How to Socialize in the Cold Without Being Miserable
November 26, 2020 5:35 AM   Subscribe

From CityLab: The still-raging pandemic means social activities will stay outdoors as the temperature plummets. Here’s what experts say about the art of keeping warm.
posted by Bella Donna (27 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
I live in eastern Washington fairly close to Canada. I work in a warehouse which does have heaters but which aren't too effective in such a large space. I also grew up in the desert Southwest so I didn't grow up with real winters.

What I have found interesting is that every year, there seems to be some kind of thermostat inside my body that goes *click*. One week, the temps will be down in the lower 30s and I will be totally freezing and wearing layer after layer, but the next week the temps will be the same and I'll be fine with fewer layers and won't feel as miserable in the cold.

I'm not sure what that is. I think it's that if you just learn to live with the cold, it won't affect you as much somehow. Modern life for a lot of people doesn't involve spending time outside of artificially adjusted environments, so there's not much chance to adjust unless you really decide to.

Perhaps this winter is a good time to make the adjustment.
posted by hippybear at 5:54 AM on November 26, 2020 [17 favorites]


I sorta grew up in NW Ontario in the bush. What I found that worked for me was to go outside and stay there until I felt frozen. Go inside, have a cup of coffee or tea. Once warmed up, I could go outside at -20 temperature and not even notice it for hours. Just got myself acclimated to it. And of course, freezing temps in the fall feel cold, freezing temps in the spring felt warm.
posted by baegucb at 6:46 AM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


(chuckles in Northern Albertan)

I suspect many MeFites spend a lot of time at a keyboard. If you are not doing regular cardio during your week, there is a good chance your circulation is not the same as it was, as you hit your 40s. I've been thinking about it for at least 2-3 years but I'm going for it this year: heated mitts. I would be grateful for recommendations, there's a lot out there. Preferably mitts, gloves will be considered. I'd rather go with the testimonials of one or two trusted MeFites than continue wading through online noise.. Don't mind paying a bit more, I just want warm hands!!

I learned to deal with cold after working in a barren field for the better part of a winter prepping a grade beam pour. The actual concrete pour came in the spring (oh the mud) but we were out in that expanse of a field a good chunk of the winter. Good boots (mine were an industrial pair of Kamiks, a couple sizes too big--you can get a quilted booty over your heavy sock that way), and just a ton of layering. I don't think young people can truly appreciate layering? I know I didn't, any layer on the way out the door was fine up to an age.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


Although it sounds kinda trivial, I’ve found the sun makes a big difference. 40 degrees on a windless, sunny day feels a lot different than 40 degrees on a windy, cloudy day — or at night.

So, maybe make the most of your weekend afternoon socializing this winter? NYC has fewer rainy days in February than in April, May, June, or July, so I guess that’s something.
posted by panama joe at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2020


I think it's that if you just learn to live with the cold, it won't affect you as much somehow.

Oh, this is definitely a thing. We always called it "acclimation".

After a month or two of Chicago winter you're definitely used to the cold and your body just starts to ignore it. I've visited Phoenix in January, maybe it was in the 60s there, and I'm walking around in shorts and a T-shirt while the locals are wearing sweaters and heavy jackets and starting up their heat pumps (they've acclimated, too!)

By the time March rolls around and it's 45F you're doing errands without a coat. The first 75F day, you're blasting the car's A/C.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:52 AM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


just a ton of layering.

Fishnet base layer.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:13 AM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


The first 75F day, you're blasting the car's A/C.
I'm from NW Washington, and I'm blasting the car's A/C well before 75! I'm one of those people that is always naturally warm. I remember walking the couple of blocks from my car to the office, snow on the ground, wearing khakis and a polo shirt, and drivers and passerby stopping to ask if I was okay, and do I need any help. What? No, thanks! If it gets cold outside I'll grab a hoodie. Of course, the flipside to that is 75F on a summer day feels SO OPPRESSIVE, and on a warm day, I tend to break a sweat with the slightest physical exertion. I got in the habit of keeping a couple spare shirts in my locker at work so I could change, if needed.
posted by xedrik at 8:16 AM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty good article. Moving around, eating, dressing in layers are all excellent tips. I have a couple more:

Do not go outside in the bitter cold when drunk, especially by yourself. It's far too dangerous. Alcohol makes you feel warmer than you actually are, and can impede shivering. It can also make you do risky things, like remove layers of clothing, or fall asleep in a snowbank.

