It occurs to me that as I get older, I care, less and less about my appearance; at least in terms of the way I dress to combat the cold. The scary part is that I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get worse.
This isn’t to say that I don’t properly groom myself and employ basic hygiene practices, which, of course, I do. This is about big fluffy parkas, gloves so thick that individual finger use seems like a monkey myth, hoods and hats, boots and heavy wool socks. This is about staying warm with absolutely no regard to how it looks.
As is often the case, I hadn’t even noticed about myself that I had changed in this respect until I was brought into contrast a few days ago by a kid (and perhaps I should have guessed some change was occurring in me when I started calling people 5 years my junior, “kids”) who reached the door at Dunkin Donuts, where I’d stopped for my morning coffee, at the same time I did.
He gave me the old head to toe. I must have looked a little something like Randy, the younger brother from the movie A Christmas Story in all of my foul weather prepared glory---a tick, about to burst. It was -25 degrees with the wind chill, I had only driven a few blocks and the heat hadn’t really kicked in yet and I was c-o-l-d, cold.
By contrast, this kid was gloveless, hatless, hoodless, wearing dress shoes and a simple fleece zip up as his only defense against the elements. Granted, Chicagoans are a tough breed when it comes to winter weather—I, myself have been known to traipse out to the garage is nothing but a tee shirt, boxers and flip flops in the dead of winter to retrieve something from my car and bring it back into the warmth. We’re not talking about a 30 second dash here though. This is the trip to work, with a pause for coffee and it’s negative 25 degrees out!
That’s when it hit me. I used to be that kid. Refusing to wear a winter hat because I was more concerned with the way my hair looked all day long; not wearing full winter combat gear so that the other young twenty somethings stopping for coffee could see me. That was this kid now. He didn’t care as much about being cold as he did being seen---the off chance that some homecoming queen of a girl next door would walk through the doors for her morning coffee too.
I simply didn’t care.
In the days since this little encounter, I’ve paid quite a bit of attention to the way people dress for cold weather. I’m pretty sure it’s an evolution that will see me wearing a Siberian fur helmet-hat, with matching ear flaps before another decade passes. I’d rather be warm than look good. When the temperature dips below a certain point, my desire to impress anyone other than my cold fingers, toes and nose dies faster than the career of a boy band after their second CD is released.
The kid looked me up and down and dismissed me as an old, over reacting fool. I dismissed him as a naïve, foolish young kid. It was immaterial that only a few years earlier, I had been he. We ordered our coffees, paid the clerks and went our separate ways. One of us looking good, cold as ice; the other toasty warm and content as not aesthetically impressive.
They say that youth is wasted on the young, and it’s true, but at least, if nothing else, as we get older, we finally get to bundle up and stay warm.