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It’s Cold

Coming home, freezing wind and blowing snow, Ottawa, November 21, 2018

Feng is watching me getting ready from the staircase.

Boots—hard to put them on this morning, I’m wearing the thickest pair of socks I have. Scarf. Coat. Hat. Gloves.

“You might want to cover your face,” he suggests. “The windchill…”

Feng is my daily weather forecast. In Canada, simply glancing out the window isn’t a reliable method to know what to wear—it can be sunny and extremely cold. I could check the app on my phone but I’m in denial.

I sigh.

“It’s gonna get better,” Feng adds encouragingly.

“Don’t fucking lie to me,” I reply. “It’s November. I ain’t gonna get better—not until May, anyway.”

It’s cold early this year. It’s not just me, even The Weather Network said so.

“A wind chill of -52 was recorded on November 18 and 19 in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut with a new record low temperature of -35.4 °C also set on November 18. That beat out the previous record of -30 °C set in 1996.” I read while waiting for the bus. It doesn’t make the current temperature in Ottawa, -15 °C, feels any warmer. I mean, Nunavut isn’t supposed to be the new fucking benchmark when it comes to winter weather, alright? You’re like, meters from the Arctic circle, after all!

I’m cold. I’m one of these people who feel cold all the time. “Hi, my name is Juliette and I’m cold,” I could say to introduce myself at a Winter-Hater Anonymous meetings. And everyone would nod back, “hello, Juliette, so are we, please grab another blanket.”

I wouldn’t mind winter if it meant less daylight, a stormy sky and temperatures in the teens. Fair enough, it can’t be summer all the time. When it’s below 10 °C, I need warm clothes. I can still handle 0 °C although I’m wearing my winter jacket by then. Anything below 0 °C and I’m in pain. My hands are dry and cracked, my muscles ache and I just want to be warm again.

Some people can handle cold weather, some people can’t. Clearly, I can’t. I don’t even like ice in my drinks. Please, don’t try to convince me I could if I [insert brilliant idea here, like wearing warm clothes or embracing the magic of winter]. It’s one of these unexplainable biological things that shouldn’t be debated, like being a morning bird vs being a night owl, feeling the urge of parenthood or not, seeking a steady life or taking risks.

I don’t like feeling cold, period.

I’m happy to hear that you don’t mind winter. I envy you. Personally, I like when it’s hot and humid, it’s simply a matter of preference. I guess my body was designed for warm weather. I barely sweat, I tan easily and I generally don’t find heat particularly exhausting. All summer long, I heard people around me complaining about the weather and hiding in air-conditioned malls. That’s fine, I get it. We’re different, that’s all.

“It’s all about layering up!” you probably read somewhere in a Guide to Canada. Gee, why didn’t I think of it? I shouldn’t be wandering around wearing my swimsuit! Seriously, I’m not stupid, I do dress warmly. I have a good coat and I cover every inch of skin, but I’m still cold.

“But people keep their house warm!” you probably heard as well. It’s true, it’s rare to be cold indoors (except in movie theaters, always cold in summer and winter). However, it also takes me five minutes to feel my hands again and ten minutes for the burning feeling on my legs to disappear when I come home. So yeah, indoors, we’re okay. Can you spend five months indoors? I can’t.

I hate feeling warm and cold all the time. I’m okay at home then I’m cold when I step outside, it’s fine in the bus then I get off and I’m cold again, I take a hot shower but then I’m cold when I step out of the bathroom. I hate cold spots in the bed. I’m even avoiding the frozen food aisles at the supermarket.

“What the fuck are you doing in Canada if you hate cold weather?” Well, I’m doing a lot of things in Canada. I’m working, raising a kid, living with the person I love, hopefully contributing to society. I didn’t really review years of weather data before coming to Canada and eventually staying there. Of course, I had heard it was cold in winter but frankly, it’s very hard to describe Canadian winters accurately and it’s almost impossible to know how you will react—I know a few Brazilians who moved to Nunavut and I know a Finnish woman who hated how cold it was here.

The first couple of winters are fascinating. Snow! Very cold weather! Ice! Icicles! Slush! A few winters are warmer than usual—we didn’t always have snow for Christmas. A few more very cold winters. And then at one point, it hit me—I fucking hate winter and no, I never got used to it.

When you live in a country where the informal greeting is “cold, eh?” there’s a lot of emphasis on winter being part of your identity as a Canadian. Bragging rights, basically. “I survived winter!” millions of Canadians rejoice around May. Does not embracing winter makes me less Canadian? Maybe. I never embraced the French drinking culture, so I guess I’m not a true French either.

I chose to become Canadian and I hate winter. It’s called a paradox, people.

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