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.