Uncomfortably Numb

The other day, my 11 year old walked home from school – about a fifteen minute walk – with his winter jacket unzipped, and his hat, gloves, and neck warmer securely in his backpack. It was minus ten and his hands were purple by the time he walked in the door. I sighed about this behaviour to my husband, who said, “Isn’t that just what teens do?”


It’s true, although I wasn’t quite ready for it. Although strictly speaking he’s not a teen, it seems that he’s gearing up for those years, winter clothing-wise. And suddenly I sympathize with my mother, thinking of all those times I shunned my winter clothing in an effort to be fashionable.

The problem is that I grew up in Calgary, land of windchill factors and icy cold winters, while reading fashion magazines from much milder climes. Even the Junior Miss section in the Sears catalogue didn’t feature the kind of winter wear that is necessary when you are walking home from school and it’s minus 30. I clearly recall wearing a wool pea coat with a Sears catalogue-esque fuchsia scarf, gloves, and beret set that I received for Christmas. Cute, yes. As I recall, matching scarf, gloves, and beret sets were all the rage in the late 80s, and while that might have been sufficient for hovering-around-zero temperatures, it was insufficient for recess in the howling wind and blowing snow.

As a person who recently donned snow pants, a calf-length down coat, ear muffs AND hood, gloves AND mittens, and the warmest boots money could buy just to take the dog for a walk, I cannot understand my younger self. Why be purple-skinned and uncomfortable when you can be a walking pillow?


I’m wearing ALL the clothes.

The world has become more accepting of differences; this is true. But when it comes to cold weather, teens are no more accepting of appropriate winter wear than they were back in my day, as evidenced not only by my son, but also by the hordes of teen girls I see walking to the bus in frigid temperatures, with their sternums exposed and their ears turning purple. I’m sure their mothers lecture them, as my mother lectured me, on what should be worn when the mercury drops. And I’m sure they dismiss those suggestions as tragically uncool, as I did.

Things I Did To Avoid Being Comfortably Warm In The Winter

To avoid a “you’re going to get frostbite” lecture, put on my earmuffs – since a hat would never fit over my four-inch-high teased bangs – until I turned the corner and was out of my mother’s sightline; ripped them off and stuffed them in my school bag.

Wore tiny short skirts with tights and loafers in the middle of winter, becoming frozen from the waist down.


In lieu of actual gloves, wore “magic gloves” – the thin, tiny knit gloves that do literally nothing to keep your hands warm.

Walked to school in loafers with no socks, when there was snow on the ground.

Wore cutoff denim shorts with tights and army boots, because the boots would “be warm enough, MOTHER.”

There are things I did as a teen that objectively did not make sense: squinting all the time instead of wearing my glasses, going through an entire bottle of Salon Selectives twice monthly so that my bangs would be sufficiently vertical and immovable, wearing a Garfield sweatshirt with my astrological sign on it.


But the thing that really didn’t make sense was my – and all my friends’ – constant refusal to acknowledge that winter had arrived, and that we would all be a lot more comfortable and attractive if we weren’t purple-faced and shaking with cold. Looking like you’re constantly on the verge of frostbite really only works for one person.



9 thoughts on “Uncomfortably Numb

  1. Teens, take heed: Jon Snow *literally* knows nothing and even he is wearing a fur coat (although I spend all of the Wall episodes wondering why they don’t wear hats. HATS, people.)

    My go-to winter wear was army boots, NO tights, babydoll dresses or my beloved short plaid kilt, an army jacket (they are not warm! they have no lining!), fingerless gloves (what is even the point), and no hat. As I sit here now INSIDE MY HOUSE wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, socks, and woolly slippers, with a blanket (!) I marvel at the rapid metabolism that kept me from freezing to death.


  2. I didn’t care much about fashion as a kid, so that wasn’t my motivation, but when I was in high school I did refuse to wear my winter coat after February 15 because I insisted that like Tinkerbell, spring would come if we all believed hard enough. I still don’t like to wear it in March for the same reason, but I live in a climate that makes this a reasonable choice some years, though not always.

    I wish June’s school would have outdoor recess when it’s cold, but it’s cancelled whenever the temperature is below freezing, which I believe is weakening the moral fiber of all her peers.

    Last thing: I love the spider plant in the photo. What happened to spider plants? Didn’t everyone used to have one? When was the last time you saw one?


  3. This couldn’t be more timely, actually. This week the cold returned and there was much just-take-the-gloves-with-you-in-case-okay encouraging of the teen. I am not complaining. He’s *way* more logical than I was. Hoo boy! My poor mother.

    To be fair, *we* didn’t have awesome infinity scarves and blanket scarves and UGGS. No, we had tams (that’s a beret!) that didn’t fit or keep anything warm, long coats with one (maybe 2) buttons that might as well have not had any, and LeChateau shoes – NOT WINTER WEAR.

    How are we alive, exactly?!?


  4. I have a foot in both camps here, because I’m some kind of thermo-regulatory freak, so a lot of my refusing to wear outerwear was because I was genuinely not cold. I still can’t wear a coat in the car, even if it’s minus thirty, or I feel like I’m suffocating. So if my 15-year-old wants to wear flip flops in the snow? I shrug my shoulders philosophically. Now, my husband, who would love to live in a tent pitched on the equator? It makes his eyes bulge out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s