YOU would make a GREAT *before* picture!
[2017 Update: I originally published this post in 2011 – then I removed it because “wearing pajamas in public” is no longer my thing. I am republishing it because I still believe in the core message.]
A couple weeks ago, I attended a large facilitated networking event. We were grouped into tables and invited to really get to know each other through conversation.
Our subject for the evening?
What do we rebel against? Have we led a rebellion?
Conversation went around the table. A few of the women claimed they were rebelling against the idea of “having to look a certain way” in order to be acceptable.
They resented being judged by “outside packaging” instead of “the core of their being.” This came up around age, around weight…and around fashion.
Excellent, I thought. These are my people.
When my turn came, I grinned, pointed to my pajamas and said: “I rebel against dress codes.”
This immediately sparked the questions: Why? What’s the story behind the pajamas?
I told my “before” story.
About my junior high school graduation dance. When all the other girls wore pink and white pouffy dresses and I showed up in a sensible navy blue skirt. I talked about how they made fun of me and wouldn’t speak to me…and how I spent the entire evening leaning up against the wall, trying to wish myself invisible.
How ever since that day, I worried so much about “dressing inappropriately” that I often avoided social events entirely because I didn’t know what to wear.
I also shared my “after” story.
How my fear evaporated when I faced it head on by attending a professional speaker’s conference in my pajamas.
I told them that I now wear my pajamas as both an “anti-intimidation suit” (people approach me) and also a “confidence outfit” (my PJs are my version of a power suit).
They reacted positively to my story. I thought I had made my point.
And then something weird happened
One of the women at the table was an image consultant.
She seemed very touched about my story of being rejected in junior high. Perhaps it made her think of her teenage daughters.
She offered to “help” me with my problem – by giving me a complete makeover. (I guess she didn’t catch the “after” part of my story where I talked about my “problem” being resolved.)
shocked a bit taken aback. I told her I would have to think about that.
Apparently I needed more convincing
She continued on.
“You’d make a great before and after.”
I believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that this woman was well-intentioned, her heart was in the right place and that she really, really, really wanted to help me.
And at the same time…
Did she really just say that?
Did she just tell me that I’m a real live walking, talking, embarrassing “before” picture? That I was so bad that I would make a *stunning* transformation?
Is this is how she sees me? Is this how everybody sees me? (Maybe more importantly: Is this how other people see themselves?)
“You have so much inner beauty.”
Inner beauty, huh? Reminds me of being reassured as a teenager that my personality was more important than my looks. Translation: you’re ugly.
“With the right hair style, the right eyeglass frames, the right clothes, we can let your inner beauty out.”
Translation: your hair is wrong, your eyeglass frames are wrong, your clothes are wrong and you have no outer beauty. But don’t worry…you can be fixed!
Becoming more stunned by the minute, I repeated that I would have to think about it. (Note to self: consider “confrontation skills” as a worthy next challenge.)
Wow! You should do that! What a great opportunity!
Obviously, I wasn’t understanding the value of what she was offering. So the other women at the table decided to help me see it.
The same group of women who, earlier in the discussion, had complained about being judged based on their “packaging” instead of for who they were inside were now suggesting that I should jump on this offer to improve my appearance.
What happened to my people? My fellow rebels?
One of them asked:
“You’re not afraid anymore. Why do you still need to wear pajamas? Why not take her up on this offer and move on?”
Interestingly enough, I’d been asking myself the same question lately. The experiment is over. The fear is gone. Maybe it was time to move on.
I realized that the Universe had sent me a gift in the form of this woman.
Plus or minus a year ago, I would have seen her as the answer to all my “I’m not good enough” problems. Someone who could make me look “better” and help me fit in. The magic genie who could turn this frog into a princess.
Instead, I was now feeling grateful to this woman for a completely different reason. She made me realize:
The pajamas aren’t just my shtick. They’re a symbol of my rebellion.
Rebellion is about taking a stand against something and refusing to bow to the dictates of authority or convention.
It’s about acting in congruence with what you believe in.
I cannot think of a single thing I wish to support in the “fashion industry.”
From the emaciated models parading down the runway to the glossy magazines with the photoshopped faces and bodies of “beautiful women” who don’t actually exist in real life.
To the sweat shops where designer clothing is manufactured – to the waste of changing styles with every year and season – to the barriers it creates for women who cannot afford to “dress for success.”
And especially the underlying message that the most important thing women should be concerned with is how they look.
I’m refusing to participate. I’m rebelling.
I won’t spend my money buying uncomfortable clothing to impress other people. I won’t spend my time slathering goo on my face and spraying shit in my hair in order to fit in.
