The Debate Over January – The New York Times


I’m trying to catch some of the optimism from Steven Kurutz’s recent paean to January. Winter friends — those who, contrary to all hedonic and circadian sense, love dark days and black ice — have been forwarding the story to me, triumphant, as if once and for all it’s been settled, the pointless, perennial battle of the seasons. Fortified with talking points, the winter warriors are in my inbox, ticking off upsides: less traffic, fewer obligations, cheaper flights and easier dinner reservations.

Everyone just wants to feel better, I get it, but resisting their campaign is a twisted part of coping with the season. I spent the week exchanging snapshots with friends in Mississippi, their mutt cavorting in the snow-covered yard (look how cozy!), my window-ledge pigeons shivering in New York’s 1.7 inches of slush (look how sad!). “We are not the same,” I told my friend Stu when he sent me Steven’s January essay, calling it the best he’d read all year. Another friend asked if I didn’t find the cold and snowfall moody and melancholy, in a good way.

I wanted to reply with Roz Chast’s 2018 New Yorker cover, “Cruellest Month,” which depicts a January advent calendar of horrors, each day drearier than the last (Jan. 7: “Sunset at 11 a.m.”). I wanted to make my case about how impossible it is to get anything done when there’s so little daylight, how stiff and clenched people get when rushing to get back indoors. It’s a case that the poets have been making for eons: “Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold,” Shakespeare wrote. “Hideous winter,” he called it. “Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness everywhere.”

But aren’t I the one who’s been listening on a loop to the saddest song I’ve encountered in ages, Feist’s “Hiding Out in the Open”? On the subway, the song on repeat, watching my fellow commuters in their hats and coats, wondering where they’re off to, what’s on their minds, I do feel moody and melancholy, and also connected.

You don’t get moody and melancholy and connected in the same way in July, when, “if you’re not happy, it’s your fault,” as another friend recently argued. “I like being inside. I like when people are inside. I like being inside with people,” she put it with finality. I couldn’t argue. I like these things too.

Debating one season vs. another is mostly trivial, a way to spar without stakes, a healthy if slightly tedious outlet. I want to be persuaded that these days aren’t just to be endured. I don’t want to be grumpy for 25 percent of the year, which is, I remind myself, 25 percent of my life.

This year I finally internalized the wisdom that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, and got a very warm coat and a very warm sweater; Arctic-grade armor to make going outside less agonizing. Thus equipped, I’ve been questioning something I always believed to be indisputable: that to be a little cold is to be uncomfortable, and must be avoided at all costs. I can’t say I’ve found that I like being chilly, but it’s been an interesting exercise, observing the discomfort and not fleeing it.

📽️ Academy Award nominations (Tuesday): This is your last weekend to get caught up on seeing “The Holdovers,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of Interest,” “Maestro” and any other Oscar hopefuls you’ve been meaning to get to so that on Tuesday, when the nominees are announced, you can knowingly say things like, “Surely this is his year after the ‘Sideways’ snub,” or, “I knew that movie was going to get two supporting nods.”

📚 “Martyr!” by Kaveh Akbar (Tuesday): Cyrus Shams is an Iranian American poet and recovering alcoholic in Indiana who has lost both of his parents. His mother was in a plane crossing the Persian Gulf when it was accidentally downed by the U.S.S. Vincennes, and his father died of a stroke. Cyrus becomes fixated on martyrs, particularly when he learns of one who seems to be living at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s the first novel by Akbar, a poet himself.

Do you adore nubby, gently spiced oatmeal cookies but feel meh about raisins? This is the cookie for you. Instead of the usual dried fruit, these golden beauties are filled with a quick homemade blueberry compote zipped up with lemon zest and sweetened with maple syrup (you can also use your favorite store-bought jam), which stays hidden until someone takes a bite. Make these over the weekend so you can savor them all week long — packed into lunchboxes, dunked and nibbled at teatime or even eaten as a sweet breakfast on the run.

Beyond the tuxedo: Some men are bucking tradition and opting for more customized looks for their wedding.

Life in books: Emily Nagoski wrote a best seller about women’s sexuality. Then her own sex life fell apart.

Travel: The pandemic-induced backlog to get a U.S. passport seems to have finally cleared.

When the winter wardrobe doldrums hit, a great pair of black tights can come to the rescue. Tights are a sartorial secret weapon, keeping your legs cozy and your options open (miniskirts are back on the menu). But finding the right pair is tricky. For Wirecutter’s guide to the best black tights, we tested 20 pairs by pinching, slipping, rolling and running, and found five options that are miles better than the standard drugstore offerings. My favorite of the bunch are sturdy, soft, non-itchy and — best of all — toasty enough to keep my favorite skirts and dresses in rotation when temperatures drop. — Zoe Vanderweide

No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 18 Ohio State, women’s college basketball: Tune into a Caitlin Clark game and you’re bound to see something great. Maybe she’ll score 30 points, or 40; she has done both more than any Division I player in the last quarter century. Maybe she’ll get a triple-double, too. Maybe she’ll hit a shot from the midcourt logo (here’s one from last week), or a game-winning buzzer-beater (here’s one from this month). She’s certainly likely to lead her team to victory. Iowa is 18-1 this year, and in the hunt for one of the few things Clark hasn’t yet achieved: a national title. Sunday at 12 p.m. Eastern on NBC.

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