Wear fast-drying pants with layers underneath if you're going to be spending a lot of time in the snow or on ice. Cotton (i.e. jeans) and other absorbent fabrics stay wet for a long time, making you lose heat. When I lived up north this was part of our survival training.

Don't pee in your snowsuit.
posted by Stoof at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


Passing this one along to the spouse, with thanks.

I'm like xedrik -- I'll be in shorts and a t-shirt when my husband is in jeans and a leather jacket. When I worked in an ice cream shop, one of my favorite things to do, while dressed for a DC summer, was to go stand in the walk-in freezer.

My husband, on the other hand, is putting on gloves when it gets down to about 50. We've been talking a lot for the past month or two about how the hell we're going to handle this winter. Normally, he'd be willing to go out for a long walk even in the cold, but would need to go inside a store to warm up while I'd stay outside with the dog. Losing those opportunities to warm up is going to be very hard on him. He's already agreeing to things (sitting outside with a cup of coffee at 40°f) that have been verboten for the last 20+ years.
posted by jburka at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


I'm from NW Washington, and I'm blasting the car's A/C well before 75!

As someone from the east coast, I will never forget the time I was visiting Seattle in August and a heat wave caused the temp. to get up into the 80s and the front page of the Seattle Times had an all-caps headline that said something like, "WHAT IS HAPPENING ARE WE GOING TO SURVIVE?"

That said, the fact that people can adapt to extreme cold has always mystified me. I lose feeling in my fingers and feet really easily and can get cold hives when the temperature is well above freezing, so sleeping outside in -40 degree weather seems like a kind of superpower.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:34 AM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


I live in Maine and am determined to not let winter make me quite as miserable this year. Still need warmer boots, but I have long underwear, sweater tights, wool sweaters, so much fleece. I'm trying to just bring wood in for the wood stove every morning, not waiting until it's urgent, that sort of thing. Snowed yesterday, lasted till this morning; it's raining and 35F. I keep the house chillier than my family in the Midwest, I do acclimate and don't need a jacket when I travel someplace warmer, etc., but, Covid Winter is a whole new challenge.

I had been considering a post, so here are some more links.
Friluftsliv, the Norwegian Concept of Outdoor Living
The Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter
What Scandinavians Can Teach Us About Embracing Winter
How to Win at Winter When You Hate Winter
Most Americans hate winter. Here’s what they’re missing.
I'll never reach this stage. The babies who nap in sub-zero temperatures
stay warm, y'all.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on November 26, 2020 [11 favorites]


Joking aside, I realize heat waves can be dangerous for people unaccustomed to high temps or who don't have a place to stay cool! Also, I was back in Seattle a few years ago and I'm pretty sure the temperature got up into the 90s. Aside from everyone being really sweaty (myself included) nobody seemed all that bothered.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:40 AM on November 26, 2020


As someone who's spent years skydiving during the winter in the Northeast -- somewhere below the bottom of the wind chill chart -- I can offer the following:

1.) Embrace the cold, don't fight it. Yea, I realize this sounds like some bad Zen cliche, but it's true. The cold can feel exhilarating if you let it. Or it can really bum you out.

2.) Don't let your hands or toes get cold. A little tough for skydiving as one needs dextrous fingers, so no mittens, but doable. Super important. Canadian boots, layered gloves.

3.) Invest in a pair of high tech long underwear. This stuff has come a long way and really works without being thick and heavy.
posted by Dean358 at 9:15 AM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


I really like winter. When it begins to get really dark, it often isn't that cold here, and there is a lovely sense of anticipation when the streets are lit up by the windows and people are hurrying around like it's already the holiday season. Then when the snow comes, everything becomes bright in a new way. And then, when the winter is at it's coldest, the light returns!
Last winter, there was hardly any snow, but that was beautiful in a different way. Though I'll admit you need to get out into some real nature to really enjoy a wet winter.

The babies who nap in sub-zero temperatures
As someone who napped outdoors as a baby, I still love an outdoor nap on a crisp, sunny winters day. I heard of a lady who had a huge cot with a cover made for herself so she could do it every day, even when it was raining or snowing. Maybe that is a bit eccentric, but I love the idea.
posted by mumimor at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


I've been in the Boise valley for a bit over a year and am working myself out of a job there. Home to the desert means 105 days in summer and 22 in winter. It's not the temps, it's the continuous wind. Blast furnace vs bitter cutting edges. It's impossible to get used to. If anything, it's the wind that keeps me from going outside.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:01 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


Fishnet base layer
I can attest to this, even if it's just fishnet leggings. I was shocked how much of a difference it makes.
posted by WaylandSmith at 12:04 PM on November 26, 2020


1.) Embrace the cold, don't fight it. Yea, I realize this sounds like some bad Zen cliche, but it's true. The cold can feel exhilarating if you let it. Or it can really bum you out.

