Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
It’s snowing. And I mean really snowing, big flakes of white slowly drifting past my window. This isn’t the first time it’s snowed this year (I’ve already gone skiing, for Christ’s sake), but it’s the first time it feels real, like it might actually stick. The bare limbs of the trees on my block suddenly carry a dusting of white, and I suspect they may hold onto it for a few days, at least.
I wrote that intro before Christmas, when the hope of a real winter was still alive, before the season devolved into a prolonged and dreary early spring. The tree limbs lost any trace of white by the next day. It’s raining now and has been for weeks, though I’m hesitant to complain because the mild temperatures have allowed me to ride my bike all through January and now well into February, a novelty in New York City. With everything bad comes some good, silver linings, etc.
When I was growing up, winter was an active and social season for me. I was a ski racer, so I spent tons of time outside sucking in big gulps of cold, fresh air, riding the chairlift and drinking hot chocolate in the lodge with my closest friends. I retired from racing at the end of high school, and was so excited to have winters to myself in college, to not have to spend so much time outside shivering in sub-zero temperatures or get up before dawn on Sunday mornings. So I was surprised to discover that a winter without skiing was lonely and aimless. When I raced, I used winter, I put all that snow to work, carved my skis into it and converted it to speed. I hadn’t known winter could be so useless.
I’ve lived in New York for a long time now and have determined that this place has no use for winter. The season has no perks, aside from the occasional snow flurry that turns the city into a real-life snow globe, but even those rare, beautiful moments give way muddy slush by the next day. The only New Yorkers who enjoy winter are dogs, and even then it takes a rare breed.
I do spend more time outside in the winter now than I have since my racing days, but rather than gliding over snow, I trudge through mud to walk dogs. Theoretically, this is healthy — I get plenty of fresh air and all the vitamin D the weak winter sun has to offer — but in practice, it’s pretty miserable. If you think NYC parks are strange in the summer, when they’re filled with teens making out after school and drunk men carrying boomboxes, I’m here to inform you they’re downright bizarre in the winter. A few weeks ago, the only other person I could see in Fort Greene Park was a woman hula hooping on top of a hill. Another day, I saw a man walk to the middle of a field, strip down to a t-shirt and start shadowboxing. Since the parks are almost empty, weirdos see them as the perfect very public places to get some privacy. I can often be found walking around a public park in the dead of winter carrying on a full conversation with a dog, so I suppose I’m one of these weirdos.
This is my tenth winter in New York and the first I decided to actually prepare for. I hadn’t gotten a new winter coat since I moved here and this fall, I decided it was time. I copied my sister, who purchased it in green last year, and bought this coat from Everlane (currently on sale!), in a vibrant blue that’s so much cheerier than my sad old black coat. It’s also much warmer, plus it’s about as stylish and comfortable as a wearable down comforter can be. In fact, it’s so warm that I haven’t even worn it that much during this mild winter, but when I have I’ve felt luxuriously insulated from the elements.
If the coat was a necessity, my other winter purchase was absolutely mandatory. In all my time in New York, I’ve never had real winter boots. Several years ago, I bought classic Doc Martens, which looked cool but were terrible in the snow, rain and cold. They were also a hassle while walking dogs since it took me so long to unlace and re-tie them when I picked up or dropped a pup off. This year, I decided it was time to get real winter boots so I did what I always do and looked around to see what other women in New York were wearing. The answer was Blundstone boots. In fact, they’re so trendy here that I wondered if it could have possibly just been a domino effect, like one woman got a pair years ago and her friend liked them and got a pair and on and on until every single woman in Brooklyn was walking around in identical pull-on boots. Then I went to Vermont, and when I realized every woman in Burlington was wearing Blundstones during an April snowstorm, I decided they were the real deal.
My mind made up, I went to my friend Erika’s wonderful shoe store in Williamsburg and bought these boots. I was prepared to buy regular old Blundstones, but then Erika brought me these, which are weatherproof AND sherpa-lined! I’ve worn them almost every day this winter and they’ve been nothing short of life-altering. No matter the weather, my feet are dry. My feet are warm. My feet are comfortable (I could walk miles in these babies from day one without getting blisters). The second I brought them home to show my sister, she went to The Shoe Market to buy them. I copied her coat, she copied my boots. As usual, we match, but only because we both have such great taste.
I think having proper winter outerwear for the very first time since moving to New York has helped keep my seasonal depression at bay. It’s no longer miserable to go outside, even when it’s 40 degrees and raining, which it has been most days. Money is tight for me these days, which is one of the reasons it took me so long to get proper outerwear. I couldn’t really afford it and felt like if I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t deserve it. As it turned out, I was able to get excellent gear without spending a lot of money (the Everlane coat is half the price of most parkas of comparable quality and the boots, which are worth every penny of the full price, were on sale).
It also helps that I’ve been able to ride my little bicycle around, since biking is my preferred mood stabilizer. Part of the reason I always find winter so unbearable is that I have to take the subway instead of riding my bike, but this year I’ve just bundled up, stepped into my boots and hopped on the hog. I’ve been wearing a lot of long johns under my pants, which isn’t great for my ego (already tight jeans feel very tight with a layer underneath) but has greatly enhanced my quality of life — except for the day I wore a pair of brand-new Uniqlo long johns under a pair of extremely tight jeans, rode my bike for half an hour and got a UTI.
I don’t mean to suggest I’ve been little miss sunshine peering through these cloudy skies (two nights ago my boyfriend took me to a bar during a break between comedy shows just so I could cry), but this year, winter hasn’t been the cause of my blues. My mood normally sinks in March, when winter shows no signs of abating, but this year, my depressive episodes got all mixed up due to a stressful holiday season, the details of which I’ll save for my journal (all I’ll say is it was enough to make me start journaling).
What’s helped me keep going through this difficult time is the fact that I’ve been able to literally keep going. Winter has not interrupted my life, hasn’t disturbed my daily routines, which I cling to in times of distress. I’ve been able to bike around and walk my dogs without freezing, all because I decided, finally, that I deserve to protect myself from the elements.
The other thing that’s helped is a little boy named Bear. A few days after Christmas, I got a new roommate: a little baby Norwich Terrier. He belongs to my other roommate, my sister, and though I was thrilled she decided to get him, I figured balancing his care with work and other dogs would drive me to a few minor breakdowns. It hasn’t. He’s brought nothing but joy into our home — and a lot of shit and piss (house training is an ongoing challenge). I love him so much I almost can’t believe it. When I’m stressed out, I sit on the floor and he climbs in my lap. Sometimes he chews on my fingers, sometimes he sleeps. I tell him I love him 900 times a day. I kiss him until I’m choking on his fur. He gets excited when I come home. He tries to bite my face off but I don’t mind.
This is Bear’s first winter, but he already loves the snow. He’s only experienced it twice — once during what now seems like a freak snowstorm in January, once while visiting my father in a place where winter is actually happening this year. He hops through the snow, burrows into it, glides across it, chomps on falling snowflakes. He has no idea what this wintery substance is but he knows exactly how to use it for maximum enjoyment. At my father’s house, Bear wanted to play in the snow all day, but after 10 minutes we’d pick him up and drag him inside. He’d be shivering, but willing to endure the cold in order to play, aware that he was exchanging comfort for fun, eager to make that transaction. Warmth for joy. He’s just a little puppy but already he understands sacrifice. Maybe next year we’ll get him a snowsuit and a little pair of boots so he can hop around in the snow for hours without freezing. He deserves it.
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares about my new boots. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, winter gear or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!