According to my most recent calculations, I now spend more time in pajamas than out of them — about 135 hours a week. By pajamas, I am not talking about overpriced, butt-hugging athleisure wear or a silky kimono. Comfort, not cuteness, is my muse, and I am strictly a pink cotton polka-dot pant, L.L.Bean flannel, and old sweatshirt kind of gal.
I have never been someone who wears a pair of jeans or a dress around the house, and I doubt I ever will be. However, my relationship with pajamas has grown more passionate (and complicated) as I’ve grown older, to the point that it’s verging on compulsion. I’m hooked.
As a freelance writer, I roll out of bed, make coffee, and get to work in the same clothes I slept in. When I first started freelancing, people told me that it was important to get dressed for the day, even if I never left the house. I also know fellow workers-from-home who have designated “daytime” PJs (i.e., a slightly nicer pair of sweats and a bra), but that’s never been my MO. I just don’t see the point.
Despite the pleasure that basking all day in soft, well-worn cotton imparts, it is tainted by sproutlings of guilt. I have always felt my compulsive pajama wearing is a propensity I should hide, as if to embrace and defend it would be to avow something shameful, but I’ve decided that ends now. I will hide no longer, and here's why.
1. I am my best, purest, calmest, happiest self in pajamas.
Pajamas and I have had a long and loving relationship. Growing up, the first thing I did after school was swap that day’s outfit — fraught with tentative assertions of identity, rippling teenage insecurity, and the burden of an inexorably changing body — for a men’s XL swim team sweatshirt that my body could lose itself inside.
The magic of pajamas did not wane as I left adolescence for adulthood. I joined the Peace Corps after college and moved to a village where the rules of appropriate dress were strict. As the sole foreigner, I was, above all else, conspicuous, and living in a culture where what I wore sharply determined my status. The instant the sun set, I burrowed in my house, exchanging long-sleeved collared shirts and knee-length skirts for a tie-dyed tank top and boy’s boxers. Donning pajamas there was more than a bid for comfort; it was a source of secretive, restorative joy — a way to demarcate my personal time and space, to retreat from the eyes of the community, and to reassert my selfhood.
That experience threw into sharper relief what pajamas have meant to me throughout my life, and still mean to this day. I truly feel like me in them — natural, unaffected, and comfortable in my own skin — in a way I just don’t in “normal” clothes. And this feeling of me-ness allows my mind to escape from the unceasing parade of pressure, anxiety, and self-doubt that traipses along with me in the outside world. I can unwind and reconnect with what feels like a purer state of being.
2. I’m sick of feeling judged for loving pajamas.
While I relish my all-day pajama fests, I still feel accosted by voices that pass judgement on able-bodied adults who spend most of their time in plaid pants, a zoo T-shirt and a black hoodie. As if I’m just one step away from becoming Miss Havisham, but in PJs instead of a decrepit wedding dress. Surely (those voices suggest) confident, capable, and admirable people are not in flannel at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays — a suggestion I feel grippingly aware of when accepting packages from the FedEx guy.
Maybe it was growing up in a community where women put on makeup and jewelry to play tennis; maybe it was soaking up magazines and websites that eviscerate celebrities for looking “frumpy” and “dumpy” because they chose to leave the house in sweats; maybe it was blushing as college roommates joked about my pajama proclivities. Whatever the case, I have always felt and feared that my pajama-wearing is a license for judgment.
The difference is that now, I no longer care. I am a grown-ass woman, and I can wear what I want, when I want, without it serving in any way as a reflection of my worth or character. One of the salient pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up over the course of my twenties is how liberating it feels to dispel habits and thought patterns that don’t serve me. And reproaching myself for wearing pajamas all the time does not serve me.
3. I don’t have to wear real pants to be a contributing member of society.
I’ve found that spending most of my time in my pajamas actually helps me be more creative and productive. Getting dressed does demand time and thought, especially for women. It means consciously choosing to trade clothes that feel good, and whose sole purpose is to feel good, for clothes that have another, external purpose, and are less comfortable to boot. Instead of investing time and thought into what to wear, pajamas make clothing irrelevant, which allows me to funnel my energies elsewhere.
