I typically rise from my computer chair around 5:00 p.m. After a long day of content creation, I am ready to explore the Wonders of the World: My kitchen, my bedroom, and, sometimes, the supermarket. Regardless of my destination, I stay in my preferred uniform of sweatshirts and joggers, and never bother to put on underwear.
Is this the life of leisure, or the sign of a broken man? I asked a clinical psychologist. She says it depends.
“It’s not just what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it,” Barbara Kamholz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, told me. “You can be in your sweatpants or yoga pants because it’s comfortable, or because you are really miserable or clinically depressed, and you just don’t have it in you to put on ‘regular clothes.’ Those are two very different things.”
They are indeed. Unlike many people, my work from home routine predates the covid era, along with my commando habit. I have never thrown on briefs for my bed-to-computer chair commute. It seems superfluous and silly.
With that in mind, I don’t think my aversion to underwear signifies some sort of depressive or particularly miserable state. I go commando for convenience. Many of you apparently do the same. The solidarity is heartwarming.
“The real story would be if you find anyone still wearing underwear,” one reader wrote to me.
“Sweats and underwear was always a pointless redundancy,” another pointed out.
I have never thrown on briefs for my bed-to-computer chair commute. It seems superfluous and silly.
But here’s where my proclivities get a little extreme: When I say I’ve stopped wearing underwear, I mean I’ve truly stopped wearing underwear, outside of when I throw on jeans to risk my life for brunch and executive mimosas. Otherwise, the boys are out there. I don’t take the extra 10 seconds to cover up.
“If I go in public, I only (wear underwear) so nothing shows itself to the world,” somebody messaged me. “I don’t give out freebies like that.”
Well, I do. Attention shoppers: We have an indecent display in Aisle 7.
Contrary to what you may think, my refusal to wear underwear isn’t rooted in promiscuity. The CVS on Dudley Street is not stimulating. There is nothing sexual about late-afternoon errands.
So what’s the deal? My only explanation is laziness, and that’s where it starts to get concerning. I lack the willpower to properly cover my ass.
Like many millennials, I’ve spent my adult life weirdly avoiding routine tasks. This phenomenon was chronicled in an exceptional 2019 BuzzFeed article, “The Burnout Generation.” In it, the author explains her inability to do things like vacuum her car or answer friendly emails. “They are seemingly high-effort, low-reward tasks, and they paralyze me,” she writes.
Bingo. New debit cards sit unactivated for weeks in my wallet and Christmas cards remain unopened well into June. Sometimes, my procrastination even drains my bank account. I once subscribed to SiriusXM for an entire year, despite not owning a car. I think I did a free trial to see if I could listen to a Stern interview, and then just never called to cancel.
How much I will pay to not wait on hold for five minutes? Apparently, $8.99 per month.
The BuzzFeed piece blames our burnout on a demanding culture that’s told us we should be working all the time. We eat at fast-casual restaurants and wear athleisure; we embrace mobile ordering and curbside pickup. Our lives are optimized for work. Even before the pandemic, we avoided time-consuming tasks like sitting down for lunch or browsing at the store. Obviously, these trends have only accelerated over the last 11 months.
My entire childhood was consumed with work. I was obsessed with my aspiring career, dedicating hours of time to podcasting and blogging. Even through college, I tortured myself with unnecessarily late nights and fabricated deadlines. During the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series run, I often stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, publishing game recaps that nobody read on a semi-obscure website that nobody could pronounce.
In other words, I burned myself out. Now it is a struggle for me to text my aunt back.
That context is important, because my selective lethargy isn’t new. But not wearing underwear in public takes things to a potentially troubling level. I always threw on briefs for my Starbucks sojourns and midday squawking (I mean squatting!) sessions at the South End BSC.
But now, I don’t, because nothing really seems to matter. We’re all supposed to keep our distance from each other, anyway. There’s no way the deli person at Whole Foods is watching me leave.
This is the worst time to be alive in modern times. Making it through the day is a victory.
And besides, taking off my joggers to slide on briefs, only to put them back on again, just requires too much effort. I was comforted to know some readers share my nihilism.
“The act of putting underwear on before going to the store is an extra added step that sometimes is just way too much,” somebody wrote to me.
It can all seem “way too much” these days. Kamholz says that’s because we’ve been simultaneously dealing with at least five crises: The pandemic, our economic depression, the battle for racial justice, political upheaval, and our mental health emergency (11 percent of adults reported seriously considering suicide last year). Our brains simply aren’t wired to process this much information.
“When you think about overheating an appliance, at some point, it’s just too much,” she said. “And things start to break down.”
So is this what my breakdown looks like? Not wearing underwear to Whole Foods? If that’s the worst of it, I think I’m doing alright. This is the worst time to be alive in modern times. Making it through the day is a victory.
“One of the things that really troubled me early on in the pandemic is what people call ‘toxic positivity,’” Kamholz said. “This idea of, ‘We’re in a pandemic, so I created 17 arts and crafts with my three year old,’ or ‘I’ve written a book.’ That kind of pressure isn’t helpful to anybody. The vast majority of us aren’t going to do that, don’t want to do that, and most importantly, don’t need to do that.”
I like that. We don’t need to be herculean or superhuman. Instead, we just need to survive. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m carrying along, while my unopened mail and underwear gather dust.
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