Every year when temperatures drop and snow blankets our cities, North American cultures observe the appearance of a kind of rare creature that marks the true arrival of winter: The Guy in Shorts.
The Guy in Shorts is not a single magical being; rather a species with representatives in almost every city where snow falls. He is not always tall, not always short, not always skinny, not always stocky. He is just a guy wearing shorts when no one else is.
He can be spotted confidently striding out of a 7-Eleven, waiting without shivering for a half hour or more at a bus stop, drinking a cold beer at an NFL football game while seated next to someone wearing a snowmobile suit. The Guy in Shorts is not sure what all the fuss is about. He is not cold.
You are freezing, certain your breath is turning into ice crystals as it leaves your throat, perhaps worried you will catch a cold. The Guy in Shorts could not possibly give fewer fucks about the temperature, whether it is 80 degrees or 8 degrees. He is as snug as a bug in a rug, he is in his element, he is maybe even casually smoking a cigarette.
As the legend has it, if the Guy in Shorts emerges from his apartment on February 2 and doesn’t even flinch at sub-freezing temperatures, we will have six more weeks of winter. Or maybe I have that mixed up with some other winter thing? Never mind; the Guy in Shorts is not a signifier of more winter on the way—he is a signifier that winter does not matter to some people.
Okay, the Guy in Shorts will put on a jacket when it’s cold out. Maybe a hat too. But his bare legs? He says, “I don’t know, they just don’t get cold.” And thusly, he does not get cold. No big deal.
The news says “cover exposed skin,” “polar vortex,” “wind chill,” “22 degrees but feels like 11.” The Guy in Shorts says: “Whatever, I’m wearing shorts today.” You are shoveling snow, you are digging stuck cars out of snowbanks, you are bundling kids up to build snow forts and go sledding. The Guy in Shorts is doing all those things, too. In shorts.
When spring finally comes at the end of the long winter? You will be excited for a change of clothing, to shed all those layers you’ve been hiding under for what feels like a long, dark time. The Guy in Shorts? He won’t even notice. Maybe he’ll get a new pair of shorts or two. You know, for the summer.