single day of my senior year; I would get ready in the morning, drive my busted car to pick up my friend Jay, and then drive to the diner in the town next to ours to have breakfast until we were sure her mother had left for work. Then we would just drive back to her house and hang out all day, usually falling asleep while watching Jerry Springer in her living room. At night I would say I was going rollerskating at the rink 20 minutes away, when I was really an hour away in New York City at a concert or dancing at the Limelight or hanging out with skaters in Washington Square Park. Since I was rarely where I said I would be, I had to sneak back in when I finally decided to come home at night. My grandparents would usually fall asleep waiting for me to get home (aw, olds), and I totally took advantage of their age and tiredness and lied to them the next day: “I was home by midnight, I swear! You were asleep.” I spent most of my junior and senior years like this, and I will never stop apologizing to them for my shitty behavior.
I went to art school, and my boarding house was in the middle of Johannesburg’s party capital, so it made no sense to stay in on weekends. We knew one girl who was really into staying in; the rest of us would grab the firehose on the third floor, pull it across the corridor, pop it out the window into the garden, take turns sliding down, and run off into the night. The return mission would involve calling the homebody, usually at 4 AM, so she could ready a rope we’d made of old curtains. We took off our jeans and tied them around our necks (they were skinny jeans, and we didn’t want to rip them during the climb) and shimmied up. If any teachers decided to peek out of their windows at that moment, they would have been confronted with many brown legs in all sorts of underwear, hoisting themselves onto the first floor and squeezing through the bars over their windows. It was always fun, but it obviously sucked in the winter. I was 16 and an executive in the school’s student body; my secret life of after-hours delinquency really brought me joy. I’ve never snuck out of my home—my mother’s way too scary for that mess.
I never snuck out like a proper teen because I’m a dweeb, but when I was six I thought I was secretly sneaking out to run away forever because my dad wouldn’t take me mini-golfing. I packed a backpack of Chips Ahoy cookies, underwear, my toothbrush, and a Barbie Doll and snuck out the back door and dramatically walked around my neighborhood for hours. ♦
* All non-staff names have been changed to protect the less-than-innocent.