From the cover of Cartoons Magazine, January 1916.
Like everyone else, I am weary of talking about the weather. But it’s not the banality of the talk that bothers me. Talking about weather is as endlessly fascinating as weather itself—even if, nowadays, conversations about the weather are no longer guaranteed to offer refuge from discussions of religion or politics. I’m just sick of how babyish everyone’s being.
Yes, much of the country is experiencing a cold snap. It’s been very chilly for the past few weeks. Because it’s winter. People react with indignant surprise to learn that they’ve somehow woken up in a temperate climate that gets cold every year, and that they, personally, are being forced to deal with it. It’s not just that everyone is displaying an unbecoming lack of stoicism—I am not referring here to the denizens of The Paris Review office, who closed the Spring issue without heat or hot water, in their coats.) Rather, I hate that it leaves us open to the inevitable taunts of people in sunny climates, or the tiresome one-upmanship of those in Canada and Minnesota, who just love an excuse love to show off their thermometers and scoff at our softness.
When people try to commiserate about the cold, I am noncommittal.
“Can you believe this cold?” a very nice lady in my building said to me. I wanted to say, Yes, easily, it’s February. But that would have broken the social contract, so instead I said, “I haven’t seen a barefoot dog in over two weeks.” Which was an exaggeration, actually.
Other times, puritanical judgment creeps into my tone.
“This winter!” someone said on the subway platform. And it was true that it was sleeting outside. But: “It’s much better than last year,” I said unhelpfully. “And it’s worse in Boston.”
And every day I grow more openly defiant.
“I just hate this weather,” said a family friend I ran into at the supermarket. “Don’t you?”
“I like it,” I declared. “I like to feel like we’ve earned our spring. Or something,” I added to soften it.
An LA friend of mine has a theory that people who experience year-round sun have no way to really measure the passage of time, which is why they are panicked by aging. Whether or not this is true, I can attest to the fact that vicissitudes do nothing to improve the temper, and any spiritual benefits are outweighed by peevishness—be it at the weather or at other people. But I do think spring will be extra welcome.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review and the Daily’s correspondent.
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