Sharon Brody: I moved here. Got stuck. And now I wear wool socks from October through May, even though they make me itch. Itchy and irritable, I find new indignities at every turn. In this photo, a woman waits for a bus in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

“The days are getting longer! Spring is on the way! Don’t be such a sourpuss! Cheer up, by golly!”

This sourpuss has two words for you: get lost.

And a few more: go play on some black ice. In traffic.


Welcome to the ugly truth of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

A disclaimer: I do not have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is real and difficult and not to be trifled with. It’s a genuine condition — a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year — and when untreated, it can have devastating consequences for some people.

I am not one of those people.

I’m merely a glib whiner who made the wrong decision about what part of the planet in which to live and is looking for a scapegoat.

As every kid trying to get out of gym class knows, if you fake an affliction long enough or with enough conviction, then you start to buy your own sales pitch, and because you feel so guilty you suffer almost as much as you would have with an actual diagnosis. Life is funny that way, what with that puritanical fire and brimstone inflicted on immoral souls.

SB: When it's warm and light I’ll be marginally pleasant again, but not one second sooner ... In the meantime, I’ll be huddling by the radiator, thanks, daydreaming about sweat. (ministryofstories/ flickr)

SB: When it’s warm and light I’ll be marginally pleasant again, but not one second sooner … In the meantime, I’ll be huddling by the radiator, thanks, daydreaming about sweat. (ministryofstories/ flickr)

My bogus SAD turns me more ornery than I am otherwise. Which is plenty ornery, given the lack of hush puppies and putt-putt golf in this godforsaken outpost we call home.

I do not want to hear your encouraging words about warmth and light on the horizon.

When it is in fact warm and light I’ll be marginally pleasant again, but not one second sooner. And by the way, I get to define warm and light. Under 72 degrees doesn’t cut it. And as for light, we’re talking not-dark-enough-for-fireworks-at-9 p.m. In the meantime, I’ll be huddling by the radiator, thanks, daydreaming about sweat.

Now, sheer willpower alone didn’t win me the gold in this bad attitude Olympics. I had help. My thermostat was set in milder climes. I was born in Texas, grew up in Virginia, and went to college in North Carolina. It was easier, in those places, to be jovial for more of the year. And yet it never occurred to me to attribute my carefree pirouettes to the joys of sunshine, heat and humidity. Would that I had better understood my tropical nature.

What I did understand was this: I could go anywhere and do anything. I graduated back in the halcyon days when most of us newly minted grownups with liberal arts degrees just picked up and moved to pretty much any place and found decent jobs and cheap apartments.

Urgent aside to today’s 21-year-olds: Spare me your venom! I speak only the historical truth! I wish it were the same for you now! Really! Hurting me will not fix the economy!

Without considering the implications, I landed in Boston, because of… trolleys. I like trolleys.

Curses on my youthful token-enchanted self.

My thermostat was set in milder climes … And yet it never occurred to me to attribute my carefree pirouettes to the joys of sunshine, heat and humidity. Would that I had better understood my tropical nature.

At the time, of course, I assumed my stay would be brief. After sampling the boffo accents and the mysteries of Allston, I could relocate someplace more sensible. Myrtle Beach, maybe. Or, hey, what about Quito? On the equator?

But somehow, I got stuck, dadblastit. It’s illogical for me to be here, and here I am. Sure, you could blame my failure to flee on my constitutional inertia, my lack of pioneering spirit, the absence of anything in me resembling gumption. I, naturally, prefer to blame the innocent.

The longer I stayed in Boston I became surrounded by more doting relatives, was endowed with additional great friends, and got hired by the occasional desperate employers. Damn, damn, and damn. And then came the worst culprits of all — the stickiest ingredient in the geographic superglue: children. Curmudgeonliness seems to skip a generation; my kids worship their hometown roots. They love it through and through… dirty snow on our dead end street and all. Damn them, too.

