I’m sitting here wearing long underwear, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, fuzzy slippers and woolen knee socks, and I’m wrapped in a fleece blanket. I’ve downed so many cups of hot tea, I think my throat is blistered. Yet I still feel chilly. I’m beginning to think that as I age, I am becoming more and more of a cold-weather sissy.
A couple weeks ago, when I heard that a full week of below-zero arctic weather was heading this way, I jumped into my car and made a beeline for the supermarket, where I bought enough food to feed a family of 16. That’s because I wanted to be prepared to hibernate. I also wanted the dogs to be prepared, so I risked herniating a disc by hoisting a 25-lb. bag of Dog Chow into my cart.
I think my sensitivity to the cold began when I was young. Back then, girls weren’t allowed to wear slacks or pants to school. The dress code strictly stated we had to wear dresses or skirts. We, however, were allowed to wear slacks underneath our dresses if we promptly removed them (the slacks, not the dresses) the minute we entered the school building.
Most of the time, especially once I was in junior high, I didn’t want to bother with the whole pants-underneath-the-dress thing (and besides that, I thought it looked ridiculous), so I walked to school with my legs clad in only nylon stockings. By the time I arrived, I had no feeling from my hips to my ankles.
And then, in high school, there was a drill team called the Westettes, of which I was a member for all four years. We were a group of West High School girls who performed precision drills and high-kicking routines (kind of like a weak imitation of the famed Rockettes) during halftimes at football games. We also marched in parades.
And we nearly froze to death.
I still can remember how I, clad in my short blue skirt, majorette-style boots, and thin white windbreaker (the standard Westette outfit), sat in those bleachers at football games in the middle of November and felt the wind blowing up my skirt…and wondered if anyone ever had died from frostbite of the butt.
And then there was our appearance in the annual Manchester winter carnival parade in January. The chattering of my teeth always was so loud, I couldn’t hear the band music that was supposed to cue all of our routines.
Finally, when the Westettes were on the verge of having to change their name to the “Popsicle-ettes,” the school gave in and ordered pants for us. Never was I so glad to wear something so ugly looking. The pants were made of blue polyester, with creases down the front and stirrups for the feet. I have long legs, so I really had to stretch those pants to get the stirrups to reach my feet. As a result, I spent most of my Westette days suffering from a wedgie. But on the plus side, my posture became much straighter when I marched.
Anyway, during this most recent arctic blast, even though I intended to hibernate, I got restless and decided to take my usual daily two-mile walk.
“Dress in a lot of layers,” the guy on the TV news advised. “The wind chill out there is minus 28 degrees, and any exposed flesh can freeze within minutes.”
He then proceeded to show clips of soap bubbles freezing in mid-air and crashing to the ground, and a squirt gun shooting water that instantly turned into something that looked like a stalactite.
So I dressed in layers. In fact, I dressed in so many layers, it took me over 45 minutes to get ready for my walk. I dug out a hat, mittens, earmuffs, thermal leggings, fleece pants, wool knee socks, a scarf, a fleece-lined shirt, a coat with a hood, fur-lined boots and something my friend knitted for me for Christmas – wrist warmers. I looked like someone preparing to enter the Alaskan Iditarod.
The moment I stepped outside, the wind savagely attacked me. My eyes began to water, blurring my vision. My nose started to drip. My cheeks felt as if they were being snapped with rubber bands. Even worse, the road was so icy, I was afraid I would slip and fall and become a permanent speed bump until spring.
Still, I was determined to walk my usual two miles.
There is one area of my road where the wind is always really brutal. It feels similar to entering a wind tunnel. Well, on that particular day, which was cold enough to freeze a penguin, when that wind hit me, I honestly thought I was going to freeze into a statue-like position. But at least I didn’t have to worry about my eyes and nose running any more, because by then, all of my bodily fluids had turned to ice.
Finally, about halfway through my walk, I started to warm up. In fact, I began to feel sweaty. There was no place, however, beneath my 42 layers of clothing for the perspiration to escape. By the time I got back home, I was soaked. When I took off my hat, my hair looked as if it had been plastered to my head with bear grease. And my armpits were telling me that my antiperspirant had waved the white flag of surrender about a half-hour before.
So I stripped off all my layers of clothing, which took me about 20 minutes, and took a shower
.The minute I stepped out of the hot, steamy shower, I felt chilled again. I put on several fresh layers of clothing and cranked up the heat.
I think I’m beginning to understand why so many of my friends spend their winters in Florida.
After all, it’s one of the few places were I could comfortably wear my old Westette skirt outdoors in the middle of January.
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