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Air Head
The peculiar logic of airport acronyms

Pajama Envy
What Dr. Freud didn't know

TV Junkie
Weaning a lost boy away from his drug of choice

Pajama Envy

What Dr. Freud didn't know

by Lucy Mohr

Psychologists take note: This country's over-stressed and overdressed workers share an eerily common fantasy about working in their pajamas. I know, because whenever a new acquaintance asks what I do, I reply that I work on a web site for a large computer company. I throw out the bait that I work from home and set the snare.

"Ah! You're so lucky! You get to work in your pajamas!" Or, "Oh, wow, do you work in your pajamas?" Or, "Oh my, do you ever get out of your pajamas?" The only variation on these comments involves speculation on my working in no clothes at all.

So, yes, I do work in my pajamas. Often. I embarked on this new millennium work environment two years ago with disciplined intentions. I told friends I would not become a slob, that I would shower and dress every morning, "just like I'm going to an office." Discipline, thy name is Lucy. Right.

My initial new-hire training in Atlanta delayed the Telecommuting Lifestyle Impact for two weeks. And my first day on the job was not completely solo, because my boyfriend had the day off and pledged to tread silently and not intrude beyond my peripheral vision. Tactfully, he didn't comment as I bypassed the shower and wandered directly into my new office at 8 a.m. sharp, blearily grasping my coffee mug for dear life, dressed for success in a skimpy purple T-shirt. I surveyed the mysterious phone wires, cables, and boxes that were to morph into my workstation and he silently slipped out to the deck to read a book and sip his coffee.

Never computer-savvy, I was somehow hooking up my system with aplomb, playing matchmaker to wires and outlets like a pro. I'm a technojock after all! This is great! I thought, as I crawled under my desk to hook up my printer. My self-congratulatory reverie was shattered by male giggles. Hyena-ish, high-pitched and gleeful, as my boyfriend, his newly filled mug of coffee sloshing precariously on my office threshold, watched my ample white derriere backing out from beneath my desk—purple T-shirt gloriously riding high.

While that was the nadir of my work-at-home dishabille (starting at the bottom, I suppose) I'm still failing at the shower-first-thing objective unless motivated by an encounter with another human being—a lunch date, perhaps. The UPS man doesn't seem to count. I've made many new friends amongst my telecommuter coworkers, mostly over the phone, and they all began by bonding over slovenliness. Their confessions of consecutive showerless days eased my own guilt, a guilt that numerous self-delusions have further eroded over time. I'm becoming more European, I tell myself. It's so American to be obsessed with cleanliness. It's good for my body to luxuriate in its own natural oils. Pity those poor neurotic guilt-obsessed souls who strip their skin daily with deodorant soaps.

Lest you imagine a certain essence to my writing, I do shower regularly....pretty much. It's just not my morning wake-up jolt like it is for most of corporate America. Showers, when they happen, come quickly and secretly in midafternoon. In those early days, I was so incessantly paranoid about missing an important call that I'd bring the phone into the shower with me!

Inevitably, right as I'd furtively towel dry, feeling guilty for grabbing a shower at 2 p.m., the phone would jangle with a male teammate or a big-wig boss or someone I'd never spoken to before. While some of my teammates frankly revel au naturel and unabashedly take conference calls in the bubbly bath, my New England prudishness always left me struggling to cover myself as I talked either in staccato monosyllables or tittered naughtily. And always the surprise that the caller didn't say, accusingly or amusedly: "You're naked, aren't you?"

I could handle the guilt; after all, I was raised on the undiluted Puritan version. It concerned me, though, when I started to actually enjoy answering the phone without any clothes on. That, and the shocking day that I actually flushed in a teammate's ear, made me vow never to mix phones and bathrooms again. I realized I'm a web editor, not a 911 operator, and missed calls can be returned without consequence of the caller's death or dismemberment.

The challenges of working at home aside (and there are many), I expect no sympathy. If I dare complain about my frenetic job, or the low buzz of loneliness that never quite leaves a telecommuter, the rolled-eye responses I receive are as predictable as the pajama fantasies. And I understand. I know that if you're stuffed into too-tight pants and a too-small cubicle right now, reading this with one eye peeled for your boss, you must think I have it made.

I do, and I know it, even as I groan about my job sometimes like everyone else. My most stressful days are still realized and expansive, unconstrained by waistbands, nylons, and bras. I've even been promoted twice, although my circumference seems to be increasing along with my paycheck. But it doesn't matter, really. When I'm out for lunch and see you chic businesswomen bustling about in your straight skirts that would asphyxiate my hips, it doesn't bother me. I know'd all rather be wearing pajamas anyway.

April 26, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 17
© 2001 Metro Pulse