So I never left, and who knows when I will? I wear wool socks from October through May, even though they make me itch. Itchy and irritable, I find new indignities at every turn. For too much of the year, just as I muster up the energy to face the day, sunset brings out the worst in me — which is, clearly, saying something. “Dark? Are you serious? It’s not even time for the great-aunts in West Palm to scoot in for the Early Bird Special, and it’s NIGHTTIME? Just whose idea of a @#$% joke is this, anyway?”

I know what you’re muttering under your breath. Probably the same thing everybody else has shouted to me on this topic for decades: SHUT UP.

Well, I didn’t listen to them either, did I?

And oh, yes, there is one other thing people tend to bellow in my direction: If you’re going to live here — and we sort of wish you wouldn’t, since your only hobby is complaining, but still, if you are — then you’re going to need to embrace the weather! Get out in it! Do neat things! Skate! Ski! Wear jaunty hats with pompoms!

What sense could that possibly make? I tell you I don’t like being outside in the cold, and you suggest I go out in the cold, for long periods, on purpose, among addled individuals who find this divine, and that I pay for the privilege of experiencing fresh new forms of icy, snowy, joint-destroying misery.

Yeah, I’ll take that under advisement, bub. And here’s what you can do with those pompoms.


The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Thinkfreeer

    Sorry, I could not read the whole thing. I can’t stand whiners! Your piece accomplishes nothing but to irritate.There is an obvious solution – move. People who are unwilling to actually do something about their situation should just shut up.

    • hatersgonnahate

      The only thing more insufferable than whiners are people that “can’t stand whiners.”

      Complaining is enjoyable and entertaining when done correctly. Self-righteously bemoaning that complainers should fix a problem or shut up about it is its own form of whining… except tinged with a distinct lack of self-awareness.

      If we didn’t have entertaining complainers and whiners then we wouldn’t have most of our writers or comedians.

      • Aimee

        The key word here is “entertaining.”

      • Aimee

        Argh, I just realized this article is from TEN months ago. Forgive me for replying to such old comments, and curse WBUR for putting recycled material on their facebook feed! *grumble grumble*

  • WinterWearyinWaltham

    I am with you, Sharon. Whine away. I couldn’t agree more…

  • Ken Little

    The weather is beyond our control, but how we feel about is not. Love every day, every season, every type of weather as if you love every breath you take: it’s your life.

  • David

    Has anyone ever used the phrase “youthful token-enchanted self” before? Masterful!

  • South

    HAHA. This made me cackle. My feelings are exact. Thank you for this honest, hilarious and well-written piece.

  • Sheri

    I hear you, but as an echo a few months down the road. As a lover of winter who suffers through Southern summers, I feel your pain. Only I have to air condition mine.

    Another colorful and entertaining post from the ever-delightful Sharon Brody.

  • Crashy

    LOL – absolutely true! And I grew up here!

  • Richard Good

    New England winters are only marginally worse than our hot, sticky, stultifying summers. Anyone with any sense would move to coastal CA (north or south, all beautiful and temperate).

  • Jesse

    Just own enough clothes and winter is fine. Seriously, just bundle up a little bit, and spend at least an hour outside (on purpose for exercise or pleasure) each day and you won’t feel so claustrophobic all winter. Going outside in Winter is the key to a happy winter. Avoiding the cold is the key to making yourself miserable. Same goes for folks who have to seal themselves in AC in hot weather.

    • Ana_900

      Most of working people come home when is dark, and walking with a flashlight in the black ice doesn’t work for me or most people.

      • Jesse

        I walk with a headlamp over black ice almost every night and it is what keeps me centered in the winter. In fact, you find out what is really nice about doing that. If you don’t want to have a better winter, that is up to you. I’m just trying to offer advice that works for me. I used to get SAD, then I embraced spending time outside in the winter, and now I don’t.

        • Ana_900

          Thank you Jesse.

  • Price

    I grew up in Virginia as well, but my mother was from New England; I must have inherited her weather genes; or maybe it was having to wear a suit everday when I worked in DC. Hot and humid can be pretty horrible: You can’t do anything without feeling miserable: no sleep, housework, or cooking. People cool their houses with AC because it’s too hot to even take a walk. You can strip to nothing, be arrested, and still be uncomfortable. New England summers are lovely: mid-eighties is about as high as it gets, with breezes, real, refreshing breezes. But I agree, they’re too short.BTW, my friends from Chicago and South Dakota laugh when they hear people complain about New England winters: Out there, the temps are often WAY below zero with howling winds, for a lot of the season. So it could be worse….

