Carhartt beanie, check.
North Face Puffer, check.
Black platform Doc Martens, check.
By the time I’m done layering up before I leave my dorm room, I don’t even recognize myself. Reduced to my most basic physical attribute (being short), I could be one of many people on Wesleyan’s campus. Gone are the days when a flash of hair in the sunlight, the wiggle of an eyebrow, or the glimmer of a friend’s eye could completely negate the necessity of seeing the bottom of someone’s face. As winter continues to rear its nasty head (please, no more snow), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know who anyone is under the many layers of protection against the cold, Connecticut wind.
Is there a name for this phenomenon? I’ve been affectionately dubbing this unfortunate lack of identification “incognito mode.” There are benefits and drawbacks to being completely anonymous as one walks around campus. Someone you don’t want to see? It’s much easier to pretend you didn’t notice someone when your hood is pulled around your head and your eyes are downcast to protect them from the spitting, frozen rain we’ve been so lucky to experience. Don’t want to be seen? Perhaps you’ll want to go a step further and add sunglasses on top of your mask (I still don’t know how to get them to stop fogging up), completely obscuring your eyes and rendering you practically invisible. While in incognito mode, it’s possible to complete one’s tasks with much less distraction than before. With no one stopping you in Usdan to ask about how your classes are going, or complimenting your tasteful-yet-daring corset and jeans combination, you now have time to get tested, lunch, and your packages in the 30 minutes between classes. However, I have found that most of that extra 30 minutes has been spent de-layering upon arrival to my dorm, and also bemoaning the cold food I’ve tried to carry back so swiftly (since the short-ish cut across Andrus Field is no longer viable due to the mass of slowly-melting snow).
But here’s the kicker: without being able to identify anyone on campus in this tundra-like environment, am I indirectly snubbing all of the friends I tried so hard to make? Are they interpreting my lack of a “hello” or a simple wave as a rejection of the countless hours of meals, jokes, and walks we’ve shared together? While admittedly I’m not the greatest with names, I’d like to think that, if visible, there’d be many faces I would recognize on my twice-weekly pilgrimage to the testing center or while in line at Swings. Maybe they don’t recognize me either, and there’s no harm done, but maybe once the temperature warms and coats are shed, I’ll look around and realize I lost all of my friends during the dark winter days.
So here’s what I propose: since it doesn’t seem like I’m taking off my hat anytime soon, maybe as a campus we could start wearing name-tags? Or monogrammed masks? I’m open to suggestions, but I’d like to find some sort of way to fix this problem. I miss my friends.
Talia Zitner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org