Yielding to Vanity

In this cold weather we’ve been having, I did something I promised myself I wouldn’t do. I sacrificed being warm in favor of looking fashionable—or at least not old. I was in the parking lot for a popular trail on a day when the temperatures were in the 30s—not too cold but the wind had a bite to it. I was mulling over whether to add a pair of nylon wind pants over my jeans for extra warmth.

But when I saw a group of young women in the parking lot, dressed in the current fashion of leggings, some with bare ankles and bare heads, I decided not to wear the baggy wind pants because that would brand me as old—not just old but possibly decrepit and, god forbid, silly.  The result was that I was cold on my walk around the frozen ponds, not dangerously cold but uncomfortable enough that I cut my walk short and denied myself the pleasure of being outside.

Because my head gets cold easily, I always wear hats, another indication that I’m old and no longer cool (if I ever was). I even had my hiking poles, which most people don’t need on these level trails, but my doctor advised me to use them because of neuropathy in my feet. Compared to these young people, who seemed unencumbered by layers of clothing and who exuded good health and freedom, I felt swaddled, like someone who couldn’t handle the elements.

I know that people get colder as they get older. In his 80s, my father wore long underwear all winter long, even though his apartment temperature was set at 70 or above, leaving my siblings and I complaining every time we visited. And younger people, especially children, seem to have a higher temperature setting, running around in shorts even in winter. 

Continue reading “Yielding to Vanity”

The Revenge of My Father

As my father got older, into his 80s, he was cold all the time. I remember being at our family cottage in Wisconsin and wanting to swim in the lake on a day that was warm but not hot. He stood on the pier, wearing a cardigan and long pants, and watched me enter the water. “Aren’t you cold?” he asked, and it seemed a silly question. It was summer, the sun was out, and the temperatures were maybe in the low 80s. How could he be cold?

All winter long, my father, who had been skinny all his life, wore long johns—inside the apartment he shared with my mother, and even with the thermostat set at 70. When my siblings and I visited, we would complain about how hot it was and ask if we could turn down the heat or open some windows, while we rolled our eyes at each other.

In my youthful arrogance, I must have thought my parents were coddling themselves. Maybe if they got out more or experienced the real cold outside, they would see that their apartment was too warm. I thought this, even though I knew my dad loved to walk, that he exercised every day even if it was just circling the interior of the retirement facility in winter.

And now I’m old, and I feel the cold more intensely, wrapping myself in my fleece robe once it gets dark. On a day when it’s 40 degrees outside, I’m wearing a parka, hat and gloves, while younger people are out in shorts and tank tops. I suspect they are sneering at my bundled-up outfit, while they’re running loose and free. And I look at them in amazement, as my dad once looked at me, and think, “What’s wrong with them? How can they not be cold?”

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