MEL for DSC Magazine, February 2020

In this month's issue, we're struggling, to be completely honest.


Mistook your monthly magazine for a pack of One Wipe Charlies and flushed it down the toilet? No worries, here’s the online version!

In this edition:

  1. No Birthday For You This Year!
  2. How to Not Look Like a Marshmallow This Winter
  3. Do I Really Need to Wear a Hat?
  4. Should I Break Up With My Partner Right Before, or Right After Valentine’s Day?
  5. The (Terrible) Valentine’s Day Gift Guide
  6. How to Get Your Resolutions Back on Track
  7. Winter Sports for the Athletically Challenged
  8. The Most Devastating Winter Storms in American History
  9. How Come February is Such a Short Month, Anyway?
  10. Oh FAQ: How Do I Moisturize My Chapped February Face?
  11. Get to Know Your Body: Lungs

1 – No Birthday For You This Year!

A guy whose leap year birthday landed on February 29th tells us what it’s like to be 12 when you’re really 51.

What’s it like having a birthday on February 29th?
“I’m so old now that I don’t really care about my birthday,” says Daniel Nester, an associate professor of English at the College of St. Rose. “But every four years people come out of the woodwork who remember me from high school or grade school and they wish me happy birthday. I used to think my birthday was special, and when people asked me my age when I was like 12, I’d say, ‘I’m four!’ and laugh like a corny person, but now I just say my age.”

Do others with this birthday see it as special?
“Some do,” says Nester. “There’s a whole society online and different groups celebrate their birthdays on March 1st and others do February 28th — I’m a strict Februarian myself. Also, I just say I’m a ‘leap year baby,’ but people call themselves ‘leapsters’ and ‘leaplings’ and really get worked up about it. I think ‘leapling’ is the preferred term, but it’s an awful word — it doesn’t roll off the tongue. I guess it just speaks to the identity crisis of people born on February 29th — we can’t even agree on what to call ourselves.”

How does someone best celebrate a birthday during the generally crappy month of February?
“Um, drink to excess,” advises Nester. “I think that’s probably the best way to celebrate a February birthday — it’s such a terrible month to have a birthday.”

2 – How to Not Look Like a Marshmallow This Winter

Follow all this advice and you won’t have to worry about not being able to put your arms down in that giant old coat of yours.

Layer Up
“You don’t need a big, puffy parka if you’ve got the right layers,” says stylist Todd Hanshaw. He advises you start with a t-shirt, then a sweater, then a light coat of something like leather or denim, then a heavy coat. That way you can add and subtract throughout the day.

Down with the Down
For the layers closest to your skin, Hanshaw says there are companies making synthetic technology fabrics that are designed to keep you warm, like HeatTech from UNIQLO. For a coat, while a flannel lining may seem warmer, something more satiny will actually keep the heat in better. As for what’s in the coat, Hanshaw says that synthetic down will keep you just as warm and it lays flatter than real feathers.

Mind Your Mug
Face starting to resemble the outside of a marshmallow? Skincare specialist Dr. Fayne Frey explains that cold winds and cold temperatures dry out your skin because the lack of water in the air sucks out your skin’s natural moisture. To prevent that pale, ashy look, Frey says to wear a scarf outside and cover much of your face with it. Not only will this keep you warm, it’ll prevent water from leaving your body. And when you’re at home, don’t forget to rub in some moisturizer. Mmm, moist.

3 – Do I Really Need to Wear a Hat?

Going hatless might not directly lead to you getting sick, but there’s a bunch of other good reasons to cover up.

Sure, it’s freezing out, but you’re having an awesome hair day — are you really going to get sick if you’re not wearing a hat outside in this frigid February air? Hold onto your, uh, hats: According to physician Dr. Benjamin Wedro, “being cold is not a risk factor for illness.” 

While there’s nothing about the cold itself that seems to be linked to illness directly, though, according to Medical News Today, there are some indirect links: For one, viruses tend to spread better at lower temperatures. There’s also the fact that, with less sun exposure during the winter, many people become Vitamin D deficient, which makes fighting off a cold harder. Along with that, people tend to spend more time cooped up indoors when it’s cold outside, in close proximity to other people and their germs.

