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jane

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jane Fraser

I’ M think­ing deeply and se­ri­ously about tak­ing to my py­ja­mas. Per­ma­nently, I mean. I have in mind a trip to the depart­ment store to buy my­self about a dozen pairs. These should see me through. Think of all the time this would save. Not to men­tion money. Also it would save you ly­ing in bed in the early hours wor­ry­ing about what clothes to wear that don’t need iron­ing. And I’m old enough to do what I like and can es­chew the thought of frocks and smart pants.

This inspiration came to me when I was stand­ing in the bank. I no­ticed that the woman in front of me — much younger than me and there­fore not li­censed to dress down — was busily ar­gu­ing with the teller while wear­ing her night clothes. Py­ja­mas! And slip­pers! Pink ones at that. A look of ex­treme jeal­ousy passed over my grumpy face.

I needed to join the club and with this in mind rushed round to the bed­clothes depart­ment of a nearby store. There was a huge choice of tops and bot­toms in ma­te­ri­als from silk to cot­ton, and the de­sign du jour is, ap­par­ently, wild an­i­mal pat­terns. I pic­tured my­self wan­der­ing the sub­urbs wear­ing a pair of striped py­ja­mas and hav­ing passersby nudg­ing each other, say­ing: ‘‘ Is that a ze­bra cross­ing?’’

It would be lovely, I should think, to bond with a wild an­i­mal. Fairly re­cently I met a woman named Shirley Richard­son; she was with us on that trip, which I wrote about here, we took to get to know the po­lar bears in Canada. She wore wild py­ja­mas ev­ery day. Ad­mit­tedly it was well be­low freez­ing so we were all well cov­ered dur­ing the day, but I was en­vi­ous in the evenings around the camp­fire, where she lounged all ready for bed. I won­dered how her in­volve­ment with an­i­mals came about; this was her mil­lionth visit to the bears. Why?

I emailed her and she replied she was a proud keeper at the Los An­ge­les zoo. She has been there for al­most 30 years and is at present tak­ing care of orang-utans, chim­panzees and go­ril­las. She’s had many deal­ings with ele­phants and ze­bras, to name but a few, and to show her pas­sion for these crea­tures she dresses as if she were one of them. She trav­els the world ob­serv­ing an­i­mals in their wild habi­tat and likes to com­pare the dif­fer­ences be­tween an­i­mals in the wild and the ones in cap­tiv­ity. She says she has formed a true bond with the an­i­mals she is in con­tact with at the LA zoo.

All this is very well and I am sure she has an ex­cit­ing life, but on closer con­sid­er­a­tion I re­ally don’t want to get that close to a hun­gry lion or, for that mat­ter, a hip­popota­mus — the an­i­mal that kills more an­i­mals that any other in Africa.

I’ll stick to wear­ing copies of their skins.

Of course I’m on the horns of a dilemma, think­ing about this life change and its po­ten­tial down­side. Would I per­haps be­come a fig­ure of mirth and de­ri­sion?

It prob­a­bly wouldn’t go down well to ar­rive at work dressed for sleep. Most peo­ple here are younger than my chil­dren, so I think the con­sen­sus would be it was time I was taken to the old age home be­fore I made a com­plete id­iot of my­self.

They are too young to re­mem­ber how py­ja­mas lib­er­ated a gen­er­a­tion of women. In my youth it was com­pletely frowned on to wear trousers to work; ac­cord­ing to pop­u­lar be­lief we were just try­ing to be men. And in bed we wore night­dresses or, as they were known, neg­ligees.

These gar­ments were night­marein­duc­ing. Un­less you were a neat and tidy sleeper you’d wake in the gob­lin hours with your nightie wound around your head, in great dan­ger of be­ing suf­fo­cated.

If my mem­ory serves me well, which is un­usual these days, some time in the naughty 60s we had a pen­chant for go­ing to py­jama par­ties. It may sound ex­cit­ing, but it wasn’t re­ally. The high­light of these dos was walk­ing around smok­ing multi-coloured skinny cigars from hold­ers so long you were never out of the dan­ger of hav­ing your hair singed from the other side of the room.

The more I think about these mad times, the more I lose pas­sion for the py­jama idea. My chil­dren would be em­bar­rassed be­yond imag­i­na­tion and my hus­band would be out the front door like a wind­storm.

I still think of the at­trac­tive young woman who was draw­ing money and sign­ing cheques with aplomb and style while in her jim-jams. But me dress­ing like that? I wouldn’t bank on it.

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