I won’t do a damned thing to support an industry that is founded on making women feel bad about themselves so they’ll go out and buy stuff.
My rebellion isn’t just about fashion and dress codes.
I’m rebelling against conformity.
Against mindlessly doing what everyone else is doing.
Even if it means being labeled as a “before” picture.
This is *exactly* what I needed to hear right now. Thank you thank you thank you
You are very welcome! Thank you for your comment!
Thank you for writing the post I wish I could have come up with! I totally can’t believe they weren’t listening to themselves back peddling over everything they just talked about.
I wondered exactly the same thing: do you actually hear what you’re saying??? Thanks for commenting!
Brava! That is an AWESOME story. How wonderful that you saw it the offer for the wolf in sheep’s clothing it was.
Patty – Thanks for your powerful story. Congratulations on knowing who you are, what your values are, what you stand for, and sticking by them.
So often we are lured into believing that we would be okay ‘if only’ we would . . . especially true in biz. Especially true in junior high school.
Pressure to conform is huge. AND there are legions of stories about the (brave) individuals who dared be themselves anyway and were loved and remembered for it. And they succeeded too, because they measured themselves by their own definition of success.
With or without your pajamas, I respect your integrity and willingness to know and be yourself. And now I want to give you a big hug [hug]. Thanks Patty.
Hugs back, Barbara! And yes…the pressure to conform is huge. And I think a lot of time we don’t really even think about it. Dressing is a great example.
In junior high, kids were straight out with it: “I won’t hang around with you because you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.”
In the biz world, it’s more subtle. But it’s there. I remember showing up for a job interview once, looking at the other candidates and realizing *immediately* that there was no way in hell I would get the position. Wouldn’t matter if I could perform in circles around them. Their clothes were nicer and I didn’t “look” the part.
I would really like to see you on Oprah. In your pajamas. Declining her makeover.
Damn! I would *love* the opportunity to decline an Oprah makeover! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!
How do I love this post? Let me count the ways…
I have to admit that when I see people in “nice” clothes and all made up, with their hair all dyed and poofed and sprayed, I just want to say to them, “Who do you think you’re fooling?”
I remember deciding when I was about 15 that I never wanted a hairstyle that I couldn’t go out in the rain with. And I skipped all the dinner dances and proms because…I just don’t dress up. It’s just not a part of my being to purposely change my natural appearance as dramatically as possible, all while inhaling methylwhatsinthisshit copolymer benzene.
I sincerely hope the women you met have reflected on that conversation. It’s hard to imagine your perspective not having an impact on them. A tiny stream of truth may have seeped into their skulls…
Seriously consider making confrontation skills your next challenge, LOL. I’d love to hear the stuff you’d come up with to say. There was a perfect comeback in this situation. It would be so satisfying to be able to come up with those on the spot. 🙂
Sue! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who “doesn’t do dress up.” I so so so hear you on the ridiculousness of spending so much time, effort and money on trying to alter our natural appearance. For what?? Why??
And oh…how I wish I could come up with the comebacks *before* the drive home! Maybe some practice would be a good thing. And hey…it’s a blog, I can always tell people what I *wish* I would have said. It would almost count.
I absolutely echo the comments here. What a great learning experience for all of us to embrace who we are regardless of the efforts of others to change us.
I couldn’t help but wonder as I was reading this powerful article, Patty, why you told the woman (more than once) that you needed to think about her offer.
Clearly, you know who you are.
No need to think about it.
Well, Tshombe. You ask a very, very good question!
Let me outline my weenie excuses: I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to reject her. I didn’t want people to think I was a bitch. I didn’t want them to not like me. There are probably others, but those are right off the top of my head.
These reasons, too, are why I waited so long to publish this post. I didn’t want to offend anyone. It’s *easy* to be me and to be non-conformist in my own head (and house) – it’s challenging to do so in public. It brings up a *lot* of stuff.
In retrospect, “No, thank you” would have been a fine answer. But it wouldn’t have given me such good material for a blog post! 🙂
LOL I really get that.
Thanks for the honest (and fabulous!) answer 🙂
Woo! Go you! We need more strong people like you in the world. I’m working on my rebellion against such things… It takes a lot of will power.
My own mother said (flippantly) to me: “You and [best friend] look so similar, accept you’re like the ‘before’ version and she’s the ‘after’.” – Thanks, Mum.
Thanks, Sophie! And…ouch…what a comment to get from your own Mum!
Even beyond “No, thank you,” I’d love to see you relive this scene and politely say, “I think you may have missed my point,” or something along those lines.
This episode brings out my inner screenwriter. This really is great fodder for a book or movie. Memoirs of That Pajama Lady, LOL.
