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    Fair-Weather Fan

    When I moved to Chicago after college, I realized that I didn’t own a serious winter coat. Sure, I owned the puffy coat every person at my high school wore. And yes, I definitely owned two or three fleece jackets, but no, these weren’t serious coats.

    One of my college friends kind of made me aware of this. Born and raised in Manhattan, she came to Ann Arbor equipped with long down coats, mink scarves, rabbit hats, and other fabulously warm winter accessories. When we would go to bars, while some of us threw on a cardigan or just opted to wear no jacket, she’d have an array of warm “evening coats.” I assumed she had all of this and I didn’t because she was because she was a savvy New Yorker.

    But no. That wasn’t it. She informed me it was because I was from Michigan.

    And she was right. As someone who grew up in a suburb, I was always in a car. The time spent outdoors was from when I parked the car, until I sprinted into the building I had parked in front of.  I didn’t need serious gear. All I needed was a coat and a quick sprint inside.

    That’s why when I moved to Chicago – along with my friend from Manhattan-  the wind hit me face first.  She, another friend who moved to Chicago from Michigan (who also didn’t own a serious winter coat), and I went straight to Bloomingdales.

    And with them- on one of the first crisp autumn days in Chicago- I bought my first serious winter coat. It was thick, it was down to my knees, it had a gigantic hood, and most importantly, it zipped up to right under my eyes… it was perfect for Chicago’s harsh weather conditions. I could now walk around zipped up in a sleeping bag.

    And I did.

    Four years later, I had acquired quite a collection of coats, jackets and winter gear. I owned stuff I never knew existed, let alone that I’d find value in. Hats that covered my entire face except my eyes, gloves that had buttons and pockets to expose my finger tips when necessary, vests and other layering apparel, jackets for every occasion: a coat to wear for the commute to work when it’s beyond freezing, a coat to wear to a fancy occasion when it’s beyond freezing, a coat to wear out to the bars when it’s beyond freezing, a coat to wear when it’s spring, and it it’s just freezing.

    It took me a short amount of time to realize that when you are dressing for supreme freezingness, color, style, and pattern becomes irrelevant. All you can afford to care about is warmth.

    So when I moved to New York, I was thrown off guard when everyone started talking about the September/October autumn chill of 55 degrees. I couldn’t believe it.  While I was walking around coatless or in a light jacket, everyone else was bundled. It was the first time in a while that I had felt a strength stronger than my company’s. It felt good. Hell, it felt warm!

    Then, when my boyfriend and I visited Chicago for the first time in autumn since moving, we got off the plane and looked at each other surprised. It wasn’t the gust of wind that slapped us in the face that surprised us. No, we had felt that gust thousands of times. It was the fact that we had forgotten about it.

    How could we have forgotten? All those commutes to work, all those walks over bridges, all those times walking east of Michigan Avenue closer to the lake…   The wind was shocking, but our disregard for it was more surprising. Yes, it had been a few months since we endured Chicago weather… but how could we have been unprepared for something that was such a big part of our lives? Especially when we used to be so prepared- and equipped- for Chicago weather.

    And when I say prepared, I’m not using the word lightly. My first winter in Chicago, I was fed up. Although my commute to work was only a six-minute walk, it was a long six minutes… and it’s amazing how much rain and snow can accumulate on a person in six minutes. Especially when they have to walk over a bridge. Once I started getting on my blowout kick, it seemed ludicrous to me to be careless and unprepared enough to let the harsh weather conditions destroy a freshly blown head of hair.  Getting a luxury like a blowout costs hard-earned money, and I wasn’t going to start wasting that.

    Chicago, 2007

    Chicago, 2007

    One wintery, snowy, rainy morning, as I looked out the window with a glamorous ‘do in place, I decided to get resourceful. I walked to work with the hood of a huge down coat over a hood of a hooded sweatshirt over a hot pink shower cap. And although I was seen walking down Michigan Ave with two hoods and a line of pink shower cap exposed on my forehead, I persevered by blowout. You wouldn’t’ even know it had been in the snow for 6 minutes.  To some (including my colleagues who caught a glimpse of me walking in), this was a fashion faux pas. For me, it was a supreme win.

    Now, as we approach the holidays in New York, I haven’t even taken out my serious winter coat, let alone a semi-serious coat. I walked to Central Park and back with my boyfriend and his labradoodle in a flimsy fleece this morning. On the morning shows, when with friends, in the local weather forecasts, when making small talk with strangers… everyone is talking about how cold it is in New York. Meanwhile, I haven’t even flinched!

    I guess when you’ve lived in Chicago for four years you have a different, disproportionate idea of what cold weather is. So Thanks Chicago, for giving me that. Thanks for toughening me up, teaching me about preparation and survival and forcing me to buy an array of winter accessories and gear.

    And New York… thanks for helping me forget.

    One Response to “Fair-Weather Fan”

    1. Liz says:

      Love you Phyl. I’ll be your savvy New Yorker anytime.

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