Years ago, when I was attending college, I had a job in one of the dining halls.
One of my duties was to serve the Saturday morning breakfast. Generally speaking, it consisted of hung-over students shuffling in, and it was anybody’s guess how they could manage to stomach eggs, bacon, French toast etc while hung-over. It was a long, messy, sweaty shift, and at the end of it I would be greasy, sweaty and sticky from fake maple syrup. It paid minimum wage, and was about four hours. In 1995, I would walk out with the princely sum of about $18 from that shift.
Because the college was close to the Canadian border, and the winters were harsh, many of the buildings were connected. Some were connected through underground walkways, some buildings simply abutted others and connected through a doorway.
This particular dining hall was part of a residence hall. the students who lived in that residence hall could simply go from their rooms to the dining hall without ever having to go outside. Even though it was breakfast, and a lot of the students were tired or hung-over, they would show up in their regular street clothes.
Except this one girl. She would show up in her bathrobe and slippers, with her hair wild from sleeping. She was not pleasant, either. She was clumsy, pushy and rude. She would come blustering up the stairs in her bathrobe. After snatching a tray from the pile, she would muscle her way to the front of serving line, and woe be it to anyone or anything in her path. She would have mowed you down like a steamroller.
Once in front of the food she would wield her finger like a weapon, jabbing it into the sneeze guard at the foods she wanted: “I’ll take that, and that, and that, and that, and that!” Then she’d snatch her plate and bluster her way back to her table, spilling juice and knocking over chairs on her way.
Since she was the only one who didn’t see fit to wear her regular clothes, we would wait for her, every weekend. We would consider the shift to be over the hump when The Bathrobe Girl left. We’d hear her thumping up the stairs: “Uh oh, here comes The Bathrobe Girl!”
I usually was tasked with serving the scrambled eggs, and once when she huffed out her litany of demands: “That, and that and that and that”, and her plate weighed ten pounds, I jabbed my finger at the one thing she had not selected and asked, “What about THAT?” I incurred a huffy growl and a bleary glare, as she snatched her plate and shoved her way back out of the line, spilling juice on the head of a wheelchair bound student.
The Bathrobe Girl wore her bathrobe and slippers to the dining hall for breakfast for two years; I guess until she graduated/flunked out/moved off campus. Nobody saw fit to suggest that perhaps it may be more appropriate to wear regular clothes, even if she lived in the adjoining residence hall, which did not require her to go outside to get to breakfast.
She did not wear her bathrobe and slippers to breakfast for the sake of convenience, necessity, or simple sloth or forgetfulness. She wore it to make a statement. The statement was “I can damn well wear what I want, where I want it.” And she was so utterly unpleasant, that nobody, not even management, wanted to challenge that statement. They chose to pick their battles.
What The Bathrobe Girl didn’t realize at the time was that she was a trendsetter, if not a positive one. Today, we see people walking around in pajamas in places where one would have never seen pajamas before. In the lobbies and breakfast areas of hotels, on early morning flights, even walking down the street in nice weather. Kids will show up to school, even college classes in pajama pants. When Mary and I were at the airport a couple of months ago, to board a flight out of JFK after 11PM, an entire family changed into their jammies before boarding the plane! In casual restaurants, I have seen a family with both the children (not infants, not toddlers…..children!) dressed in their PJs! There are people who think nothing these days, of dressing their kids in their pajamas in places where they would have never been considered appropriate twenty years ago.
One of the reasons that nobody was too thrilled about the antics of The Bathrobe Girl, was that she viewed herself an island unto herself. That regardless of societies guidelines of what is appropriate and what is not, she chose to do what she wanted for the sake of doing what she wanted. This was not limited to the expectation that one show up the the dining hall properly dressed; she also included in her statement the resistance, of waiting in line, moving carefully and courteously about crowds, and having a reasonably polite demeanor with the people around her. She simply didn’t care. The only thing she cared about was showing the rest of the world how little she cared about them. What a joy she must have been to her classmates and professors.
There is a trend, and it extends well beyond pajamas, of not caring about the people around us. Not caring about how our actions affect them, and not caring about how our presentation diminishes someone elses experience. It manifests itself in many ways, including, but not limited to the assertion of the self entitlement to wear pajamas in public.
We are not here for other people’s amusement. Within the scope of the expectation that we share our surroundings gracefully with our fellow humans, we should be free to present ourselves in the way that best accentuates who we are. Within the scope.
I have a thing about sleepwear, loungewear, housewear, etc. I believe that unless you are around the people who would be comfortable with you in that attire (e.g. your spouse, family etc), unless you are in a location (e.g. your own home) and situation where you could, realistically go to bed at anytime, unless your day, for all intents and purposes has ended, or is yet to start, sleepwear is not appropriate. When you are wearing sleepwear, it show you are not prepared to give the people (short of those in your intimate sphere), your full attention, and it shows to them that you feel they are not worth it.
I do not own a bathrobe, nor do I own a pair of slippers. I am either dressed or not. And the only place where I would not be fully dressed is either at home, or where a bed or shower was in a few steps. The few times I have been hospitalized, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hospital gown and into, at least, sweatpants. If I have been sleeping in, and the UPS guy shows up, I’ll make sure I am wearing something that could approximate street clothes (if without shoes), before I answer the door.
Nobody was asking that anybody show up to that breakfast in the dining hall in smart attire. Students are often tired, have tight schedules and limited sleep. Fifty years ago, people would wear a suit to board an airplane, and nobody is asked to do that anymore, nor should they be. However, we should all present ourselves in a manner that says we care about the other human beings around us.
That does not end at clothes. It extends to giving attention to the people around us, answering questions graciously, apologizing for the accidental bump, offering help when able, refraining from getting offensive tattoos, and refraining from aggressive or hostile body language (sneering, swaggering, shoving, glaring)
We are not here for the amusement of others. And in this age of photoshopping, image crafting, objectifying etc it is easy to lose sight of that. But lets not get too far in the reaction and resistance of that to forget that how we present ourselves is a big part of who we are!
PS Pajamas aren’t clothes. Wear your clothes in public.