After many years of living in the Northeast, I have discovered something about myself: I have a dysfunctional relationship with winter wear. Yep, I’m a coat-aholic.
Now, that doesn’t mean I am someone who can’t stop buying coats. That is a problem with buying things, and buying things, I have come to believe, is never a problem in our modern world. Not being able to stop buying coats, in fact, is the current, textbook definition of a normal, healthy relationship with one’s winter wardrobe. And by “textbook,” I mean Women’s Wear Daily, and by “winter wardrobe,” I mean those relatively inexpensive puffer coats from places like Uniqlo that come in 79 colors and that you can probably eat during a cold-weather emergency, like if you’re chilling at the indoor ice rink and you can’t buy a bag of Skittles because you don’t have change for the vending machine.
When a wintry crisis like that strikes, I can’t just ingest my candy-colored puffer like all my other friends, knowing that I can buy another with a few clicks on my device. I was raised in the ways of the ancients when it comes to winter wear. If I choose to eat my coat, or even if I just leave it on the bus by accident, here is what happens to me: I don’t have a coat anymore.
In my world, coats are supposed to last for many winters. And they come in one color: black. Wearing a tangerine puffer signals that you’ve forgotten something. Namely, that winter is trying to kill you.
I know this and yet I have an addict’s reasoning. When oncoming cold weather strikes, I think, “Oh, I don’t need a new coat, I’ll wear the one from last year.” And then I run around in last year’s puffer, which has decomposed so that it’s not even a shell of its former self, and by “shell” I don’t mean Gore-Tex. I mean it’s not even a windbreaker—which, by the way, is the worst-ever name for a synthetic garment that can be shredded in 20 seconds by any hamster. When we say “windbreaker” we should be referring to Gas-X. A light jacket with a zipper is a “planned obsolescence thingee.”
The winter I finally admitted I had a problem, I wasn’t even wearing a puffer, I was making do with the nylon sack it came in. Yes, I was wearing the kind of flimsy tote bag that grandmas are always pulling out of their larger, sturdier tote bags, like magicians pulling an unending stream of scarves out of their mouths. I hope to be one of these grandmas one day, and when my grandchild asks, “Why do you do carry those bags, Grandma?” I’ll say, “In case a six-pack of chocolate Ensure falls from the sky.” Wait, no. I’ll snap, “You young people think that just because you carry a phone, you have everything you need. Well, why don’t you just ask Siri if she can turn herself into a womb for your unplanned Ensure baby? Let’s just see how that goes.”
Having barely survived the winter in my tote bag, I realized: I have to buy a new coat. So I broke down and bought a puffer. And then I did something really stupid: I put it on and went outside and expected to be warm.
That’s when I hit rock bottom. Because when you live in a northeastern metropolis, there is no warm garage to heat up the warm car to take to the drive-thru to catch warm beverages on your tongue like warm snowflakes. You actually walk around, every day, outside. You are living in a Jack London story. That’s why you come home fantasizing about stuffing your own body, like a puffer coat into its bag, into the carcass of your Bichon Frise—the one you bought little snow shoes and an ugly Christmas sweater for.
That is also how I came to know: I can’t buy puffers anymore. They’re like ice to me—real ice. They set me up to expect a fantastic feeling—a warmth I can never have. And then they send me on a self-destructive, money-spending spiral.
Now I’ve changed. I recently overspent on a high-tech parka stuffed with goose feathers. But it feels like I’ve only traded one dysfunctional relationship for another. What I’m addicted to now is a tyranny as powerful as Big Pharma: Big Jacket.
Amy Fusselman’s first two books, The Pharmacist’s Mate and 8, are available in one terrific book in our store.