Don’t let Old Man Winter win: Break out the shorts

posted Feb. 26, 2018 7:52 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Heidi Clausen, Editor |

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As I sit down to write this column, the wind is howling and the snow is blowing sideways. Schools, if open on this Presidents Day, are closing. Gosh, it’s almost enough to make me want to exchange my denim shorts for a pair of long jeans.

Yes, that’s right. I never did stow away my shorts to the back of the closet last fall, and the increasing whiteness of my legs has my family running for their sunglasses.

I know I’m not the only one who, despite Jack Frost’s worst, refuses to loosen their grip on this small piece of summer during a long Wisconsin winter. That’s right, I saw you make that mad dash from your cozy minivan into the gas station, hoping no one would notice those Bermudas on a subzero day. I saw you, clad in your Capri pants and snow boots, speed-walk into the grocery store for a gallon of milk.

Much like the snow flying past my office window today, all fashion sense flies out the window this time of year as I combine shorts with a turtleneck and make no apologies for it.

If I must run to the mailbox or across the yard to the garage, I’ll add to this classy ensemble whatever pair of boots is handiest (socks are optional, and my husband’s logging boots are not out of the question) and a pair of blaze-orange hunting gloves.

I scurry across the ice, crossing my fingers that I can avoid falling and the judging eyes of passing drivers along our county road. I’m not always successful on either count.

You can imagine my fashion-savvy 16-year-old daughter’s utter disgust when, in the chaos of a school morning, I throw on whatever’s convenient and perhaps not seasonal to chauffeur her to early-morning FFA team practice.

“Well, that’s hot,” she remarks sarcastically as she looks me up and down.

No. It’s not hot, and I know it. I also don’t care. As a wife and mother of teens, I’m not really going for that anyway.

My winter get-ups are attention-getting, to be sure.

Part of it’s laziness. Shorts are comfortable enough around my nice, warm house. As a busy mom, I have come to resent the time-consuming ritual one must go through to adequately arm oneself against the elements. I simply choose not to take time for all the layering unless, of course, I will be seen publicly. After all, I haven’t completely lost my dignity.

Rebellion is another contributing factor. The heartiest among us refuse to let winter dictate our wardrobe choices, especially this time of year when we’re so over winter.

Western Wisconsin’s own Michael Perry said it well in his book “Roughneck Grace,” a collection of essays: “We get so tired of tottering around like ear-flappered endomorphic mummies that we start taking sartorial shortcuts.”

To be perfectly clear, I don’t recommend summertime attire for mid-winter farm chores or your next cross-country skiing outing.

After months of voluntarily living in a place where the air hurts our faces, our collective spirit rises when we get the occasional springlike day. Then comes an April blizzard and our hopes crash right back down hard to the frozen, unforgiving earth.

“Few things are more disheartening than a below-zero stretch following melt,” Perry writes. “What was once a winter wonderland now has all the appeal of a pail of refrozen ice cream.”

Last fall, 20 degrees had many of us running for our parkas. Now, 40 degrees — heck, even 30 — feels like a tropical heat wave, and even the wimpiest of Wisconsinites will bust out the shorts. As the weather warms (we hope) over the next few weeks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a pair of sandals or two about town.

No need to be self-conscious, my friend. I’ll probably be right there with you. It wasn’t that long ago that I reluctantly tucked my sandals away for winter, so they’ll be easy to find.

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