Cooler Heads Prevail


It’s been extremely cold here for what feels like an ice age or one of those winters  “Game of Thrones” people go on about. The kind of cold currently scaring people off the sidewalks is serious, legit cold, though I’m absolutely positive someone from THE NORTH will quibble and tell me I am weak and recount the time the snow was higher than rooftops and the only way to get water was to cut and melt pieces of the glacier that ate New England back into 19-Legendy-4.

And you know what? That’s fine. I’m a southerner.   I think snow is frankly annoying. I grab a sweater when the temperature drops below 65. I don’t even own a puffy coat. You can have your snowmobiles and your hockey games and overwrought confessions of infidelity in the ice-fishing hut. I like my long summers and lush foliage even if I do have to put up with terrible, morally reprehensible history, horrifying politics, willful ignorance, impenetrable humidity and the occasional giant, flying cockroach. If it’s necessary to stand around stiff upper lipped in double-digit negative wind chills to impress someone, then I don’t really don’t care if they think I’m weak. Because seriously? Fuck that. No one likes the cold that much, not even the storied race of Vegan Communist Viking Lumberjacks that all the kids want to dress like these days.

I blame climate change for this particular mess of frigid. Is it still some iteration of the preposterously named Polar Vortex? I don’t want to watch enough Weather Channel to find out.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed dressing for winter weather, as it avails me the chance to wear cute boots and cashmere sweaters and velvet party dresses. But by winter weather, I mean tights-and-cardigan weather as opposed to snowsuit-and-hypothermia weather. I’m wearing two sweaters on the reg these days. I like to think I pull it off with panache, but honestly I look like an addled antiquarian book dealer and a bit like my father when he went through that Argyle sweater vest period.  I can deal with that. The real frustration for me is the hat issue.

In general, I’m a fan of hats. I have vintage fascinators and pillboxes hanging from my bedroom walls. I know that all the best occasions to wear a picture hat usually involve horse races. I wear broad-brimmed sunhats whilst sitting by the sea. I think there’s a time and place for top hats, trilbys, bowlers, berets and the rest (though maybe so much fedoras). I think it’s terribly sad that only reactionary asshole bigots still have love for the tricorn.  And I believe, at some point in the future, I may very well overcome my prejudice against newsboy caps. But winter hats? Not so much.

The traditional woolen stocking cap thing never set well with me, or rather on me. No matter how many knit reindeer or pom -poms or (god help me) those absurd twee animal ears you put on the thing, I look like a fat thumb whenever I wear one. And when I take it off, I look like a fat thumb with the tragic hair of the chronically unwashed. It doesn’t matter how recently I’ve showered or what sort of haircut I have at the time (though when long it really tends toward unfashionable grunge territory).

So I buy these faux fur monstrosities that I hope will make me look like Julie Christie in “Doctor Zhivago.” I have little confidence that this is the case. Judging from the sidelong glances I get whenever I wear my hat around town, I’m guessing the actual effect is closer to Nana’s Friend Lola Visits Canada or Blossom in the Tundra.

Given this situation, it was probably ill-advised to maintain the pixie cut through the winter (thus making the hat even more of a necessity).  I would probably buy some preposterous velvet hooded thing if I thought I could maintain my self-respect[1]. Whatever. I gravitate toward some version of form even when I try to be functional.

Thus my ears stay cold as I pine for spring.

[1] It’s hard to balance on the edge of witchy/hippie/Renaissance fashion without falling head first into Lady Alysonne Nightwood of Coven Oh God, Seriously? when you’re not the sort of rail-thin fashionista type that can literally make anything work with a smoky eye and a couple of lines of cocaine. Those girls can wear dolman sleeves and velvet snoods and look like movie stars, whilst the same ensemble makes me look like I’m trying too hard to be accepted by my fellow wenches at the Ren Faire.



Tomorrow I’m going to the dermatologist. I don’t  mind going because my doctor is a soft-spoken, sort of glamorous person who wears cute skirts and give me fancy sample products I can trade for cat sitting and other favors.

Early on in my appointment, my moles will be assessed.  I will be told that I handle sunlight about as well as a vampire and that I should wear  100SPF under my  Hazmat suit should I chance meet daylight. I find this grossly unfair. The other women in my family run around, say, the beach at noon and turn a nice golden brown without additional  unsightly blemishes and disapproving looks from the medical community. I, on the other hand, tend toward a veiny, splotchy blemished pallor that not even the most besotted of poets would ever confuse for ivory and a tendency to redden at the first opportunity. Experience shows that I can tan, though it takes several painful variations on the theme of salmon and maybe a second degree burn to get there.

This didn’t used to be a problem. As a teenager, my personal style icons tended to be either slightly goth or mostly dead. And because I had neither a waif-like build nor a natural tendency toward flowing Pre-Raphaelite tresses, flowy skirts and a pasty complexion were really all I had going for me. Inclined to be contrary and unwavering in my belief that evident enthusiasm for things (like warmth and/or daylight) would brand me as a loser or maybe a poseur (or both), I spent most family beach vacations hiding in the condo, reading the Western Canon, stealing my mother’s cigarettes and trying to act like I didn’t want to go swimming. I thus preserved my pallor and kept my moderately unhealthy adolescence safe from any potential benefit of sunlight and sea air.

In general,I went to great lengths to appear as unaffected by the wonders of nature as possible. No wilderness adventure for me. My version of badass inhabited an urban jungle somewhat resembling the cinematic East Village in the 70s and 80s, full of great bands and artists and fashionably tragic Nan-Goldin-ish waifs with probable drug problems and cute vintage party dresses.

By the time I hit my mid-twenties, most of my teenaged affectations, though I still stopped short of committed enthusiasm for forests and mountains and waterfalls and the smell of green things around you and all that transcendent shit. The jig, however, was up. Maybe my friends caught me lingering overlong at creeksides or perhaps my habit of ruining party dresses by running around in the spring rain like some clumsy offspring of Cathy Earnshaw and a Wordsworth poem tipped them off. Or maybe it was just that no one believed my subscription to Outside was an accident. Whatever the case, I clearly remember having an argument with a roommate and failing quite completely to convince her that outdoorsy-ness was a dealbreaker in romantic relationships.

She just rolled her eyes and said something about not fooling anybody and “ Seriously, Alison? You’re totally going to marry some mountain climber, whose best man is a Sherpa guide. ”

I blushed and stuttered with the shame of the FOUND OUT, but I didn’t argue. Because as a match, that actually didn’t sound so bad and really I’d been waiting for someone to call me on that bullshit for years. By the time I admitted to being secretly outdoorsy, the secret part was probably unnecessary.

I don’t want to overstate this. I’m still far more likely to wear crinolines than hiking boots and the last time I was anywhere close to the Appalachian Trail, I was in a car. But the more time I spend outside the more time I want to spend outside if you know what I mean. If you ask me to tag along on your adventure, I’ll probably go, because why not? I’m far more likely to regret the not doing, even if the doing sometimes sucks while I’m doing it.

And yeah, sure, I’ll even wear sunscreen.