I still cringe

It was November of ’02.  I, the desert-dweller, was soon to be departing for a ministry trip to the north of Scotland:  Fraserburgh, Inverness, and the Isle of Lewis, roughly equal in latitude to the southern part of Alaska.

The previous winter, my friends Stephanie and Laurie had regaled all of us with hilarious yet startling stories of how absolutely cold they had been on their trip to the same places — how bitterly the wind blew, and how frigid their hosts kept their homes — stories of frozen eyeliner carried around in the pocket of one’s slacks in order for it to thaw enough to be usable; frost on the inside of the bedroom window; of how they bundled in every sweater, coat, hat and scarf they’d brought with them, but how it still wasn’t enough to ward off the cold.

These memories were with me as I prepared for my own trip.  My biggest problem:  I didn’t own a winter coat.  The closest I had was a black leather jacket that had a zip-out thermal liner.  I told Steph what I had, and she cautioned me that this wouldn’t be near enough;  I had to have a warmer coat.  She’d loan me one.

This put me at complete ease.  Stephanie is one of the most stylish women I know, quite trendy, always impeccably groomed and dressed from head to toe.  Her children dress better than I do.  Stephanie would loan me a coat.  I was in good hands.

Right before we were to depart, Steph walked up to me in church.  In her hands was a masculine-looking, huge, puffy, bright yellow monstrosity of a ski coat, the kind with wide plastic zippers and plastic hooks hanging off of its 30 or so pockets.  (It looked rather like the one on the left, but black-on-yellow, instead of yellow-on-black.)  I gulped internally.  😯 Obviously, Stephanie was very concerned for my warmth, but this was nothing like I imagined she’d loan to me, or even own for that matter.  And, it was nothing like I could have ever imagined myself wearing.  Ever.  But, for the sake of shielding my tender desert skin from the cold, and because I was leaving for Scotland the next day and had no other options (plus I didn’t want to offend Stephanie and appear/be unthankful), I swallowed my pride, smiled and expressed my thanks and took the coat.

The whole trip, my sights were besieged by properly dressed Scottish women, smartly wearing attractive, double-breasted Burberry coats in a variety of tasteful shades.  Each would involuntarily throw a startled, wide-eyed glance my way, then quickly cast her eyes aside, empathically feeling the embarrassment she thought I should be feeling for wearing such a coat in public.  “Ugly, loud, American.  Shame she doesn’t know how to dress.  Poor girl.  Ugh.  What a coat.  What could ever have possessed her to wear such a thing??”

On top of that, the dumb thing was too hot.  I steamed in that coat.  My leather coat would have been the perfect weight.  It wouldn’t have been quite as stylish, but at least it would have been less-conspicuously-inappropriate. 

The whole trip was a tremendous lesson in humility.

I still cringe.   


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on October 3, 2007, in Arizona, Clothes, Friendships, Funny Stuff, God/Christianity/Church, Scotland, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. What made you think about this unfortunate event?

  2. Now if you’d asked me before you came, I could have told you about the North Atlantic Drift, its origins in the Atlantic North Equatorial Current off Africa, its journey past Florida and its eventual softening impact on the Island’s climate despite its relative latitudinal position, and even the possible future effects of global warming on the thermohaline circulation which drives it. However, you hadn’t met me at that point, so you couldn’t. And even if you HAD known me, you’d have fallen asleep before I’d really gotten started.

    I love leather coats.

  3. Wishing you get back to Scotland but in a snazzy coat this time around. 🙂

  4. Lisa ~ It was yesterday, as I was reading a new post from Iain (who commented right below you), and realizing it had been five years since we met on the aforementioned trip. Five years! It doesn’t seem that long. So, that remembrance led to thoughts of that trip, which inevitably led to remembering the yellow ski coat.

    Iain ~ I wouldn’t have fallen asleep! My interests are wide. But I would have had to ask you to define “thermohaline.” Do you remember that coat? Obviously, it wouldn’t have been as significant to you as it was to me, but surely you noticed it??

    Kiva ~ I knew I could get a word of commiseration from you!! 🙂 I did go back to Scotland, but only to Fraserburgh, in April of ’04, that time in the leather coat. Still, though, I’d like to own a cute Burberry at some point…. maybe for the NEXT trip!

  5. Rubber Chicken Girl

    Karen Joy, the Lord was stripping you of COOL. Humility is good for the overly-hip-conscious soul…..death to the fussy melancholy, I know, how I know.

  6. Rubber Chicken Girl

    Burberry is over-priced nonsense that girly men like poor Kevin Max wear. See his website. The last time I looked was my first taste of Burberry in all sorts of ugly plaid on his overly-hip self. A little fem. Shivers.

  7. Rubber Chicken Girl

    Karen Joy!! You are trying the reverse snob in me:

    The avg Burberry there is $900. A poncho runs $500.

  8. Goodness, Shellie, I hope you don’t think I’d buy a real Burberry. It’s just the style… thigh-length, fitted, double-breasted, button-up. I’m too cheap to buy the real thing!! Especially when I’d get to wear it approximately three days a year in Phx, and then once every 2-3 years for a 10-day Scotland trip… Watch me buy one finally, then go to India instead or something. 🙂

  9. Here are some cute ones, more reasonably priced:

    In cotton, caramel colored with funky black buttons, for $58: http://www.styleviolet.com/product/canvastrenchcoat.html

    Black, 80% wool, nice detailing, almost funky, for $112: http://www.amazon.com/Giacca-Wool-Blend-Belted-Coat/dp/B000VJCQ9I/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_2_0/103-0140699-1471818

    Charcoal, 80% wool, classic peacoat style, $120: http://www.amazon.com/Giacca-Wool-Blend-Belted-Coat/dp/B000VJCQ9I/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_2_0/103-0140699-1471818

    I like this charcoal or java tweed style, thigh-length peacoat… I like the extra-long sleeves, too. 100% cotton, for $91.25: http://www.amazon.com/Volcom-Pods-Coat-Jacket-Womens/dp/B000W89Z74/ref=sr_1_16/103-0140699-1471818?ie=UTF8&s=apparel&qid=1191525250&sr=1-16

    I guess I like classic styles with funky details best, in natural fibers for reasonable prices!!

  10. Believe me, Karen, if there was a divine element of intervention in the interests of stripping you of cool, the next time around you’ll find yourself trapped in head to toe Burberry 🙂 with those unpleasant women who stare giving you the exact same look. Of course, they’ll all be wearing gigantic mountain puffa jackets with 30 yellow zips and pockets…

  11. Oh, I remember it! As I recall it was a case of “Oh my gosh, LOOK! There’s a huge jacket walking around the room and it’s…. oh… wait…. There’s a LADY in there! Hello! HELLOOOO! You in there!” etc…

    btw, Thermohaline = density driven. Heat affects the density, the water circulates.

  12. Rubber Chicken Girl

    I like the charcoal tweed (the bottom one).

  1. Pingback: Coat update!!! « Only Sometimes Clever

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