I was waiting for the train, freezing in about fifteen layers of wool and flannel, and a woman five feet away was wearing a pencil skirt, a cute jacket, and heels. No leggings. No stockings. She was not shivering pathetically or falling to the ground, dead of hypothermia. She was not begging me for one of my coats. She was just standing there, looking calm and sexy. Looking so very Manhattan chic.
That isn’t physically possible, I thought. I’m hallucinating. I’ve entered an alternate universe. Which is pretty actually pretty great, when you think about it, since I’ve always wanted to enter an alternate universe, ever since I was a small child…But then I remembered last winter in Manhattan. And the winters at college, where the girls picked their way through the slush and ice in high heels and tiny dresses. The girls who wore short skirts and boots in the winter. The girls who always had makeup on. Even when they had the flu.
I have never understood this.
(you could wear this! remember when this style became incredibly popular? it always looked terrible on me. source)
OK. I have understood this. When I was eleven. I remember it. We were going to Howell Living Farm. I think that’s what it was called. “A working historical farm!” They had livestock, maple trees that were tapped for syrup, hay fields, and a pond, where they harvested ice in the winter. Just like people used to do, a long time ago, before they figured out electricity. They cut enormous blocks of ice and pulled them up from the water and stored them in a special chamber underground. Like an underground refrigerator. Apparently they also usually made ice cream afterward, to celebrate. Or maybe that was just us modern people, who require a lot of ice cream in order to stop whining. Anyway, we made ice cream afterward, and then, shivering uncontrollably, we ate it.
But first we had to go out to the pond and do stuff with the ice. And it was freezing. I was with my homeschool group (we got together for fun, social things, like hacking ice out of a frozen pond). Maggie was there, and so was the boy I liked, and maybe five or six other kids our age. I wanted to look my best. And my best did not include a puffy winter jacket. So I tugged it off my shoulders and let it hang around my elbows.
Mom came over to me and said, “Put your jacket on. Zip it up. It’s cold out.”
I pulled it up and let it slide down again as soon as she was gone. Freezing was better than looking stupid. So I froze the whole day.
Years later, I saw the photos from that day in an album Mom put together. I look ridiculous with the coat hanging off me like that, standing in the snow looking pained and awkward. I laughed, because I remembered exactly what I’d been thinking. I’d been thinking, “This looks better. I look a lot better like this.”
(that doesn’t count! put some pants on! you’ll catch your death! source)
I’m not completely cured. My winter coat is very pretty. I didn’t buy one of those huge padded things that comes down to my ankles. But I think I’ll probably get there one day without too much trouble.
It is so cold in my apartment that I can’t think about anything except for the cold. I’ve been wearing a scarf indoors and thinking about moving somewhere below the equator. My family ties and friendships begin to break down as I imagine myself walking around in a tee shirt and shorts. Flip flops. Sitting outside with my laptop.
But I know for a fact that down there on the street there are (usually young) women wearing nothing but a low cut dress and a vest with faux fur. And some trim, high heeled boots. And they will probably continue to do this throughout the winter. Maybe they don’t get as cold as I do. Maybe it’s genetic. There can definitely be a lot of variation. But I can’t help but think of myself at eleven, believing absolutely that as soon as I put that jacket on, I would be unattractive, and the boy would forget about me and fall for Maggie, and my budding social life would shatter into a million pieces.
I’m considering investing in a pair of giant, furry slippers, so I can stop wearing wool socks and knit boots in the house. Maybe I’ll get one of those huge, shapeless down coats while I’m at it. As a statement of defiance against the rules of sexiness. As a declaration of solidarity with the women who value their lives over their looks. And also just because I’m really, really cold.
(it’s waiting for me… source)
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Un-roast: Today I love the way that for a second, when I saw myself in the mirror the other day, I thought, “That girl has a really unique look.” And I thought it in a good way.
P.S. Send me photos of yourself eating cake for the cake gallery! DO IT!!