Six Signs of Spring: Students in shorts (and tank tops and flip flops)

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flip flopsYou’d think coming back to classes from break would make for an energized and upbeat week full of a renewed enthusiasm for learning. That’s what’d you think. It’s not exactly the case. I think last week may have been the week that broke our collective backs in its complete refusal to show any signs of winter’s end. I keep track of the weather for my sky scarf, and my entry for last week simply reads, “Tuesday – Friday: Grey. Grey. More grey.”

But this weekend, the weather has finally turned and in the spirit of eternal optimism, I am searching for signs of spring. More specifically, Six Signs of Spring (because I cannot resist a good alliteration). Sign #1 is the often neglected harbinger of warm weather–the appearance of bare skin on the bodies of college students.

In all honesty, this can be a less than reliable sign of spring; college students are prone to wear tank tops and shorts in all weather conditions. We had one student a few years ago who wore shorts year-round, claiming complete obliviousness to the below freezing temperatures. But most students make at least a desultory attempt to match their clothing to the season.

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that our sense of temperature is at least partly conditioned culturally; native Minnesotans laugh at what many of us in southern Indiana consider frigid. My husband, who grew up in Florida, can be heard in the summer declaring, “You think this is hot?” I submit that our sense of temperature is also deeply affected by how hot or cold we want it to be.

Are the students wearing tank tops, shorts and flip flops in 40 degree weather freezing their asses off? Maybe not. Maybe if you truly believe it should be warmer, it feels warmer. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility.

Or perhaps, like me, the students are just really, really sick of their winter clothes, and this I can understand. I reached the point several weeks ago when I looked in my closet and felt I could not possibly wear the same old sweater again. I seriously contemplated setting on fire every sweater I owned rather than having to wear them again; at least then I could get warm standing in front of the pile of burning wool. I feel sometimes that I’ve completely forgotten what my bare feet look like. The idea of not having to wear a coat is a genuine cause for celebration.

I have not quite broken out my shorts and tank tops yet, though I do gaze at them longingly, tucked away in the back of my closet. But I am heartened by the parade of flesh, untouched by the sun for months now, which I see parading by my office window.

Forget the stupid groundhog; look for tank tops.

What Signs of Spring do you look for?  And please tell us that you’ve seen some of them!


  1. Greenery popping up from the ground!! I saw a good number of patches this morning on Trail 8 in Clifty! The tricky thing though is that I saw the same thing back on those weirdly warm days in jan and feb. I think they’re here to stay now. Even the birds are chirping so it’s time!

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