One word on the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 “word of the year” list spoke wonders about our nation’s current mental, political, and emotional state. “Hygge,” in case you haven’t heard of it, is the Danish word for creating an intimate, cozy experience wherever you are. There’s not even a direct translation into English. It’s an idea, an ambiance. It’s about crocheted blankets and fuzzy socks and hot toddies by the fire. It’s about staging the cover of every L.L. Bean catalog in your very own home. It is everything you wish for on a cold, gray winter afternoon.
It’s also why it’s harder to make new friends.
Because, in all honesty, who wants to go to that kind of effort? All I want to do when the holidays are over and January spreads out, flat and unchanging, is to call in the old standbys. I want crockpot soup and spaghetti. I want old favorites on Netflix and the sweatpants from college with the hole where a pocket once was. And I only want about three to five people on my rotating schedule of daily interactions – the husband, the kids, and the best friends who don’t make me try. I want to be social without being “social.”
And I’m not the only one. Most of us tend to turn inward, our own version of social hibernation, in the winter months. This makes sense. William Chopik, a psychologist and professor at Michigan State University explains, “Cold weather is often a barrier to venturing far from home. Meeting new people in the winter months requires a lot of effort.”
Who wants to defrost the car and pray you don’t bust it on a patch of ice in your skirt and heels? Who wants to hire a babysitter for anything other than a date with your closest people when time is money and the wind chill is eight below? You pick your people and call them to you. It’s an introvert’s dream. Suddenly even the extroverts are huddling up with a book and glass of wine on a Saturday night.
We all want easy listening and easy company until the earth warms up again. Even my manic kids choose to gather round me in their pajamas like I am Mother Hubbard. They want books read and hair played with and long baths just like the rest of us.
I unwittingly made a new friend in the car pick-up line at my son’s school recently. She’s a fellow mom of a special needs kid and she’s wry and sarcastic and feels equally ambivalent towards holiday teacher gifts. She unintentionally showed up to carpool in her UGG house shoes, but applied lipstick nonchalantly like it was all part of the plan. She’s a kindred spirit.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to call her up to go wine tasting any time soon. For now, we will make small talk and trade school gossip and spouse stories while shivering in our puffer jackets waiting for our kids. And then we will go our separate ways.
Maybe when spring rolls around and the daffodils are out and pool days are just around the corner, I will call her up and we will run away together for a few hours. We will try the new Indian restaurant downtown or grab iced coffee and walk through the park. But for now, I’m content to keep it simple and invite over only those who are intimately familiar with my holey sweatpants. We will order pizza and watch reruns of “Veep” and wait for warmer days.