The carers get my mother up and dressed. By the time she sits in her chair, her hair’s combed and her cardigan neatly buttoned. But I’m often still in my pyjamas. I don’t sleep in them: I put them on in the morning because they’re comfortable and easy to wash. I don’t want to spoil my nice clothes crawling around wiping up mess, cooking, cleaning etc.
Besides, I can’t be bothered; no one’s going to see me. A couple of times there’s been an unexpected caller and then it’s been embarrassing, but most of the time who’s to know if I’m still wearing my PJs and some old t-shirt at 5pm. I’ve checked out the neighbours. They wear tracksuits, comfy slippers and polyester slacks. None of these are my bag.
A few months before I moved in with mum, I was talking to an old school friend about how to look stylish at 60. We wanted to wear what we’ve always worn and we also wanted to keep our hair long, but this made us look a bit like ageing rock chicks. Recently I rang my friend to see how she was. She said she’d had flu and was feeling like a cross between a rock chick and a bag lady. After some hesitation I admitted that, these days, I am pretty much a full time bag lady.
When I was young, there was a film called ‘Woman in a Dressing Gown’. The phrase held a rather seedy glamour. The implication was that a woman who didn’t get dressed till the afternoon must have rather dubious morals. ‘Woman in her Pyjamas’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. But the idea of just sinking into a sort of lazy slothful abandon is strangely alluring. I mean, I’m hardly a sloth. Full- time caring is not a slothful activity but I do know, not only will I not see anyone at home, it’s very unlikely I’m going to bump into anyone interesting as I trudge to the post office, the chemist, the local supermarket. And then trudge back, lugging a load of shopping, no doubt with a rather harassed expression on my face.
When I lived in the city, I wouldn’t consider leaving the house without lipstick, earrings and perfume. But round here, I think you stand out if you make an attempt at glamour. So, when I go to the local shops, I don’t bother to put on lipstick, I just pull on a pair of jeans and put a coat over an old t-shirt and cardigan. (Of course, during the winter that was okay as a coat can cover a multitude of sins, now it’s spring I’ll have to think again.).
I’ve always said it doesn’t take any more effort to be nicely turned out then to look like a right mess. I still believe that but I’ve ceased to care so much. My inner bag lady – who I realise has always been there lurking in the wings – whispers seductively in my ear. Why bother to make that tiny bit of effort? Who will care? And those blue fluffy slippers are so warm and comfy.