The Sky is NOT Falling

Slip on your PJs and go shopping; [National Edition]
Elizabeth NicksonNational Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Mar 14, 2003. pg. A.16

SALTSPRING ISLAND - In Saanich recently, I saw what seemed half a high school trailing back to school after lunch wearing pastel flannel pyjamas printed with cartoon characters. I thought it was a joke. But no, it's a major trend that engaged about three years ago and is growing, especially in China of all places. Bruce Willis was photographed the other day with his daughters in the parking lot of a grocery store in full daylight. What were the girls wearing? Pyjamas. Sharon Stone says her son finally said to her "get up mummy and get dressed," because she loved her pyjamas so much, she wouldn't get off the couch. Lovely honest Sharon Stone, ditto! I found myself at the grocery store on Saturday night in pyjamas -- the checkout girls looked disdainful and frankly, I didn't care. Life is frightening these days, the purveyors of doom so relentless, the sky apparently, literally, falling, chaos about to leak out of the Mideast and engulf us, best to approach life prone or near as possible.

This is especially the case for teenagers who are tired all the time anyway, and who spend their days forcing their minds through impenetrable thickets of information, then nights in front of the TV absorbing yet more, trying to relax. Boomer parents, many of whom took years off to study their toenails, high on LSD, have made their children the most over-scheduled generation since kids stopped working in factories. Truth will always out in signifiers like clothing.

Perhaps rest itself is about to become fashionable. That would be a good thing, wouldn't it? Practising Christians are advised (by God, or so I understand) not to exhaust themselves. And perhaps God is onto something. Have you noticed that all the really, really important hip people have taken off every scrap of excess weight? A restricted calorie diet will increase your lifespan, every longevity expert will tell you that for the price of a consultation. But 45- year-old men and women without any extra weight look drawn, if not gaunt and exhausted. In fact, in a bad light, which is to say any light outside a photo studio, it looks like their lives are grim and punishing when actually they're not, filled in fact with perks and jet shares and lovely things like trips to Aspen to play with Jack Nicolson. One could haul out that old saw here and say they might not live longer, but it'll certainly feel like it.

Downtime is critical to the creative process. You're just not going to have any good ideas if you're whipping your body through a 16-hour schedule, six days out of seven, including 90 minutes in the gym. Every creative genius in history disappeared for great chunks of time. In fact, they were lying in front of the TV in their bunny rabbit pyjamas watching reruns of CSI. Then they'd get up and scribble down a brilliant theory or novel, then start telling people about it, which is where all the legwork comes in. Every writer -- to take one so-called creative profession -- whose work habits I've read of, spends a great deal of time staring out the window or scrubbing floors.

That's why it's lovely to have the guidance of Kelly Osbourne in these matters. Kelly is particularly instructive because not only does she wear flannel pyjama bottoms in public, she also has temper tantrums and is sweetly plump, with a personality not mediated into much by PR grunts. And she has a following. Upper class and upper middle class teenaged girls are just saying no (trailer trash always did). Life, they say, is to be relished. They like starch, they eat it, it looks like it. Inspired by voluptuous women like Osbourne, Jennifer Lopez and Pink, they refuse to spend their teenaged years watching calories and vomiting in the mall loo. Good thing too. I didn't think about calories once until I was 35, except to say in that way one does about one's mother and her friends, that they are pathetically on a diet all the time. And dig that Kate Winslet, holding a press conference to say that the person on the cover of GQ had her head but an airbrushed body, and she didn't want all her fans to think she'd gone on and on about having a healthy body weight and then lost 30 pounds. She hadn't. And she didn't want to. And by the way, she adds, men love curves.

I think it goes deeper. I think kids are responding to the persistent drumbeats of doom by saying "rubbish." Things are fine. The sky is not falling, despite all the best efforts of crackpot scientists and the Ministry of the Environment to make us think it is. The Mideast is far away, relatively powerless, and our civilization is strong. Our leaders may be idiots, but they are inconsequential to real things that matter. Like fun, and rest, and relishing, and eating carbs. Like pink flannel pyjamas and the ability to turn the whole preposterous shouting match off.