It sounds like another aspect of your answer to Tshombe’s question may have been that you had already begun to question whether you wanted to continue wearing pajamas, so perhaps “I’ll think about it,” did have some small truth in it. Not necessarily that you’d consider the makeover, but perhaps some change in how you were presenting yourself.
You’re open to various ways of presenting yourself–because you rebel against dress codes!! If you “have to” wear pajamas, then that’s a dress code, right? Allowing the possibility of *not* wearing pajamas is really just being consistent.
Damn, Sue! You are brilliant. Bingo. Yes. There was a small element of truth in the “I’ll think about it.” And why? Some days I just don’t feel like “being the Pajama Lady” and dealing with the questions. I was coming up against my own self-enforced dress code. Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing that out – because I didn’t see it until you mentioned it.
Ha! Now I can *not* wear pajamas…and that would be perfectly (in)consistent.
Memoirs of That Pajama Lady? Love it. 🙂
Here’s how I see it… we need to belong, be part of a collective (so it seems) and when there is someone who ‘bucks’ the system in anyway it creates a ripple and a feeling of discomfort in the system. PJ Patty, you my dear, have put your stick in the ground, stepped up on the top of your mountain and are willing to speak your truth and be authentic to who you are.. Good for you! I applaud you .. it is not something you are saying (…”that you are rebelling against the idea of “having to look a certain way”…) , it is truly who you are.. and there isn’t really a rebellion.. not so much anymore, it just is… others can choose to accept you or not. Obviously, you have stepped up.. and all the blessing to you for it!
Interesting. I think you’re right about it being about belonging. I’ve never thought about my role in shaking up the group that way. I guess I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I suppose it looks different when you belong to the group and see the disruptive force. Thanks so much for the perspective. Great to see you here!
Wow, a very powerful story you shared. Seems like you moved the story into your own by deciding it was a gift. That is something few people could manage! Colour me impressed.
At first I was dismayed at this persons lack of tack and acceptance of someone elses views. However after reading your eventual response I am so happy for you! Of course I still think it would have been fun for you to offer to take them all pj shopping so they could fix their own complaints but I have occasionally have a disturbing sense of humour.
Keep on being who you are..you inspire many to begin to find the strength to do the same!
Thanks, Bonnie! Pajama shopping trip…that could be fun. We could be fashion trend setters: teddy bear prints are the new black!
You KNOW I’d be in on that. But I have to say I’d prolly get puppy dog prints lol And plaids..I love a good plaid pj set haha. Should really have a workshop that REQUIREs folks to show up in pjs!
Hey Bonnie – in all seriousness, a “pajama party” style workshop has crossed my mind more than once. I think there would be tremendous value in dropping the masks and posturing and getting to know each other in a super casual, comfortable environment.
I didn’t realize the other day on Twitter just how much of a Pajama Hero you are! Not just a Pajama Colony Denizen, but capable of inspiring a whole Pajama Nation.
I loved this post, in case you couldn’t tell.
Thank you, Lisa of the Pajama Colony. 🙂
Way to go, Patty! I loved it and thorougly enjoyed the read. I was astounded at the groups lack of insight and authenticity, especially after stating what they were rebelling against themselves. Wow. Thanks for sharing another amazing story and journey.
Thanks, Shelley. So great to see you here!
I’ll join the others in telling you how much I love this post (appreciate all of your posts actually),and how much I admire you for well…being naturally, authentically you.
In high school I never fit in properly to any of the ‘cliques’, and it’s still true to this day 🙂 I once made a real faux-pas bringing a ‘nerd’ to the ‘cool kids’ table in the cafeteria at lunch (the cool kids were trying me on for size since I had just moved to that city and new to that school). Suffice to say I was quickly excommunicated for that transgression, but I think I must have been sliding on thin social acceptance ice with them anyway.
The principal (quite the twinkly eyed maverick that he was) befriended me and convinced me to resurrect the school newspaper that had been defunct for 25 years. Ta-da! I had my own office as editor and everything…no more awkward lunch hour in the hallway or library with my nose in a book 🙂
Viva la pajamas revolution (and Patty K)!
Thank you, Carole Jane! There are a LOT of us who feel like we didn’t (don’t?) fit in. (Which makes sense when you think about it…the cool kids were a small percentage of the population.) What a great story, so awesome that your principal rescued you! And I totally applaud you bringing a nerd to the cool kids’ table 🙂
YOU ARE DEFINITELY THE AFTER PICTURE IN MY EYES… you have been shaped by your experiences and stand triumphant and jama-clad as the “after all that i am victorious” (in saying that i hear the whispers of getting a makeover to make me feel better – but all that would make me is the same and i know that my deepest wisest self doesn’t want that at ALL)
Awww, thanks, Jane. And you are so so right about the temporary effect of the makeover or the weight loss, or the new toy or the raise or any other external thing that promises to make us feel better about ourselves. Our deepest wisest self knows better.
