Last weekend my Uber driver gave me a backhanded compliment about not being like other girls out on the streets in the rain, running for shelter in their dresses and heels. To this I said, “Mate, I wish I was – those girls look great, and are heading out for what looks like a great night, while I cower from the weather in the back seat of a strangers car, wearing five layers of thermals and winter woolies and some sturdy boots and a scarf and also a beanie.”
The driver asked if I ever partook in a Saturday night skirt, and I was evangelical in my response. “Oh, mate, NO WAY,” I proselytised. “I wear PANTS and BOOTS,” I bellowed like some judgemental street preacher. “I like to be WARM,” I scoffed, like I’d never been 18 and feeling cold but looking hot. During the first few years of my adulthood, I spent many of my Friday or Saturday nights trying to have a good time in public, despite my numerous bad haircuts, questionable fashion choices and my revulsion for every man who approached me. On these nights out I’d storm out into the dark wearing denim shorts and a singlet like I was on a tropical holiday rather than heading to a bar in one of Australia’s coldest cities.
So when did I turn into my dad, wondering on my way out the door if I should grab an extra jumper? I used to live! I used to run wild and free in the streets, wearing nought but a mini-dress and, inexplicably, sandals in eight degree temperatures. I can recall nights shivering good-humouredly on train platforms at 5am waiting for the train to first train home to roll in. These days, if I’m not wearing thermals and in home in bed with a hot water bottle by 11pm, there’s something seriously wrong.
Do bodies handle temperature drops less as you get older? My 76-year-old grandmother would call out a resounding 'yes', but I’m only 27. Are 20-somethings supposed to so keenly feel the seasons? Isn’t it a little early for achy bones to set in? Where is the lust for life that saw me walk three kilometres home at 4am in a handmade cotton top and sandals, waking up with numb fingers and a stye in my eye?
It seems there’s a particularly magical period of your life where you just don’t notice the weather. School recess in August with just a skirt and socks on, those leather T-bar sandals that let the rain in? No problem. Standing by a fire in your mate’s parents’ backyard, clutching a Cruiser in one hand and holding James from biology’s clammy paw in your other? Never been warmer. These experiences seemingly exist to prepare you for waiting in line for the bar in a skirt or a t-shirt in eight degree weather, goosebumps dotted all over your bod, smiling weakly at the bouncers.
In the back of the Uber I wondered if I’d ever reclaim the mini-skirted days of my youth. As the raindrops rolled down the window and Macy Gray blasted from the speakers, I saw my life in comfort flash before my eyes. Could I give up looking good in favour of feeling good? Would I ever be as joyous as the gaggle of girls on the street, giggling and huddling for warmth in the queue for the club – the club for whom my days are numbered? Probably not. But in the back of the car, my extremities all retaining feeling, I thought maybe – just maybe – this was OK, too.