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Frozen Relationships

Andrew Freedman @ 12:15 PM

Mocking the prediction of a milder than normal El Nino winter, the chill came on fast and furious this year across much of the country. In the Pacific Northwest it snowed multiple times in Seattle, a rarity for that city, and residents of the Great Plains states fought biting gusts as the cold drove southward to the Gulf Coast.

In Chicago it's been cold enough to make me question what the point of existence is if it's going to be this difficult.

Dan Stillman's Forecast

Forecast Confidence: HighToday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the low-to-mid 50s.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s in town, mid-to-upper 20s in the burbs.
Tomorrow: Partly to mostly sunny. Highs in the low-to-mid 50s.

Check back tomorrow for the week-ahead forecast.

Thursday only made it to 17 degrees for the high, a full 20 degrees below normal. And that was the second day on or before Dec. 7 to top out at 17 or lower, a feat that's only happened 11 times since 1870, according to WGN TV meteorologist Tom Skilling's blog. Skilling, ever the optimist, points out that although December's first seven days averaged 19 degrees, last year the same period was 2.4 degrees colder! Yay!

That doesn't excuse the indignity of having my legs create so much static electricity that I'm afraid my butt is going to catch fire whenever I sit down at my desk at work, or the time I spend swearing in the morning trying desperately to unfreeze my face on the train to avoid looking surprised all the time.

And then there's the matter of my hair, which was described this week by coworkers as "hilarious" and "a mess" due to the constant hat-wearing.

The cold weather doesn't just cause physical maladies, however. In this city it also seeps into your brain and clouds your judgment. There's a theory among some singles in Chicago that every unattached newcomer spends their first winter here dating someone they're not interested in out of sheer panic and desperation. Of course, this theory only applies to you if you've spent most of your life in a warmer location. It wouldn't explain anything if you moved from, say, International Falls, Minnesota.

A friend of mine in the improv comedy world claims that he and all of his single friends who moved here from warmer locales made highly dubious romantic decisions during their first winter here. His ill-fated relationship lasted the entire season, despite having told his then-girlfriend at the two-month mark that she embarrassed him by being "obnoxious" in group settings and therefore could only be seen separately from other people.

Personally, I spent the early-to middle portion of my first Chicago winter involved with a vibrant young lady who wanted more than I could give, which was basically nothing. At the time I thought I was hesitant to commit to the relationship because I still had feelings for the girl I left when I moved out of D.C. But that was only part of the equation.

In retrospect, part of my reluctance was due to a conviction that I might not stay alive until April or May when things would warm up enough to be tolerable and safe again, and if I were to live, I was going to want to be with someone else. How should I have articulated that?

"It's not you, it's the wind chill. Once that climbs back up I'm going to leave this little thing we've got going on. But in the meantime, please stay over at my place."

I was in shock. And people in shock tend not to make life decisions, or at least they don't make good ones. So instead we become stuck, slipping on ice, trying to wait things out.

I broke up as the days began getting longer when I realized things were simply untenable, but many other couples wait until spring, and part amicably as is the ritual here: Love 'em in the winter and leave 'em in the spring.

That didn't happen in D.C., at least not that I was aware of. In my hierarchy of cold, 'D.C. cold' is not nearly as cold as 'Boston cold,' which isn't nearly
as frigid as 'Chicago cold,' so it follows that the effect might be watered down.

I guess we'll see come spring, now won't we?

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