Every year, without fail, I begrudgingly trudge into the winter season, fearful and uncomfortable. It’s going to be cold as f**k again. I shouldn’t complain as it is how Nature rolls, it’s a cycle. I would love it to be warm all through the year but that is not possible and would not really be good for any living thing, would it? So there has to be balance.
I have survived 24 winters, only the ones of the past eight years I am aware of and those ones really had me cursing every morning I left the house. Even on days when I didn’t leave, I’d still be mean-mugging and regarding everything with distaste. But let’s talk about the days of winter when I leave the house.
I try as I might to equip myself for the cold that awaits me, always wear at least three layers and a coat and closed shoes with socks. The house kinda prepares me because it is quite cold, sometimes colder than outside (South African contractors are only getting into the thing of insulating wall cavities and double-glazed windows now, so most houses out here were built way before 1990, in an era when I’m assuming folks’ priority was to not faint from heat in their houses — pathetic).
The half past four shower is my first opportunity to inject some warmth in my life (I don’t even try to get away with not showering because I don’t want my skin wet and meeting all the cold air) and sometimes the geyser fails to ackrite. The water will run for five minutes and still not even be lukewarm, then I have a tough decision to make. Skip on the shower, then go to the other bathroom and give myself a wipe down (or as the depraved call, a “hoe bath”), or just take it head-on and shower.
Most times, I grit my teeth, undress quickly and leap into the shower and proceed to quietly imitate an Edvard Munch painting. I hug myself close, lather and scrub, lather and scrub the cold away. Either the water eventually gets warm or my body is just like “Well, since I’m here, I might as well just accept it.” and by the time I emerge from the shower into my bathrobe, I feel clean and better. And warmer, because showers help with that.
Then once I leave the house, the commute to work begins. I have to use the Gautrain and on there, I get a look at the street fashion. I find myself thinking “Oh wow, I love that bag”, “Those shoes doe!!” and even one time, “Wow, that woman has a wonderful bum”. Her bum was truly remarkable, #goals. And most of the time I’m gawking at another stranger on the Gautrain station platform, it’s another Black woman.
Aside the admiration of intrepid shopping and outfit coordinating skills of my fellow sisthren, something else never fails to escape me. The prevalence of people (men AND women) who come out in this cold as if it’s not cold. People, actual people with bodies and sensory neurons, that feel compelled to wear less than the weather permits. Because they don’t feel cold. The cold doesn’t affect them much. They’re really actually warm. They’ve learned how to embrace the cold.
I am most surprised by this behaviour from Black people. Now I don’t want to peddle the assumption that Black people are habitually sensitive to the cold but honestly, because of where our home continent is and how our skin and lips are, we are. If it’s cold, to us there is no need to not keep warm. Of course I know that you can’t get the flu from not layering up, but Black people can never be too careful. Perhaps some of us have learned to deal with it, a consequence of living in North America, Europe and Asia (thanks, diaspora), and I guess that’s permissible. But other times, it’s inexcusable.
Sometimes a large overcoat that will defs guarantee toastiness does not go with the outfit, or perhaps you’ve got a super thermal vest on underneath and don’t need nothing more, but it’s important to know what your limits are. Fashion is cool and shit, but I’m not risking frostbite for dat. Cardi B may have said, “Hoes never get cold,” and as pro-hoe as I am, I’m also anti-pneumonia. Or any illness that can be aggravated by the cold.
You may think you cool but you might be like that dog in that cartoon strip saying “This is fine” while the entire room he is in is burning down, except your body is freezing over, cell by cell. Hypothermia is a thing.
No amount of time at the gym before heading to work or even walking a kilometre can compel you to subscribe to the teachings of Cardi B. The cold will always return once you’re stationary. Bastard.
In the time I wait for the bus, about 30 people may walk past me, and I look at most of them, especially the ladies for silent fashion tips. And I’ve noticed a lot of them, and the occasional White boy wearing a T-shirt at the same time frost is making the grass white. Their (the ladies, not the White boy) outfits are so bomb, but… aren’t they cold?
If I can see your shoulder blades, the colour of your legs and feet, AND can assess that the jacket you got on is a little too thin to carry you warmly through the day… you okay, sis? Bare legs freak me out in winter because the cold I believe someone is trying to block from their soul is being transferred to me. I am getting cold on y’alls behalf and I can’t turn it off.
And the people who turn on the A/C indoors or open a window when it’s minus eleventy outside are not only enemies of progress, but they’re not people either. They’re the same kind of not-carbon-based life form that I believe the Trumps are. I was about to post a photo of that family to ask you to tell me with a straight face that they are people, but I can’t do that to you. Aircon afficionados must chill, step outdoors for a bit if they’re getting flustered and stop trying to turn the office into the North Pole.
People can be totally immune to the cold for various health reasons, and I’m not speaking to them, I’m speaking to the regulars who haven’t got the message that “It’s winter: stockpile your fat, dark colours only and stockings are your best friend” and haven’t packed their Spring wardrobe away. Acting unbothered by the misfortune of living in a country at the lowest part of the continent, close as hell to Antarctica, that is wrecked by cold fronts now and then. Possessors of perpetually cold hands. People who tout “cuddling” as a benefit to winter (any man who says this is a f**kboy: avoid), how could it be? It’s not like I can spend all day in bed plastered to somebody for the sake of staying warm.
My mother says I’m cold blooded to a ridiculous point. Maybe I am. Or maybe everyone who’s purposely defying the laws of winter in their apparel, hence putting the rest of us at risk of contracting some cold-adjacent disease, have lost their damn minds.
Just put a coat on. Your soul will thank you. Meanwhile, I’ll be wearing my ugliest pyjamas at home (vest, pyjama top, hoodie AND fluffy house gown, and shoes because these tiles don’t play), waiting, longing for September…