You don’t grow up wanting to wear a bathrobe. Wearing a bathrobe just kind of happens to you, like realizing that margaritas give you heartburn or that Jay Leno isn’t all that funny.
One day you’re living life as someone who doesn’t wear a robe, and then—BAM—you wake up, and you’re a turtle in need of a shell, a shell made of cotton or fleece or wool, that’s warm and fuzzy, flowing and the complete opposite of form-fitting.
A bathrobe is practical, although maybe less so than in the days of drafty houses heated with coal stoves and fireplaces. Sure, we might not need layers to fight off hypothermia while reading Ebenezer Scrooge-style, the London Times.
But let’s say you’re seated too far from your apartment’s radiator on a blustery cold day. Yes, you can don a sweater, but you’ve just risen from bed and aren’t quite ready for the commitment of a sweater.
What do you do? Well, you reach for your robe.
The slippery slope of bathrobe wearing
Or maybe it’s summer, and your thermostat and your air conditioning are disagreeing. The A/C’s determined to cool your house, despite the thermostat telling it to chill out for a bit.
“The heat of the day is coming,” your thermostat says to your air conditioning unit. “But pace yourself. It’s 7 a.m., and you don’t yet need to blow with all your might.”
“Ah, but if I don’t start now, I’ll lose control of the whole situation,” your A/C explains. “I must keep the house cooler than you suggest because if I don’t, the afternoon heat will exceed what I can handle.”
And so it goes, all morning long, the argument between your thermostat and your air conditioner. Meanwhile, you’re shivering, huddled over a cup of coffee, despite it being July and already 80 degrees outside.
What can you do in such an impossible situation? Correct. You put on your bathrobe.
It’s precisely that scenario, a warring A/C and thermostat during summer, that started me down the path toward bathrobism (pronounced bath-robe-ism, unless you’re from New York, then you pronounce it bath-ru-bism).
We moved into our house in August. It was the first time I’d lived in a house since leaving the one of my childhood. Back then, I was a young man who only encountered bathrobes on smiling moms and dads inside store catalogs, and now settling into our home, I was approaching middle age.
Though I was probably older than the people who wore robes in catalogs, I never thought about being a bathrobe person. That is, until morning after morning of trembling under the force of our air conditioner. I wasn’t ready to get dressed for the day, and yet I froze sitting in my p.j.s.
Going whole-hog into bathrobism
And that’s what led me to buy my first robe, a thin, navy-blue cotton number with a white lining on its edges. The bathrobe was just enough material to keep the artificial chill of my skin without overwhelming me during the summer months.
But then winter came, and I had a new problem. My first bathrobe wasn’t enough protection against the cold drafts wafting in from our brand-new and supposedly highly rated windows.
Which meant I needed a second robe, one built for winter. I picked said robe, I kid you not, out of a catalog, an L.L. Bean catalog, to be exact. It is fleece and plaid and surprisingly did not come with an accompanying pipe.
Three years later, I can’t go a minute of a morning without wearing one of my two robes. I’m now a bathrobe person, a total devotee of bathrobism.
If we subscribed to a physical newspaper, I’d be the guy stepping onto his porch, waving at you trimming your rose bushes while I bend down to retrieve that morning’s news, wearing my season-appropriate robe.
I might even say, in my best Leave It to Beaver’s voice, “Hi, neighbor!” which is exactly something I spoke to a neighbor just the other day.
And that’s the danger of bathrobism. You start innocently enough, simply wanting to stay warm while enjoying your morning coffee.
Next thing you know, you’re sharing recipes with people and groaning as you take a seat. The robe shifts from utilitarian to influencing, its comfort lulling you into complacency and acceptance of your middle-agedness.
It’s terrifying the damage bathrobism does to people. Someone should sound the alarms, raise awareness of this phenomenon. And I will, just as soon as I take off this robe.
This article originally appeared on Medium.