  • ezriah

    Smartwool socks don’t make you itchy!

  • 0246

    People are about as happy as they decide to be. Seriously. Life is too short to complain and hate your life this much. Move. There are places you’d be happier, though you may well just find things to complain about there, too.

  • Krista Clark

    I’m a native New Englander whose was dragged to Texas, Florida, and North Carolina by exes, grad school opportunities, and jobs, none of which turned out to be worth keeping. You know the one thing that’s worse than cold? Heat.

  • Ana_900

    This winter, I went for one week in Florida to see my friends. I was picked up from airport and dropped of my friend’s house where a nice dinner was waiting for me. My friends and their friends were wearing tank tops, mini skirts, their skin all beautiful and radiant while I took off my dirty boots, with wool socks hanging at my toenails, with so many layers of clothes and my dry skin and hair from the cold of Massachusetts, I felt like an Eskimo stepping in Heaven :)

  • ann

    From your southern belle cousin…well bless yore sweet heart… sweet tea and all. We still love all ya’ll family up there.

  • Karen

    I also grew up in Texas (spent 38 of my 42 years there, actually), & now live in Massachusetts. I can honestly say I have a harder time with summer here than with winter. Texas is the land of central AC & Massachusetts is not. No, it’s not as hot here, at least not for as long, but it’s more humid. And a window unit doesn’t quite suck the humidity out of the air like central AC does. LOL

  • Alex

    From my backyard in Pasadena, California, I can see snow on the nearby mountaintops. I have dim memories of growing up in and dealing with when I lived in Massachusetts. I say this, today, Feb 25th, 2013, as the sun shines and I walk out to the mailbox in shorts, t-shirt and bare feet to check the mail.

    I’m going to have to look up “snow” on Wikipedia.

  • Jemimah

    Ok, first of all, it’s funny to see John Sharp giving advice about enjoying winter. I adore him, but he lives in LA half the time! Heh. Second, I’m with you, Sharon, 100%!!! I, too, got suckered into staying in Boston because it’s such a fabulous city, but I am only happy with the climate about two months out of the year. What drives me nuts–and please pay attention, Thinkfreeer–is the whining that goes on here in the summer by the majority of the population! The minute it gets above 70, they all start acting like they’re being cooked alive because they don’t know how, or simply refuse to dress for hot’n’humid weather. And their complaining is CONTIINUAL. I don’t like winter one bit, but I don’t bitch about it every day. I dress warmly and keep my ire to myself unless I’m asked. I don’t try to ruin it for all the weird, puritanical New Englanders who like to be covered up from head to toe. I even smile and wish them a fun time when they’re headed out to ski, instead of saying, “Seriously? You’re going to spend good cash money to strap sticks onto your feet and careen down an icy mountainside?” Oh, and by the way, wearing shorts and no coat when it’s 27degrees out? You know why you do that? Because the AC is turned on too high all summer long! Oh, to take Boston and plunk it right down in the middle of Barbados…

  • Armando Gespacho

    Being rooted is indeed no fun at all; just ask any carrot!!!!

  • Carolyn

    I could not disagree with you more, Sharon. Yet, even though I know I can never lure you to Sugarloaf, I love your writing. We look forward to more essays!

  • Abby

    Hilarious! But of course, you’re only a real New Englander if you also eat ice cream all winter.

  • Vicky Foxworth

    I am with you on this! Very funny and an all too true description of my east coast life. Come out here to SoCAL if you want a bit of a respite from the cold and dark.

  • Pam

    We’ve been getting excessively hot weather 6 months/year here in Boston.
    If we lose the beautiful winter snow(which cleans the air and soaks the ground for spring)we’ll be in trouble.
    The sun belt has become too hot,sunny and dry,even for sun lovers.Air-conditioning is no substitute for fresh air.
    I want New England to stay New England,not Florida,AZ,Mexico etc !!!!!!