For a while in my 20s I was really good at that. When I would go to start the car I'd be fine with just sitting in it in the cold. My trick was to relax my muscles and then I could just live with the cold. I'm still fine with the cold now but I don't have that zen feeling anymore.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:06 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what that is. I think it's that if you just learn to live with the cold, it won't affect you as much somehow. Modern life for a lot of people doesn't involve spending time outside of artificially adjusted environments, so there's not much chance to adjust unless you really decide to.

I've found that as I've gotten older I've been less and less able to tolerate cold weather. Moving to Miami accelerated the process, but part of the reason I was happy to make the move is that wool socks, a neck gaiter, and long underwear weren't doing it any more.

There's a reason snowbirds are a thing and it's not just because they aren't used to the cold.
posted by wierdo at 3:25 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager, I didn't have a lot of money for booze and had a bit of social apprehension, so I used to go drinking in parks with just a couple of close friends. I would leave the house, in winter, in a hoodie and a quilted shirt, and have a fleece or a jacket in my backpack, depending on temperature.

But every now and then I would get too lazy to open the backpack and put the extra clothes on. In time, I got more and more tolerant to low temperatures, to the point that now I can sleep with my windows open until late in autumn. I am comfortable in a tshirt at 15 degrees, even less, if the sun shines directly on me. I never wear pants at home, rarely a tshirt.

My 13 year old daugther hates winter jackets and just bought her first quilted shirt today, and I felt kinda proud.
posted by nad.eirad at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager in Chicago, the temp getting up to the 20s in January was reason enough to go around with my parka unzipped.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:34 PM on November 26, 2020


This article and the ensuing discussion is making me so damn glad I left Seattle and moved home to New Orleans early last year. I was such a whiny bitch about the cold and greyness no matter how much I learnt to deal with it. What I learnt up there will have me more than ready for anything the tropics are gonna throw at me and call "winter".

(Oddly enough, I seem to have gotten better at dealing with a 100F+ summer day during that time, too. It's like my body has a better handle on all its ways for managing temperatures now that it's dealt with snow all winter long up in Boston for a few years.)
posted by egypturnash at 7:40 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


Blair Braverman once wrote that she found that women tended to be poorly served by women's winter coats because the best-looking ones are cut slender to provide a good silhouette, whereas the key to keeping heat is trapping air -- that is, largeness, puffiness, and above all, layers. This is something I will take into account in future coat buying.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:43 PM on November 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


To be fair, the "best looking" men's coats also aren't cut for the season but for fashion.
posted by hippybear at 8:03 PM on November 26, 2020


BATTERY POWERED KOTATSUS FOR ALL.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:29 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager in Chicago, the temp getting up to the 20s in January was reason enough to go around with my parka unzipped.

When I was a teenager in Canada you only zipped your coat up a couple of times a year. It was seriously uncool to zip up. I got to school in the middle of a blizzard with the front of my sweater crusted with ice and snow on more than one occasion. We also wore leather jackets, heavy fleece and workboots in 80F weather. Sometimes with shorts if it was too hot.

The point of this is that teenagers are really incredibly stupid.
posted by srboisvert at 9:28 AM on December 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


In my 3rd year of college in the early 90s, I lived off campus, and had a mountain bike. All that year, summer and winter, I tootled around on the high streets on that bike in all weathers. This was Madison, WI, so you can imagine what winter was like.

I wore shorts and Timberland boots most days that winter. Many of my classmates thought I was nuts. But it was the biking that kept me warm. I had on proper layers on top, and a beanie on my head, so I felt fine. I was livid when my bike was stolen during the 2nd summer I had it.

Now? I'm waiting patiently for the delivery of a new winter parka that's guaranteed to go to my ankles. I still don't feel safe riding a bike on the streets of NYC. One time and nearly being run over on practically every avenue in Manhattan was enough for me!
posted by droplet at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2020


@BlairBraverman
Hi y’all! It has come to my attention that a lot of people don’t like winter because they don’t like being cold....If you’ve ever thought that winter isn’t for you, have no fear! I’m going to teach you how to be less cold.

[A very interesting thread! Thanks, Countess Elena!]
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:37 PM on December 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


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