Psst. I have a secret. Let’s try to keep it between us as I’d hate to rock the region with this devastating news. Brace yourself: It’s winter in Chicago.
One would think this is obvious — dips in temperature, snow blanketing the prairie, barren trees, and bodies bundled like burritos — but alas the season comes as a surprise to many every year. The result is incessant winter whining. “Why do we live here?” “It’s so cold outside.” “Why is there snow?”
People feigning disbelief at nature.
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I’m sick of the annual performative winter whining. Last year when a winter storm hit the New York area, a local news channel did the also performative person-on-the-street interview about the weather. A woman named Diane, with a New York accent as thick as a pastrami deli sandwich, answered the news reporter in an incredulous tone. She didn’t understand why people were mad at snow. In winter, no less.
“We are a bunch of weird people,” Diane exclaimed. “If it were summer and it was snowing — yes. It is winter! Hello! It’s winter. I’m not surprised. I love it.”
Diane’s common sense warmed me on what was probably a cold winter day here. I already despise weather small talk. When it’s winter, it bugs me more. I love living in a climate with all four seasons. Constant complaining about winter won’t replace the season with summer Lake Michigan beach days. I get the inconvenience of winter. Everything takes a little bit longer to do. Car batteries die. Flights are subject to delays. Bad drivers. Gray skies make us blue. January is especially tough as the post-holiday hangover set in.
We forget that winter doesn’t stop the city from moving. We’re better than that. Life still goes on and we refuse to let snow paralyze us.
I remember the January 1999 blizzard. My friends and I went to a club on Elston Avenue; it was packed and no one heeded the meteorologists’ warnings. (Getting home was a three-day ordeal but we were in our early 20s and made it fun!)
During the polar vortex of 2014, a Chicago friend living in New York decided to make the most of a canceled flight. She celebrated her birthday here at a speakeasy. I and her other friends packed the basement on a Tuesday night. You would never know an arctic blast whirled about outside.
My dad is not above barbequing on Christmas.
This is the Chicago I appreciate. We are meaty and resilient.
I compiled a few tips to prevent you from falling into the winter whining trap.
- Spend quality time with friends in your home. Winter can be cozy with fireplaces, bourbon and conversation.
- Try new recipes that require hours. In the winter, I make an eight-hour marinara sauce or an eight-hour lamb on the weekends.
- Enjoy winter activities. When I lived in Minnesota, residents got mad if it was a mild winter because it interrupted ice fishing and snowmobiling. That’s the attitude! Ice skate, take your family sledding or have a snowball fight. We live in a winter wonderland.
- Look at pictures of humid summer days and remember how you complained about how hot it was.
- Warm up with hot chocolate and a visit to conservatory.
- Make a point to enjoy myriad cultural offerings in the city — from museums to storefront theater.
- While I don’t do New Year resolutions, I do use the time to reset in January. Currently, I’m doing the Daniel Fast. In previous years, I’ve done a 21-day financial fast.
- If you’re really going stir crazy, do something that reminds you of warm weather. Is there a scent you wear, drink you order, food you eat in the summer? Wrap yourself in that memory by indulging.
I leave you with this: Years ago a Miami friend moved to Chicago. People asked her why on earth she would do that. She said she’d take a blizzard over a hurricane. The next time you feel bad about our winter, remember that in Denmark it gets dark at 3:30 p.m. this time of year.
Mostly importantly, soak in Diane’s sage words: It’s winter; let’s work with it.
Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ.org
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