Friday, December 01, 2006

Baby It’s Cold Inside

So, it snowed a couple of inches last night (way less in the city than the foot that was forecast) and the wind chill is about 12 degrees.

Time to stop pretending it’s fall and unpack the wool. God I hate my winter wardrobe. I itch just thinking about it.

Summer Patty is pink and purple and yellow and sky blue. She loves sundresses and tank tops and Capri cargo pants. Winter Patty is brown. Brown sweaters, brown skirts, brown pants, brown boots. Summer Patty is a cheery rainbow. Winter Patty is a variation on the theme of dirt.

I looked in my closet a couple of Decembers ago and saw wall-to-wall boredom. Taupe, chocolate, tan, beige, camel. If I were a tree, what kind would I be? The bark.

The blandness was overwhelming. I didn’t think I could make it until June, trapped in this sepia world. (If you think winter in Chicago doesn’t run a full six months, move here.) Like people who sit under sun lamps to combat their Seasonal Affective Disorder, I introduced a few new items with splashes of color—reds, greens, oranges. And they look very pretty on their hangers, which is where they tend to stay, because they’re not warm enough.

Right now, I’m wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, crew neck sweatshirt, hoodie, down vest, jeans, and two pairs of socks. I’m sitting indoors with the heat on. The thermostat reads 69, but our windows are so drafty, the actual air temperature is several degrees chillier. (And yes, I could crank up the temp, but then our furnace would run continuously. I don’t know which I fear more—bankruptcy-by-gas-bill or the noise. Because our furnace is not located in the basement. Because we don’t live in a house. It’s in a little closet right off our living room and is so loud when it ignites that we have to shout to carry on a conversation. If we’re watching a DVD, we have to click on subtitles—for English-language movies.)

I’m one of those people who is either too hot or too cold. There are perhaps two days out of the entire year—maybe once in June and again in September—when I’m perfectly comfortable. I like a nice 73-74 degrees, sunny, no humidity. This is all I want from heaven—the ability to control my climate.

Sometimes I think I would rather be cold than hot, because while you can always add more layers, there’s only so naked a person can get in public. But then I think about my first apartment. It was a small studio with (free) baseboard heat that was either on or off. I lived on the fourth floor and I guess hot air really does rise. My place was so toasty in the winter, I could walk around in shorts and a t-shirt in February. Sometimes I even had to crack the window open to cool things down. There are many things I hated about that apartment—occasional roach outbreaks, noisy neighbors, a building manager with nudie calendars on his office walls—but the warmth made it home.

This is why I bake so much during the holidays. Yes, I love, love, love Christmas cookies. But mostly I’m just looking for an excuse to blast the oven. I stand in front of it, my butt against the door, and soak up the heat until I can feel the first-degree burn.

I can’t run the oven 24/7, so I rely on my heavy wool artillery—layered over Cuddle Duds—to keep the frost at bay. But this year, I didn’t have the heart to completely bid farewell to Summer Patty and pack her away in plastic bins tucked under the bed. I cleared room on a shelf in the closet for my some of favorite gauzy, short-sleeved, non-brown tops, with plans to visit them periodically over the dreary months to come.

This time of year, some folks are dreaming of a White Christmas. Not me. I want that 73 degree day. And a pink sundress.


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