Unsolicited Advice for Surviving Chicago Winters

by: Kayla Higgins

As all of us Chicagoans know, it’s hard out there for a queer in the wintertime. Between battling the flu and trying to find someone to keep warm with, the season gets even the best of us down.

But don’t fear — because I have come prepared with some helpful dos and don’ts to help you survive this winter. So, curl up with a Snuggie, fix a hot tea with lemon, pop some St. Johns Wart and relax. We’re all in this together.

1. DO buy the absolute ugliest winter gear you can find.

Usually the more foolish and ugly it looks, the warmer it is. Believe me, when that first Snowpocalypse of the season hits, everyone’s going to laugh at your freezing ass in that stylish coat that you bought because you decided that you wanted to be a hot little ski-bunny babe or babette. Newsflash: Chicago has no hills! When it comes to Chicago winters, you don’t mess around. This is not New York. I should know since I lived through 18 New York winters before I moved to Chicago – they are different beasts entirely! Chicago winters are not kind to stylish high-heeled boots and sleek, form-fitting jackets. Buy a huge Northface fatsuit-jacket and one of those ridiculous hat-scarf-mitten combo monstrosities (preferably one with ears because, hey, if you’re going to look ridiculous, you might as well go all the way, right?), and then call it a day.

2. DO NOT stay in an unhappy relationship.

At some point, you may have thought to yourself: “Well, it’s freezing outside, and I don’t have the time or energy to start seeing anyone new, so it’s better to just stick it out.” Though it might seem easier to just stay warm in bed with your partner, even if you’re starting to hate each others’ guts, believe me when I say that the icy chill of a dying relationship has a way of seeping deep down into your bones.  Trust me, it’s much better to just sleep solo and crank up your space heater or buy one of these microwavable stuffed animals to cuddle with. Shakespeare already made winter synonymous with discontent. There’s no reason to add any more.

3. DO find someone who makes you seethe (with the exception, of course, of a partner who falls under the category of Tip #2).

This way you can tap into your angry thoughts about them whenever you find yourself feeling a bit chilly. It works like a charm. This could be a boss, ex-lover, politician, celebrity, family member or landlord. The reason I suggest finding a “someone” and not a “something” that infuriates you is that an infuriating person tends to provide you with endless instances of irritating behavior, while an irritating thing tends to be inert, and you might run out of fuel for reasons to be angered by it. In my experience, an irritating person never stops being irritating.

4. DO NOT buy any flights to or from Chicago in the months of January or February without flight insurance (unless you are a glutton for punishment).

In all the years I’ve lived in Chicago, the most catastrophic snowstorms of the year have always occurred during one of these two months and have led to hundreds of flight cancellations and dashed vacation dreams. However, if Skype-calling your entire extended family from a cold apartment in Chicago while they position their laptop so you can watch their private hula-dancing lesson from their beach resort in Hawaii sounds awesome to you, then go right ahead: buy those tickets.

5. DO keep your eyes peeled during the next blizzard for lost pets.

A photo of Butterball and myself from February 2011

One of my favorite winter memories from the past 4 years was when one of my roommates rescued a fluffy white dog he found shivering in the snow outside Treasure Island on 55th Street. For the next two days following the snowstorm (when classes were cancelled and almost no one left their apartments), we played with the dog, fed her gobs upon gobs of peanut butter, and bickered about what we should name it. Though we did eventually get a response to the Craiglist ad we put up and returned the dog to her rightful owner, we will never forget our little Butterball.

But most importantly:

6. DO NOT buy generic Sudafed.

It no longer has the good stuff! You can only get pseudoephedrine in your Sudafed if you buy the stuff from a pharmacist and show your ID. That’s because pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in making crystal meth, and so it’s become necessary for the feds to regulate it. That said, whenever I get congested in the winter, I simply cannot wait to pop myself full of pseudoephedrine and go for a long-procrastinated run at the gym. I even got my best 5K race time ever while high on Sudafed. And all those suckers thought that having the flu put me at a disadvantage – ha!

Kayla Higgins recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Law, Letters & Society. She now divides her time working as a Research Assistant at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and volunteering as an intern with the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender. She identifies as a bisexual Jewish feminist and presented as such on a panel last Spring called “Queering the Faith Townhall Discussion: From Dialogue to Action” at the Adler School of Psychology.  In her spare time she likes to run, read comics, and veg out in her vegan housing co-op with her adoptive family of 24.


One response to “Unsolicited Advice for Surviving Chicago Winters

  1. Nicely done! I may have to try that Sudafed running trick at some point.

    And thank you for pointing out how much harsher the winters are here than in NYC! I feel like we don’t get enough credit for the crap we have to suffer through 3-5 months out of the year.

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