Talking About Snow to Avoid Other Things

How’s that for a creatively titled post?

You guys, I’m getting burned out on horrible sexist shit. I’m hitting that place where I start ignoring stories and skipping headlines. You know the feeling, right? It’s that one that crushes you when eight people send you a Rolling Stone story called “The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer” and the title alone makes you want to punch walls and yet you can’t bear to click the link. It’s the feeling that you can’t possible roll your eyes any further into the back of your head when you see stories like this, where a woman is allegedly fired because she had premarital sex and then the job is offered to her boyfriend aka the father of her child aka the other person that had premarital sex aka OMG THE WORLD IS CRAZY.

photo (11)So. I do not want to talk about these things right now. Instead I want to talk about snow, because it is lovely. It is especially lovely when you are on your couch and you just bought hot chocolate and all of the makings for chili and cornbread for later and you are warm and the world is quiet.

It is also lovely when you’re out in it and it’s the middle of the afternoon and you’re wearing “trudging boots” and so many layers that you’re sweating even though the tip of your nose is feels like it’s not even a part of your body anymore and you can’t see because the flakes have caked up on your eyelashes.

A few weeks ago, I read an essay in The Paris Review about Chicago and winter. I’m in my seventh year here, and like any good Chicagoan I have come to the conclusion that winter is not that bad if you own the right outerwear and only weak-ass Californians can’t handle it. You just hunch up, wrapping your shoulder blades around your back like an extra blanket, create no space between your scarf and your hat, wedge your hands into your pockets, squeeze every muscle of your body, and then plow on. What’s so hard about that? As for the mental component, in November it’s a novelty, in December it’s romantic what with the holidays and all, in January we’re recovering from the holidays and getting into the swing of the new year.  February is by all accounts the worst of it, but if you can survive it (and it is a short month) then there’s March and we’re almost done! By April, we’re willing to consider 48 degrees t-shirt weather, and the first day it nears 60, you’ll find folks rolling out towels at the beach and beaming at each other like loons. You just have to pace yourself.

This was the part of the essay I liked the most:

photo (12)On the first day it got below ten, I wore ski pants to the office. I thought it was an event. Like I was a nine-year-old on a snow day. But when it didn’t get above ten for the next eight days, I realized that my new hometown demanded something more of me than heavy apparel. It demanded a kind of physical and emotional rewiring. I think maybe this is the first winter where that emotional rewiring feels complete. I’ve learned to lament warm winters. I’ve learned to fear the apocalypse if it breaks forty. I’ve learned to scoff at New York blizzards.

The fact is that most of the people in this world will never know what the weather in February here feels like. We own that here. We’re proud of it. It’s what seems to set us apart. And every year there comes one morning when I realize the coldest part of the winter is behind us. And it’s as though one of the things that makes Chicago truly hearty, special, different is behind us.

So today I went for a walk in the snow, and it was beautiful and brisk and refreshing. I ran my errands, I smiled at strangers, and nodded at the kind folks shoveling a whole block’s worth of sidewalk. They know what I know, that we’re on our way out of the tunnel and the deepest, darkest parts are behinds us. The emotional rewiring is complete.

Related Post: Things TV gets wrong about Chicago

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9 responses to “Talking About Snow to Avoid Other Things

  1. Love this post! I can totally relate. I live about 45 minutes North of Toronto. We’ve been hit hard this year with snow. A week ago I was fed up and blue about it. I wanted warm weather. Then today, I had to run some errands and went outside to start the car and let it warm up a bit, but it was beautiful!! Sunny and only -10 with no crisp wind. Ha!! No need to start the car, I can pretty much drive with the windows down yaaaaaa!!!

  2. st sahm

    “…and you are warm and the world is quiet…” — awesome.

  3. I don’t mean to rain on your snowy parade, but as a native southern Californian who spent 4 years in Chicago, it wasn’t the weather that made me weak-ass, it was the backwoods sexism, homophobia, racism, and general meanness. Not like New York mean (which is no trouble), but corrupt, institutionalized “Boss” mean. I started following your blog on the basis of the “Letter to the Girl I Harassed” post. I was moved to tears! I spent 4 cold (it ain’t the weather) years combating that and being told to shut up and go away. So I did, finally landing back in SoCal. Now it’s warm, fuzzy, and humane. We’ve got problems, no doubt. But on civil rights and open, transparent discourse, we’ve got Chicago womped. The Midwestern male (and his institutions) is a peculiarly aggressive creature that chills me to the core, and I haven’t met the likes of him anywhere else in the world. Snow and -30 wind chill, I can take — but not the degree of in your face sexism. I mean no offense, but I did want to weigh in with an alternative experience and consequent viewpoint. Take care.

  4. Love this post, beautifully written. Although frankly, as I live in Quebec city, I kinda feel like telling you Chicago winters pale in contrast to the winds and temperatures we endure here! I totally get what you mean about February though: last night my husband, a Mexican who started living here last year, told me he noticed the days are getting longer. I said this is the time of year when people start getting a little happier: we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we can start going to the sugar shack!

    About your feeling of not wanting to look at the things that exasperate you, I also get it. I am engaged in various social causes, and sometimes hit the point where I can’t take anymore, or even feel that what has been accomplished was for nothing. I remind myself that indigenous activists who have been fighting for decades to defend their rights feel that all the time and carry on. That helps me get back on track, but sometimes a little break helps too. You can’t do much if you don’t care for yourself too. So keep on enjoying the snow!

  5. I feel you! That’s part of why I couldn’t make my blog all about sexism… sometimes I just need a BREAK– and it seems like for me, that sometimes happens a lot. Have you seen this article?

    Reminds me of what you’re feeling… and it’s also why I didn’t read anything about the Oscars.

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