My dislike for cold weather is aggravated by my lack of proper winter clothes.
As a New Orleans native and former resident of the South Carolina coast, fur-lined boots, puffy jackets and socks aren’t a necessity as much as fashion statement, and those types of items bought at Marshall's have little to no warming powers.
Of course, quality doesn’t really matter when it never gets colder than say, 30 degrees, and when it’s that cold, I don’t leave the house.
I used to think Patagonia and North Face jackets were for the rich and name-conscious — the Louis Vuitton of outerwear, if you will — and never thought that something actually made for cold weather would make a difference in body temperature.
But, when I visited a friend in Boone, North Carolina in college, IN THE MOUNTAINS, Y’ALL, PEOPLE REALLY LIVE IN THE MOUNTAINS!!!, I was so cold, I couldn’t think.
It was such a traumatizing chill, an annoying bite all over every inch of exposed skin, I’ll never, ever forget it. And this was in the fall.
My feet were cold, my face was cold, my arms were cold. My three layers and Marshall’s “fleece” sweater, were pathetic.
I tried to enjoy staring at the fall colors of the leaves changing and peering over RAVINES down into GORGES, but I couldn’t stop shaking.
“Can we pleeease go back to the car??” I asked, stamping my feet to get blood flowing.
“Here, put this on,” said my friend, Jason, who lived in Boone and had an extra Patagonia fleece in his car.
I didn’t argue. The minute I put one arm into it, I felt at least 10 degrees warmer. I zipped the Patagonia up completely and was able to keep my short arms and hands completely inside the long sleeves.
I stared at Jason, wide-eyed.
“This is the warmest thing I’ve ever worn in my entire life,” I said. "Thank you. Thank you, I think you saved my life."
And that’s when I discovered the need for a good sweater, one that’s not on the sale rack for $9.99, no matter how cute the buttons are.
I learned about another cold-weather necessity when I studied abroad in Spain during college: Boots.
Not cute, knee-high boots that you wear over (Marshall's) skinny jeans with your striped "fleece." I’m talking about boots that you wear because OH MY GOD it’s below freezing outside and tennis shoes don’t cut it.
Who knew that tennis shoes weren’t warm?
The Nike’s that I tried to pass off as winter shoes in Spain literally felt like they had big, gaping holes in the toes, and with each step I took, more cold air would blow THROUGH them up to my ankles.
I’ll never forget that freezing feeling either.
“Necesita zapatos otros,” my Spanish “mom” told me when she saw my dirty tennis shoes and saw me shaking at the kitchen table one day.
She wrote down the name of a store in town and instructed me to get some “botas.”
“Botas? Ya tengo botas!” I told her. I ran and got my boots out of my bedroom (the ones that I wear over my Marshall’s skinny jeans) with a chunky heel that was most impractical on the stone and brick streets and sidewalks.
She shook her head and frowned.
The next day, I went to the store she suggested and found these tall, light brown suede boots, practical AND cute, and they became my first legit pair of warm footwear.
(Sure, they were way too big because I didn’t want to let the shoe salesman down because he kept saying “Perfecto! Perfecto!” but I figured I could just wear them with two pairs of socks because IT WAS THAT COLD.)
They didn’t let me down. They kept my feet warm for the rest of the semester, and I could even walk in them through PUDDLES without the water soaking through to my toes.
What a concept!!
Now that it’s SUPER COLD in New Orleans, (49 degrees at 9 a.m. makes me want to hibernate like a bear until May), I’ve been reminded of my inability to dress for the season.
Other people have reminded me too.
The biggest critic was my late grandmother, who lived in New York. When our family would visit for the holidays, she would pitch a fit if I left the house without a hat.
(It wasn’t that I was against hats, it’s just that I didn’t own one. What do you mean by “hat,” Nana? Like a Mardi Gras hat??)
“I don’t have a hat,” I told her. She didn’t believe me.
“Look,” she told me sternly, pointing her finger. “Everyone in town ALREADY KNOWS you have PRETTY HAIR. Now put a hat on, or you’ll get sick.”
My twin sister, Joy, and I laughed at the hair comment, how she somehow thought I was so self-absorbed that I would forgo wearing a hat so “everybody in town” could see my hair.
I dug in her front closet and found a knit hat and slapped it on my head.
“Happy? I got a hat now,” I said. This was several years ago.
Yesterday, almost the very same thing happened.
It was cold and rainy and I did not at all dress for the occasion.
I did have a raincoat, as that IS a necessity in New Orleans, but I was wearing a short sleeve sweater (from Marshall's, yes, a short sleeve sweater, it exists.)
I was eating lunch with a friend in a fancy grocery store’s dining area, when an old woman literally stopped her grocery cart on the way out of the store and stared at me.
“Look,” she told me when she approached. “You’ve got pretty hair and all, but you need to cover your arms!” She pointed her finger at my pale, exposed biceps.
I was confused at first. I had been in the middle of an animated conversation, and my arms had been halfway raised at that moment, so I thought maybe there was something dangling off my sleeve.
“You’re going to get sick!” she said to me. My friend laughed.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a coat!” I told her pointing to the long-sleeved raincoat on the back of my chair.
“Well, cover those arms,” she said, and walked away. My friend and I both remained confused about the hair comment.
I thought about it on the drive back to work.
Maybe she made a mention because my hair is really long, and can provide an extra layer of warmth in this DEATHLY cold winter season.
Maybe she meant it as a “props to you for wearing something that resembles wool on your head, but extend that shit down to your elbows!”
I should have asked her to buy me a Patagonia sweater.