As a child, watching certain episodes of Boy Meets World or Sabrina the Teenage Witch would make me feel despondent and dejected. While initially amused by Cory and Topanga and adolescent magic, after episodes like “Santa’s Little Helper” or “Sabrina Nipping at Your Nose,” soon I would realize that I was missing out on a fundamental American experience: winter.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I have always regarded the concept of “seasons” as rather alien. Instead of being blessed with four neatly disparate times of year, Los Angeles gets a radiant summer from May to October, and then a slightly colder summer for the remaining months. You eastcoasters who so casually talk about playing in leaf piles in October or throwing snowball fights on Christmas have no idea the hardships of growing up in a seasonless hinterland. It is definitely not all peaches and sunshine (although we do have plenty of both of those things). It was almost 80-degree when I went home for winter break. Can you even imagine how difficult that must have been for me?
The torment does not end with 90s sitcoms: I have been constantly plagued by my lack of seasonal experience by everything from the Home Alone franchise to Sandra Bullock’s While You Were Sleeping. Every year when I do my Christmas shopping, in an outdoor mall, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a light sweater, I am forced to listen to songs like “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, “Frosty the Snowman” and “White Christmas.” Then I turn on the TV when I get home, only to see Ali MacGraw making snow angels whilst wearing the cutest winter clothes imaginable (tweed mini skirts with thick knit tights) in Love Story.
Almost all television shows that do not explicitly take place in California feature changing leaves for the Thanksgiving episode, snow-covered hills during December and singing birds and blossoming trees in the spring. Even How I Met Your Mother has at least one episode every season about Marshall reminiscing on the severe Minnesota winters of his childhood.
Those of you who are lucky enough to have taken part in this American tradition might not think anything of the 30 Rock line, “Ugh, I hate January. It’s dark and freezing and everyone’s wearing bulky coats; you can do some serious subway flirting before you realize the guy is homeless,” in the episode, “Winter Madness.” But for people like me, it is a harsh reminder of what we lack. The entire concept of that episode, seasonal depression, goes right over my sunburned head. Even the little things like the opening shots of a snow-sprinkled Pawnee City Hall in Parks and Recreation or Jon Hamm dressed in a camel-colored overcoat on Mad Men depress me. Although the latter is not entirely true: Jon Hamm could never depress me.
The real irony of all this is that the majority of these television shows and movies that cause me so much distress are filmed within a 10-mile radius of my house. Pawnee City Hall, for example, is actually Pasadena City Hall. I have walked down the streets of Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow — which viewers have so often seen with a fresh dusting of snow — and I was just on the Warner Brothers lot in Studio City. And The Office, despite using some iconic Scranton locations in the opening credits, relied on the same fake snow they give us every year at the outdoor malls to make us feel like average Americans when they shot “Classy Christmas.”
One would think that knowing this would make me feel better about the plight of a winterless childhood. On the contrary, it makes me feel worse. Even the shows that are shot in LA have to pretend to be in a normal location, where the sun does not bedevil us with its presence all twelve months of the year.
Because songs, television shows and movies have drilled into my brain the idea that one ought to have seasons in order to take part in the American experience, I have always wanted to leave my cloudless home in search for a chillier alternative. It is for this reason, that when I applied to colleges last year, I only applied to schools that had seasons. My two requirements for any college to which I applied, were 1: there must be Indian food within walking distance and 2: there must be snow (in other words an excuse to buy all the cute scarves and hats they sell at J.Crew that I have never had a reason to own before).
So you can imagine my frustration when, after coming home from break, I was not presented with the winter wonderland I have always desired. In fact, this winter I have been perfectly fine wearing the same pea coat I wore when it sunk as low as 50-degree in LA. I was told that by coming to Cornell, not only would I have seasons, I would have long, cold, depressing, icy, snowy, blistery winters (my dream come true). I would finally understand what it is like to get salt stains on your Uggs and have your hair freeze when you leave the house with a wet mop in the morning. Instead, Ithaca has given me a winter that is not cold enough for me to wear my new earmuffs.
I feel cheated and betrayed. Ithaca lured me in from my cozy, star-studded home, only to then let my hopes and dreams wash away with the tepid rain.