  • Alison Stern-Dunyak

    I, too, grew up in Virginia (Putt-Putt!! Hushpuppies!!), lived for 6 years in West Texas, and landed here nearly 12 years ago. Shoveling a foot of snow aside, I wouldn’t trade my new New England “roots” for anything. Embrace all four seasons and be happy–a lot of it really is about having a good attitude and a decent ice scraper. But if anyone can tell me where to get good hushpuppies around here, I’ll be grateful…
    Thanks for the day-brightener!

  • RT

    “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

  • Rebecca

    I thought Cognoscenti was supposed to be more thought-provoking than yet another “I hate the weather here” article. I read it thinking that it must have some new twist or it wouldn’t be featured here, but apparently not. Honestly, moving isn’t that hard — even if you have kids. Many of us have moved with our families. Unless you like being miserable (and the fact that you think Massachusetts winters are bad – ha! Our winters are nothing compared to other places in the US, like Central New York and Michigan), you should probably put aside your fear of change and move.

  • Cabanator

    I HATE being cold, I mean, truly HATE it, and yet I love cold, snowy winters. Why? Because I love being active outdoors, and winter brings with it awesomely fun outdoor adventures like skiing, sledding, skating, and snow shoeing. The secret is that you don’t have to be cold when doing any of these things. With all the recent advances in clothing technology, you can get warm, lightweight pieces that are soft, not itchy or scratchy. If you are wearing scratchy wool, than you are doing something wrong. Merino wool, alpaca wool, and many synthetics are soft and comfortable, not at all itchy. Layer up in some good gear (which can be expensive but will last a long time and is well worth it), throw on hand and foot warmers, and get your heart pumping for an hour or two. I really believe that if you have the right gear, you can appreciate winter instead of just feeling cold. As for the darkness, I hate that too, which is why I try to sneak a run or walk in during lunchtime on weekdays to catch a bit of sun. Give it a try! From one cold-hater to the next, I challenge you to find ways to be warm even in winter!

  • Frank B

    It could be worse. You could have to walk uphill BOTH ways, to and from school, in knee-deep (or was it chest-high?) snow — like we did as kids, and like our parents did, and their parents did, and their parents did……

  • Lola

    i feel as though you have taken my soul and laid it bare. i’m hoping not to get stuck in bos, but i’m not optimistic on that sc0re

  • Pam

    The Sun Belt is now overcrowded with sweltering people who need constant air-conditioning.Many of them are elderly and hostile to school funding and other public service such as public transit,hence teas partiers getting elected..Retirement places have “upscale” amenities,many are gated communities.
    The most uncomfortable situation of all is extreme heat and sun,along with frequent hurricanes or dust storms and drought.I find air-conditioning to be ok in small doses and time frames but not as a steady diet.I prefer New England seasons and sensibilities.

    • eat_swim_read

      blah blah blah.
      cliché. stereotype. slur.

  • mimipeelroughton

    Ha! I’m trying to picture Sharon Brody living in Myrtle Beach!!

  • GigiV

    I was raised in Florida-the sunshine state-, but also lived in New York City and DC. So far Boston’s Fall/Winter has been the worst of my experiences! This article speaks to me!

  • Angela Nilles

    I’m sitting here in 95 degree Boulder, Colorado and just wishing for a cold, rainy day (which never happens here!). I think I have the summer version of SAD! Love your writing, by the way.

  • Patti

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!! Awesome!

  • Aimee

    I read the part about wearing itchy wool socks from October to May, and skipped the rest because no one wants to hear you complain, especially since it’s not even cold here! 15 degrees, when one is dressed *appropriately* is quite comfortable. Ever hear of Smartwool? Icebreaker? Ibex? Whiskey? Get some. Or move. You can sell your house and buy TWO down south for the price of ONE here. You know why? No one wants to live down south!!

  • Val

    I’m with Krista. I was born in California, raised in Texas and finally made my escape! I’ll take a bit of chill and snow over 100 degree summers anytime.