Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brrr! Living in a Cold Climate


Well.  It’s here.  Winter.  This is one of the things I have really been dreading.  Unrelenting cold weather.  It is no secret to my friends and family that I truly abhor cold weather.  I had to live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 17 months approximately 20 years ago and I still go on and on and on about how dark, dank and dismal it was.  If Mr. Big were peering over my shoulder right now, he would be saying, “Enough already about Pittsburgh!  There’s not a person left breathing on the planet who is not aware of your issues with Pittsburgh!”

Sometimes I am a trial to Mr. Big.

For the last 20 years, I lived in Southern California and South Carolina.  I have thin, wimpy blood.  The only time I am ever in cold weather is when our family goes on its’ annual ski trip to Europe.  I am one of those people who wears “Hot Hands” and “Toastie Toes” inside my gloves and boots and sits in the lodge drinking Bailey’s and Coffee between runs.  OK, I am the first to admit it, I become a miserable, whiny, (that’s whingy? whingey? for all you Brits) grousing brat when I get cold.

And then I learned two key things.  A)  It’s all about layers, and B)  Your coat IS your outfit.

I swear, I spend half my time here in Switzerland checking out what people are wearing.  It’s because I can’t seem to get it just quite right.  Their scarves always looks incredibly, casually cool and mine look like they are trying to asphyxiate me.  They walk effortlessly on these friggin’ cobblestone streets in boots with spike heels which,  when I try to mimic, just looks like I’ve had too much to drink.  Which I probably have had, but that’s pretty crass of you to point that out.

So, unlike in warmer climes, when planning a winter outfit for the day,  you start with the coat first and work your way IN, all of the time attempting not to look like the Michelin Man.  These are the questions you must ask yourself before you even take off your towel, post-shower:

1.        Long coat below the knee, medium, which covers the hips or short, which only goes to the waist?
2.       Wool, leather, twill, down, or other waterproof?
3.       Dressy or casual?

This is just for the coat, mind you.  Next, boots:

1.       Above the knee, to the knee, half-calf or shoe-bootie?
2.       Leather, waterproof, Ugg or fur?
3.        Black or brown (Note, must match coat).  (Also note, no other color choices acceptable).

Now, if you are just going into town shopping and have no plans for eating out or stopping for coffee,  THE REST DOES NOT MATTER.  You could wear a gunny sack or footie pajamas or a goriilla costume.  It will never be seen by the general population.  If your coat is long enough to reach the top of your boots, you could even be naked for the rest of the day.  You would be cold, but you could be naked.

Me, I’m freezing.  Plus, I do tend to indulge in the random wine or coffee bar, (where one is expected to shed all outer layers),  on my excursions out on the town, so my outfit planning must go on to include the following:

1.       Camisole
2.       Long sleeve tee
3.       Tights
4.       Sweater
5.       Pants (or skirt if I am shopping in Geneva where one “dresses” to buy loo rolls)
6.       Scarf, casually wrapped 2.5 times around neck
7.       Stylish hat
8.       Polar-tec gloves

By now, it is approaching 11:30 a.m. and I haven’t even left the house.  But, I am dressed!  This dressing warm stuff is still a learning experience for me so I am sure that I will touch upon it in future blogs.   I am aware that all of you out there who are well-used to cold weather are laughing at me, rather than with me.  That’s OK.  I hope your thick-blooded selves get transferred to Macon, Georgia someday.  Then we will see who is laughing at whom!

Dressing for hot/humid weather is an art form, as well.  A jean jacket suffices as a winter coat.  You might as well just pre-admit yourself to the hospital for heatstroke if you are foolish enough to wear panty hose or tights in any month that does not start with Jan- or Feb-.  There are legions of adolescent boys who do not even own a pair of long pants except for their “church pants”.  The concept of the “summer weight” scarf is beyond comprehension.  People from the Southern Hemisphere know that they don’t even need to exercise in the summer.  They can just walk to the mailbox and back and lose 5 lbs. of water weight.

I promise, I am not complaining.  Even when the mercury never rises above 20 degrees Fahrenheit here, it is still breathtakingly beautiful.  Literally.  Ha!

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