Look: I’ve been trying not to complain about how cold it is. I’ve been trying not to be That Person, whom I have come to hate after almost fifteen years living south of the Mason-Dixon line; “Sure is cold!” I would have the audacity to say in 25-degree weather, in the presence of people who had ever in their lives been to Minnesota. “Golly! It was 50 last week! Don’t know what happened!”
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT COLD IS,” they would snarl, those momentary Minnesotans. “YOU’VE NEVER EXPERIENCED COLD. YOU LIVE IN THE JUNGLE.” They were, of course, right; but I always resented them for this nonetheless. I was allowed to be cold. 25 degrees may not be the coldest recorded temperature ever experienced on the surface of the Earth, but it’s pretty damn cold.
I fear to be mistaken for one of those people, and so I have been trying to keep my exclamations/whining fairly quiet. I don’t want to coldshame people, especially my friends in the South – when you live most of your life in 50 degrees and up, 25 degrees is half as warm as you are used to finding comfortable! That’s terrible! Especially for people who usually don’t bother owning winter coats! I feel sad for puffy sweater-layered people stuck in cold weather.
…That said, it was -23 degrees in Chicago this week, and– guys. GUYS. THAT’S SO COLD. THAT’S SO COLD.
The coldest temperature I’d ever experienced before this was -6, in a cold snap in Oklahoma in the winter of 2013-14. That was cold and windy and terrible, and all the residential streets had two inches of ice on them, and it all also went away after a day or two, because no weather pattern stays in Oklahoma for more than about fifteen minutes at a time. That was cold! I had to do a lot of walking in that cold. I had a professor take me aside once and tell me that if the temperature was less than 5, I could take an excused absence from his class rather than make the 40-minute walk to school over the frozen streets.
This week. It was. Minus twenty-three degrees. That was with the windchill, sure, but– without the windchill, it was still minus eight.
I’m relearning what “cold” means. I have an understanding of how much air can hurt that I never had before. I went out, last week (it was -10), and walked not far from the lake (unavoidable – I live not far from the lake), and counted the seconds it took the breath condensed on my scarf to freeze solid in the wind. The number of seconds was not in excess of fifteen. There are cliffs of ice instead of a beach, a block from the apartment; the sand partially freezes between waves, and has a strange crunchy, slippery texture not quite like snow. It was beautiful, blinding in the sunlight, and I turned my face into the wind and after about ten seconds had to bury my face in my mittened hands because I could not feel my eyes.
Look – this is not to say it wasn’t cold other places that were not AS cold, or to invite any comparisons of other people’s cold, which I’m sure was much worse cold. I’m just saying: Oh my god! Oh my FUCKING god! It! Was so cold! SO! COLD!
Today, it was 26 degrees, and felt like 19. I went out wearing only a couple of sweaters, and only one pair of pants under my pants, and only one pair of socks, and gloves instead of mittens. I stood on the train platform and marveled at the difference – how manageable 19 felt, next to MINUS FUCKING TWENTY-THREE. How I was… chilly. A bit chilly. Not urgently so. Not in the way that made my lizard brain screech helplessly, WHYYYY ARE YOU EVEN OUT HEEEERRRRRRE. There is a universe in between -20 and 20, and I have known every star in it this week.
It’s going to warm up this week, by which I mean it looks like, for the next few days, both the weather numbers, with and without windchill, will be above zero. I am so excited. I am going to go outside.