Updated: Mar 28
Go to a book club wearing a dressing gown.
I've never been to a pyjama party - most likely because I don't actually own any pyjamas. Thankfully, all I need for this challenge is a dressing gown.
If you've never seen this video, you might want to watch it first.
Because riding a quadbike and attending a public space in a dressing gown, covering one's wet-weather motorcycle trousers, is a little like being a public experiment! Not least when one has just purchased a green see-through drinks canister and is walking around with it full of coffee.
"Is that pond water?"one asked. "What is that?" and "Is that that Manga tea?"
You mean "Matcha?"
No. It really is just bog standard instant coffee in a see-through green container. But it certainly helped me feel like the gorilla in the video above as some people really failed to notice my attire.
"Are you wearing a dressing gown?"
And that is a question I cannot really answer. Except that I know that Arthur Dent was wearing a dressing gown when Ford Prefect invited him to the pub to drink beer, and it never occurred to Arthur Dent to get changed first. Seconds later the Earth was obliterated, and Arthur went off hitch-hiking around the galaxy. The book, of course, is the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
What the book failed to mention was that Arthur Dent never once felt self-conscious about it. In fact, he was so attached to his dressing gown he wore it for eons. Mind you, Arthur was surrounded by all sorts of universal organisms, some indeed with two heads, whereas I was surrounded by otherwise familiar, normal-clothes wearing human beings. I even stopped off to fill Fierce Fanny up with fuel and the attendant batted not one eyelid. Nor two.
I have long been aware that feeling insecure and hating to make a prat of myself has held me back from having fun or just getting on and doing stuff. I am the person, who was dive-bombed by not one, but two, shit-splattering pigeons one day sitting astride my bike when waiting for the lights to turn green. I was mortified and disgusted. "Oh, it's good luck" someone once said to me. Lucky, was not how I felt. Utterly embarrassed was how I felt. Come to think of it now, that is a bizarre reaction.
Being self-conscious, I think, is a form of insecurity, and keeps one firmly in one's comfort zone - a place ever so paradoxically named if you asked me. My comfort zone has days where it is decidedly uncomfortable. I remember when my marriage broke down, I really struggled to be on my own in public places - even the most mundane ones. I felt as if I had a neon light flashing over my head screaming 'Loser'. It was, of course, all in my head, but shopping, or just enjoying a read with a coffee in a cafe on my own, seemed akin to, well, going out wearing a dressing gown: worse, one with a bear's head for a hood. I suppose in a nutshell, it's called shame or humiliation. And they are deeply unpleasant feelings - and almost always induced by the behaviour of another person or people.
Then there are those other times when one agrees, or is paid to, make a prat of oneself. It compels one to step outside of one's comfort zone (for me usually a pair of jeans and a jumper). It is the fear of being the centre of other people's attention. Like public speaking, sometimes you really don't want to be out there on your own. Only when giving a eulogy, for instance, can one find oneself envious of the person in the coffin.
And yet I, with my dressing gown, had a cosy, comfortable evening. In fact, it was great - I learned I'm not alone in doing weird stuff. My favourite was a story of a woman who decided to pick up her children from school wearing flippers on her feet. Why? Because she reckoned the other parents would never notice. They didn't until she had to go downstairs. But the laughter echoes on years later.
So I suppose, like the gorilla, the benefits of going out of one's comfort zone brings laughter, friendship, conversation, connection and a sense of relief that it's done now. Shame, embarrassment and humiliation are invisible feelings that only exist in one's head, but they have acute ramifications on a person's willingness to go out and appreciate life. Like in the gorilla video above, people really aren't paying attention to the things we think they are.