Monday, February 04, 2013

Bordieu and Cold Ears

So I haven't blogged in a long time, which is extra funny considering all the time I waste on the internet pretending to work. Maybe it's because when I'm online I'm trying to avoid work and writing is too close to work for comfort. Who knows?

Or maybe it's just one of the many growing pains of moving halfway across the country to start a new job in a town in which I knew literally no one before moving here. It's been a lot more adjustment than I initially thought it would be; I've been in similar situations before (moving away to a new town where I know no one), but it's always been different. Moving to grad school I ended up somewhere new with no friends, but I was also surrounded daily by people in my age range who were in the same situation I was. Or when I moved to Iraq, I really knew no one, but I had counted on feeling weird and alone, and besides, it was just temporary anyway.

But this move was a whole new bag of worms. And one of the biggest changes has been adjusting to a new habitus I find myself in. Coined by (or at least developed by, I'm not going to bother to check) the French sociologist Pierre Bordieu, habitus essentially refers your life world; the things you implicitly understand and are used to, like language, general social customs, how to comport yourself in the various situations in which you find yourself, etc. Of course, that's a gross over-simplification, but basically (I think) the idea.

Not too surprisingly, folks south of the ol' Mason-Dixon line occupy a fairly different habitus than I was used to in Minnesota. And while this manifests itself in a variety of ways, one of the most obvious in reaction to the weather. For instance, a good 2 inches of snow seems to completely shut this city down (I get it, there's a bunch of steep, windy mountain roads, but come on, people...).

But my own reaction to the weather here has been just as ridiculous as the local's is to me. Because for some reason I can't get it through my head that the cold here is just as cold as it is back home. Part of it is that I'm now technically in the South. So even though I'm only about 15 miles from the Pennsylvania border, mentally I just can't shake the feeling that it doesn't get cold in the South. And to be fair, it doesn't get nearly as cold; as friends back home are whining about negative 50 windchills, the lowest it's gotten here in the low teens.

Now this time of year in Minnesota, the low teens are relatively warm, as opposed to the coldest it ever gets. But, you know, temperatures in the low teens are still objectively cold to human beings. But I can't get out of the habit of looking at the weather, seeing a high for the day of 20 and thinking some variation of "dang, that's pretty warm for February."

Which in and of itself is not really a big deal, but means I almost always forget to grab a hat or mittens or any of the kind of cold weather gear you should probably wear when it's that cold. Because in Minneapolis, I would have already been wearing hat and gloves every day for weeks at this point, so I would just be doing it out of habit. But for most of my first two weeks here, it was often so warm I didn't even need a jacket. So when the rare cold day does come, somehow it doesn't register as something I should worry about, and then I find myself walking home from campus freezing my ass off wondering why I didn't feel the need for a hat or gloves.

So why I don't I feel the need for cold-weather gear? Well, it's obviously partly because I'm an idiot who has very little ability to plan for the future. But it's also because I'm still operating on a habitus developed over 30 years of living in freezing climates. And since habitus is not something that changes over night, I'll probably be making the same mistake repeatedly this winter.

At least it give me something to look forward to, I guess -- maybe by next winter I'll have figured out that cold weather feels the same in Morgantown as it does in Minneapolis. Maybe...

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