4. Pajamas are my way of giving patriarchy the finger.
Women may no longer be expected to wear corsets or don heels just to weather everyday life, but we are expected to look “nice” and to demonstrate that we take our appearance seriously. Relaxing these standards represents a dangerous descent, the (very questionable) logic follows, toward the ultimate rock bottom for women: “Letting yourself go.”
Society wraps our worth up in how we look, and this state of affairs is not a relic of the past. Clothing is still treated as a proxy for how cool, rich, feminine, tasteful, creative, sexual, moral, and professional women are, and choosing wrong has repercussions. It could mean getting passed over for a promotion or being accused of “asking for” rape. To help women navigate this morass, we are constantly berated with advice on how to dress — dress for your body type, dress for success, dress for the life you want. As if by just selecting the right outfit, all the challenges before us will disappear. Every time I get dressed, I feel the burden of these pressures, and would rather avoid them when I can.
Choosing the “wrong” clothing can also be crushingly personal. What feels right to me one day may feel wrong the next. Sometimes I wake up feeling unhappy or alienated from my body. Sometimes I hate everything in my closet. Sometimes I don’t feel good in my own skin, and I just want to feel good in the garments I put on it. Failing to match an ensemble to the dark tangled web of emotions and neuroses that govern how clothes make me feel — in short, wearing something I don’t feel completely comfortable in — makes me feel disoriented and anxious. It’s a distraction.
This endless litany of negotiations is exhausting, which is why I opt out of them as much as possible. When I am home, I say “fuck it” to all of that nonsense. I keep my pajamas on.
5. Sweatpants are not the #1 cause of divorce in America.
My pajama-wearing does not happen in a vacuum. I have a partner, and women who hope to attract and keep a man can’t be schlubs — or so I’ve heard. As Eva Mendez, the woman who famously snagged Ryan Gosling, said, "You can't do sweatpants. Ladies, number-one cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!"
I’ve wondered, as I strut around the house in the same rumpled PJs for the third consecutive day, whether this will be harmful to my own relationship. Are my pajamas a symptom of a complacency that will ultimately be toxic to our romance? Decades down the road, after one too many nights spent in my Thai massage pants (which he really hates), will my partner run off to bone a mythical neighbor who lounges about in a white silk negligee?
The rational side of me knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the answer is no, and the question is bullshit. Our relationship is built on far more than what I/we look like or wear, as all meaningful relationships are. At the same time, I’m sure he’d prefer it if I didn’t look like a mess most of the time, and it can occasionally be difficult for me — an overachiever who abhors disappointing people — to not view this as some sort of failure on my part, even though I know he doesn’t.
But I also know that I’d prefer it if he loved to wash dishes and favored art museums over video games. Mutual acceptance of each other’s foibles and flaws is a wonderful thing, and for two people who plan to live together forever, it’s essential.
6. Pajamas are the devil’s food cake of clothing.
Despite my fervent belief that I am not obliged to get dolled up for the benefit of others (or an empty house) — that I can do what makes me happy without compunction, that the double standards for men and women are unjust, and that society is wrong for attempting to foist an oppressive view of femininity upon me that links my worth to my appearance — guilt creeps in. I can’t help but feel as though I have to apologize or justify my behavior. I still care, but I don’t want to. Hence dedicating almost 2,000 words to why it’s okay for me to always wear pajamas all the time.
I think women are taught to feel ashamed about giving ourselves pleasure, especially when it comes at the expense of a man’s. Whether it’s pajamas or a chunk of chocolate cake, self-indulgence feels transgressive and can get polluted by guilt, even when done in the privacy of our own homes. To go outside is to open ourselves up to appraisal, harassment and discrimination. Is it too much to ask that the tyranny of “looking good” not cross the threshold of my door?
Thus far, I have successfully managed to stave off the pajamapocalypse, when the walls cave in and I wake up one day penniless, bedraggled, and alone in a pile of threadbare cotton because I surpassed my comfort allowance. And I’m ready to embrace my quirk, to revel in the fact that my job allows me to spend all day wearing exactly what I want, and ignore anyone who would cast side-eye on what is an innocuous source of joy.
So here’s to you, pajamas — the only clothes I ever truly want to wear, from now until death do us part.