Sunday, April 17, 2016

No Shame: On going out in public in pyjamas

I have a love-hate relationship with the "no shame" attitude of older Chinese people, and I pick and choose how I mimic it in my real life. (I recognize most of the people my age here have wider public-private boundaries but I choose to identify with the spunky aunties who dance in parks and yell at overworked cashiers at the grocery store.) Having several hundred people butt in line in Zhangjiajie was one of the most frustrating experiences I have had in my life, adding hours to my wait in line for a cable car. It lost a bit of its charm.

I already can sense some of you are bracing yourselves for a racist rant about how Chinese people "don't behave themselves". I hope you will be pleasantly surprised by this No Shame series I will be thinking about before our summer Canadian Road Trip. (But if you want, you can go be offended by this one.)

More than ever, I'm afraid I have no idea how to behave in public. I talked about this a bit before; we're now pushier, don't even register brushing against another person, and are quick to shout for our servers to come to our table. For our brief Christmas trips back to Canada and Ireland, we've had to be very conscious to act "normal".

Photo: TutorMing

Appropriate public attire

It's pretty common for people (okay, mostly old people) to trot around in public in full top and bottom pjs. Even in downtown areas, you can see older aunties and uncles walking dogs in their fleece jammies and slippers at lunch time during the work week. Before the 2010 Expo, the government even tried to get people to stop wearing their sleepwear in public.

I've embraced it and I often take Pup out before getting dressed, especially on weekends.

This morning, in some pain from a poorly calibrated wine:food ratio last night, I walked the dog in my pyjamas. I was a sight in pink cotton bottoms with hearts on them, clashing red Senators t-shirt, and slip on sneakers with no socks. I assume the wide eyes of people viewing apartments was due to a one eyed dog and foreigner stumbling along the path, not my outfit...Maybe it was both.

He forgave me for my slow reflexes.

I have drawn the line from wearing my Hello Kitty onesie in public after an incident in our old apartment. It was cold and dark, so I wore the onesie on top of sweatpants and hoodie to walk the dog. Another dog decided that he wanted to pick a fight with Pup. I'm a horrible dog mom and before I jumped in to intervene, I hesitated. The thought that I would end up going to the hospital and being interviewed by police after being attacked by a small dog while wearing a pink onesie with ears and a tail paused my rescue for a split second. So now the onesie is private time clothing + excuse to wear a clothing shaped blanket on Hallowe'en.

Public-ish nightwear?

Okay, so I still know better than to strut my stuff in my fleece sheep nightdress in public this summer (even though it's Canada's loss. Both my mother and mother-in-law buy me amazing pyjamas and I'm glad for our short time here I can share them with my neighbours). But now I have another stress: What is appropriate when you are staying at someone's house?  

In my experience, men as guests and hosts can get away more with hanging out in their boxers and t-shirts but women kind of have to keep it together and be dressed for day time at all times. Am I inventing that double-standard? Comments welcome.

For our trip, we'll be staying with family, friends, acquaintances, Airbnb hosts, etc, overnight. My general rule when we've been traveling has been to wear PJ shorts and a top that has a built in bra to bed or my husband's t-shirt and boxers (travel hack: steal your travel companion's clothes as much as possible. I also did this on my Asia backpacking trip with girlfriends). Basically, wearing things that, if seen for a split second in a bedroom to bathroom walk, would not draw attention to boobs in any way. 

Six weeks of avoiding being seen in my pyjamas is something I am not looking forward to, but I figure I have to try to respect the cultural norms of my homeland. First world problems. 

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