Unexpected Effects of Winter

by Sarah Luna

When I first moved to Ithaca, I understood that winter was going to be an entirely different experience. I realized that I would need to learn different ways of dressing and driving.

Fast forward four months. I have spent nearly everyday in long sleeves, scarves, tights, slacks, boots, and gloves–respecting the visceral need to minimize the amount of exposed skin. In this cold, exposure equals pain.

My body thankfully has begun to adapt to the cold.  Oddly enough, however, my mind is adapting to the idea of my body as merely a collection of clothing.
I have hands and a face, and the rest of my body doesn’t exist.

I had ventured out for so long under all this protection that when I dressed one night for dance practice, something felt really, really wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about the way I looked made me feel really uncomfortable. After a few minutes of staring at myself in the mirror, it hit me: I could see my neck and (gasp!) my collar bones. I immediately put my turtleneck back on.

Seriously? I can hear certain friends of mine laughing right now. I myself find it incredulous that I would feel immodest showing off my neck. Six months ago in the triple-digit heat of Texas, I felt perfectly covered wearing tank tops and shorts. Now, I shudder at the thought of showing that much skin.

I had a ballroom competition yesterday. I wore my maroon dress that quite obviously shows all of my arms and a good part of my décolleté. I felt extraordinarily self-conscious. And my Latin dress…well, at least I know I still have legs.

Should a sense of modestly depend on where we are? Obviously there are traditional guidelines for how a respectable woman should dress that I’ve tried to follow throughout my life. But beyond that, is modesty also an attitude, a way of carrying myself, a sense of propriety?

Why do I still feel weird about this?