OMG. SPEAK IT!!!!! This is SUCH A WONDERFUL POST! Yay for you and for your compassion for the woman and for your fierceness for women and MANY YAYS for your pajamas!
Thank you so much! 🙂
Patty – wow, I was thrilled to read this post and can’t wait to talk directly.
As the person who approved of THAT question for discussion that night at that event, I have to say that I’m proud we went with it because it DID cause some really heavy discussion and reaction.
I loved hearing your story of that event – and it makes my mind race about so many things. I’ll save that for my own post but for now say a big, huge THANK YOU for being you, THANK YOU for attending, and thank you for articulating your thoughts so well.
Lori – I *loved* that question! (In case you can’t tell ;))
I’m glad to hear that it provoked a lot of thought and discussion, because I think we *need* more depth. I’m looking forward to reading your post! Thanks so much for your comment and for approving such a great question.
You are a masterful storyteller, Patty.
You had me worried there mid-story. I thought the “image consultant” might “win.”
Thanks, Joe. I, too, was relieved to find out that the flannel survived the day!
Just one question: were they business pajamas or casual pajamas?
Oh, these were my serious business pajamas. Matching pants and top. With buttons! 🙂
So those ladies weren’t really “rebelling” against being judged for their packaging, they were just lamenting, eh? True rebellion stands its ground. Which is what you’re doing. They were paying lip service.
My experience with rebellion as expressed via pajamas was short-lived. In 2009 I began showing up at work (both at my day job as a speechwriter for a university president and at my evening job as a ballroom dance teacher) in vintage nylon lingerie atop day clothes, with ruffled bloomers underneath that I flashed for my female co-workers for their amusement upon request. I got pulled aside at the dance studio by the owner, but pretty much left alone at the campus job. Probably the academics were clueless about the origins of my fashion choice, anyway.
Now here’s where yours and my experience differed: after I lost my veddy, veddy serious day job, I also lost the urge to rebel via lingerie. I heard myself say to the dance studio owner, “There is nothing to rebel against now. I can be myself here, whereas I couldn’t at the day job.”
But that experience taught me there must a whole bunch of women out there in cubicle land who don’t quite know how to reclaim their soul after it’s been sucked dry on the job. It’s for them that I design my upcycled handmade wearable art.
Yes. There is a world of difference between rebelling and lamenting. I think, though, that lamenting might be the first step towards rebellion – at least they were *aware* of the situation.
Love your rebellion story. I think we all want to retain our individuality, and the more stifling the work environment, the more it brings out our inner rebel. I suspect this goes a long way towards explaining the dysfunction in most companies.
Thanks so much for commenting.
Amen, sister!!!! ( although Sushi pjs would really bring out your eyes)
Hey Meg: I would *love* sushi pjs! Nice to see you here. 🙂
Alright, I’m here because Judy fr Cat’s Eye said this was a great read and it was. I know I’m treading on some very thin ice but I did see one other male was brave enough to comment so I will too.
Jr High/High school can be brutal; especially if you are not in the right clic. I think there are more people than not that had to endure somewhat traumatic experiences.
I am glad to hear your are comfortable enough to wear the pajamas and I’m going to guess there were tasteful and didn’t have coffee stains, tattered & frayed edges, etc.
I’m sure the image consultant was well intentioned but apparently not too tactful. Maybe your reply should have been “excuse me, I think I’ve got it taken care of”.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure on girls to look a certain way. Personally, I feel if you are comfortable in your own skin, whatever that might be then more power to you.
And this is where I’ll probably get push back; I still feel you, me, anybody should care how they look. I’m not saying you have to have the latest fashions, the most make-up etc; but have some pride in your appearance and do the best you can to be clean, neat, etc.
I do look for inner beauty and try not to pre-judge but if the packaging is so bad it might be hard for me to get there.
I’m not implying that was your case, I’m just saying a certain level of looks do matter.
If you feel I still don’t ‘get it’; feel free to share your side.
Until you walk a mile in their shoes, right?
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Bill! Thanks so much for visiting and leaving such a thoughtful a comment. I love the discussion, no worries about ice – thin or otherwise.
You know, I’ve been thinking about the whole school thing – and when I look back, I wouldn’t be surprised if *most* kids felt left out and like they didn’t belong. After all, the “cool kids” were a small percentage of the population. (And I sometimes wonder if some of the cool kids didn’t even realize they *were* cool kids and got caught up worrying whether the other cool kids accepted them.)
