What not to wear, family edition

So the pre-Thanksgiving wave of catalogs is well under way. I don't know who these companies are or why they have my name on record, but they're sending me catalogs anyway. I hate to think how many trees died so these places could trick me into an impulse buy, plus shipping.

One of the catalogs, an especially gooey one full of tinsel and Christmas la-di-da, also featured a set of "festive" red matching pajamas for families to wear, presumably while they're pretending to like each other's gifts on Christmas morning. Just so they can tell each other apart, the pj's come embroidered with names on the front pocket -- or where the front pocket would be if this were a real shirt, and not, you know, pajamas.

My favorite part of the photo is that while Dad, Son and Daughter all get to look at each other, fake-laughing at whatever witty comment one of them had pretended to say right before the shutter clicked ("Okay, everyone, act natural!"), Mom, being the woman in this picture, has to look right at the camera, smiling a model-type smile, working those red pj's as best she can. I honestly can't tell whether she's selling pajamas or teeth-whitening products.

I've always been a little weirded out by matching outfits. In our synagogue growing up, this one family -- let's call them the Hassenpfeffers, not because that's remotely close to their real name but because I think it's funny -- always showed up to services in matching outfits. At least the female members of the family did. Every single holiday, every single Shabbat, there they were, in their completely-alike glory. My family, of course, was the sort who would secretly make fun of families like that. It became a running joke. "No, those outfits are too much alike -- do you want to look like the Hassenpfeffers?" In fact, my mother just made the joke again a few weeks ago. If the Hassenpfeffers were aiming to be memorable, let's just say they succeeded.

But between the above catalog (here, if you're wondering) and a few others I found (here and here), I'm forced to draw the conclusion that there is a market for sartorial family togetherness.

Are these pajamas or uniforms? Is the family going to wear the pj's while dining on toast and jam, or while shooting hoops together at the gym? And if the latter, will they be wearing matching sneakers or matching fuzzy slippers?

Sometimes I wonder whether my knee-jerk instinct to snicker at this sort of thing means I'm missing out on some sort of family togetherness tradition. Am I just too mean and cynical and missing the true spirit of the holidays?

And then I drive through a mall parking lot, as I did today, and I see a mom and daughter, who looks about 6ish. The mom is wearing a hot pink track suit and a fluffy white scarf. And so is her daughter.

You know, I think cynicism works for me.

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