For years, I pitied my friends who worked in an office. They had to get up earlier than I did, shower, dress presentably—if not in a power suit—and get out the door with enough coherence to last the entire day, or at least until they could come home and shed the office costume. Now, thanks to Skype, I’m feeling sorry for myself, too.
Not only has the whole workplace dress-up-or-down, Casual Fridays, dress-to-express revolution made going to work a lot more comfortable for many of us (unless you work in a law firm—and then, well, what can I say?), but the advent of webcams and Skype technology has also made it so I really can’t go to work looking like I just rolled out of bed—even if I have.
Of course, I can do what I want. I work at home, I have an office with all the technological bells and whistles, and I make my own schedule. In theory, total freedom. Except when one of my editors decides, on a whim, that nine o’clock is the perfect time for a face-to-face. Do I really want to chance getting caught in my fuzzy blue-fleece bathrobe with sheep all over it, dried drool in the corner of my mouth and sleep still in my eyes? Not really.
And there’s the rub. It used to be that pajamas and pillow hair were fine. More than fine. They were a badge of honor. They were a telecommuter’s way of saying, “See, I can look like doo-doo, work in my jammies and still be as productive as the woman in the cubicle wearing a sleek pantsuit from Ann Taylor with a Bluetooth hanging from her ear like a Jane Jetson accessory.” Now, sadly, it’s makeup and stain-free clothes all over again. As my work-at-home friend, Sue, puts it, “We may as well be going to a goddamn ball.”
But messing with my right to dress like a slob isn’t the only disaster Skype has wrought. A few weeks ago, my mother—who has also discovered the wonders of video calls—decided to reach out and touch someone. Namely me. Skype called, I answered, and there was my mother, leaning so far into her computer screen that I was sure her head was going to pop out on the other side and get right up in my face. She’s leaning and squinting; I’m cranky and suffering from post-traumatic holiday disorder. And then she cocks her head and says, “Oh my God, you look like hell!”
So long, yoga jammies. Hello, Bobbi Brown …