As for the “looks matter to a certain extent” angle, I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m a big fan of soap and water…and I wear my “going out” pajamas to events. They’re clean, tops and bottoms match. So, like many others, I do make some effort to look “nicer than usual” when I go out. I do this for myself, though, not to seek other peoples’ approval. (And overall, this is my main point: thinking for yourself, rather than doing things because you’re worried about what other people think.)
What I’m finding is that the pajamas make a tremendous “red velvet rope” (as Michael Port would call it) – some people are completely repelled. Perhaps it’s just like you suggested, they can’t see through the packaging.
I used to think that this would be a bad thing (oh no! some people don’t like me/don’t approve!) – but it turned out to be a great thing. Because some people are attracted. I have far, far, far more people approach me *now* than I ever had when I did my best to “blend in.” And the folks who approach tend to be my “right people” – they’re open minded, curious, intelligent, warm, caring, friendly, interesting people. 9 times out of 10 we end up having long conversations, rather than the typical networking drive-by business card exchange.
I don’t think it’s the pajamas themselves that cause this effect. I think it’s the congruence. I’m me and I’m showing up as myself. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not in order to fit in.
Patty, your post is very thought provoking. First of all, I thought about how I would feel about being told I need a makeover and I realized I would be very hurt. It was disingenuous of the women to say one thing while sharing in the group and then focus on the things that they had just said they resent.
Now, here’s where I differ on some of your premises. I was thinking about nature and how the animals or birds that are the flashiest, biggest, have the prettiest song or the most dramatic tail feathers get the mate or the territory. Women and men have embellished their appearances with natural “makeup”, jewelry or clothes since the beginning of time, way before advertising ever existed. They did it to be more attractive to a potential mate. It’s part of our survival gene.
I am a strong feminist, have been since my 20s, and I resent women being objectified. And, as a feminist, I support women being able to do what they want – whether that’s enhancing their appearance through makeup, clothes and jewelry or not. I do, however, think it’s important to sometimes look our best and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s all about our survival DNA, whether we’re trying to find a job, a mate or clients.
In some ways, it sounds like that’s what you’re doing with your pajamas. As you said to Bill, the pajamas weed out the people that don’t resonate with your beliefs and draw others to you who do. But realize, because you’re choosing not to “blend in” people will have a reaction.
Thanks for a very thought provoking post.
Hi Arden – thanks for dropping by and joining the discussion!
I never considered the “it’s in our genes” aspect before. Very interesting.
I certainly don’t disagree with you about us being free to choose whether or not we get dressed up and wear makeup. I fully support others in their individual choice (and it was never my intention to suggest that everyone should follow my lead).
Being in the minority, though, I’ve become very aware of people *not* extending the same support (tolerance?) to me. A lot of people seem to believe that “doing what everyone else is doing” = “right” (and therefor I am “wrong”) Going against the crowd and refusing to blend in can be a tough gig. Like you say, I definitely get a reaction!
A very engaging post. Interesting perspective. I totally agree with you about sweat shops and the underlying issues with the fashion industry.
Maybe there’s something old-school in this 29-year old girl, but part of me cringes at the idea of wearing pajamas to a conference. Sorry! I’m trying to figure out why this is. For me, I think it all comes down to professionalism. Which has nothing to do with fashion.
Thanks for engaging my thoughts this morning!
Hi Katie – thanks so much for your comment.
Wearing pajamas to a conference isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. I would agree that there’s a distinction between fashion and professionalism…although, I think the lines get crossed. I tend to associate “professional” with “conservative” – and at many of the women’s events I attend, a lot of the outfits are far from conservative.
WOW Patty! There is some ‘Fi-uh’ (Fire for the after picture user’s) in those words!
What a great post! I love that you stood in the essence of who you are in the world on that night and that you still are.
One thing that stood out for me was – it’s too bad that the stylist at your table didn’t “hear” you because of her discomfort with the subject matter. Pajama’s. And yet, I have no doubt that she learned a lot from that experience.
Thank you for honoring your self and sharing your rebellion.
I just spoke on ‘Personal Branding and Y.O.U’ to an audience of women this week. And I shared that no matter what your size, look, make or model – your brand is an Inside Job. You must feel good looking at the woman in the mirror FIRST before you set foot out of the house. Whatever you wear, wear it proud.
Your statement on the confidence you feel in clothes (or PJ’s) that express your true self, hits that point home! Thank you so much again for sharing!
Patty, what a wonderful story about standing up for who and what you’re about. Bravo! : )