In terms of just staying warm, Wedro adds that “the head is the radiator for the body” and by not wearing a hat, your body’s heat loss will be significant. Not wearing a hat for extended periods of time can also put your ears at risk for frostbite. 

Now, if your hair is wet, that still doesn’t cause a cold, but it can freeze strands of your hair which can then break, causing hair damage. In other words, if you want to keep having awesome hair days, put on your damn hat.

4 – Should I Break Up With My Partner Right Before, or Right After Valentine’s Day?

Either way it’s bad timing, but which one is worse?

You know things are coming to an end with your partner, but with Valentine’s Day coming up, you’re unsure whether to get it out the way now (no buying gifts!) or after (you’re possibly slightly less of a monster!)

Admittedly, if you put things off, you’ll spare them the heartbreak of being alone on Valentine’s Day. But psychotherapist and relationship expert Lisa White says that if you’re sure you want to end things, you’re better off doing it before Valentine’s Day comes. “Why wait?” she asks. “By keeping things going when you know that you have no future together, you’re leading the person on. You’re giving them the idea that you want them when you don’t.”

“My philosophy is that even if you don’t want somebody, you don’t want to set it up so that they’re messed up later on,” White continues. “If you’re a vicious person, then you don’t care, but in my mind, you want to be honest with the person, even if the timing isn’t great. There’s no good reason to avoid a break up, because then you’re not being sincere.”

That being said, if it’s on Valentine’s Day itself that you suddenly come to the realization that a person isn’t right for you, then yeah, maybe you should wait a day. No one wants to remember that anniversary for the rest of their life.

5 – The (Terrible) Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

February sucks enough already, so don’t make things worse with gifts like the ones these women received.

“An Amish romance novel from — wait for it — my father.”
Alannah, university administrator

“A vacuum! It was the first year married and my ex-husband used Christmas, my birthday, our anniversary and Valentine’s Day to get me cleaning items. He, of course, got regular gifts from me and bought himself stuff like new computer games, headphones, and extra monitors. It ended up being a short-lived marriage because of stuff like that.”
—Beejay, comic artist

“Chocolate covered strawberries — which I’m allergic to! (Yes, he knew).”
—Pauline, childcare specialist

“I once got an hdmi cable. Nothing else. Just a cable.”
—Yvette, farmer

“My ex gave me a pair of snowshoes, despite knowing how much I hate winter and any kind of outdoor activities.”
Michelle, flight attendant

“A candle. And this was when I was a store manager for…Yankee Candle.”
—Michelle, professional jouster

“The worst gift I ever got was a heart necklace. I don’t know why, but I just hate heart necklaces and he knew that, but because Valentine’s Day is all about hearts and crap he thought it was still fitting. Let’s just say he never got me one again.”
—Stacey, government clerk

6 – How to Get Your Resolutions Back on Track

Keeping your New Year’s resolutions really sucks. If you’re on the brink of abandoning them, here’s how to push forward and stick with it.

“Someone can lose track of their goals very easily,” explains Sean Anderson, who lost 300 pounds a decade ago and who has gone through several setbacks in his journey. He says that to get yourself back on track, it’s going to take you understanding why you failed.

“You need a plan that’s custom built for you,” Anderson says. “The thing about diet plans is that they all work — every one is right, but none were right for me. None dealt with me as an individual, and this goes for eating, exercise, and any goal. You need to assess what’s going to work for you and your particular weaknesses and strengths. Once you do that, then you can adjust your plan and move forward.”

Life coach Lindsay Jackson adds that it helps to separate your goal from the “New Year’s” part. “We are always becoming our new selves,” Jackson says, so rather than tie this specific goal to some resolution that’s already not working, you should remind yourself of why you set the goal to begin with. If it’s a worthy cause and you’re doing it for yourself, you’ll be able to succeed if you “give yourself daily reminders of why it’s important,” Jackson says. With that, you’ll be able to realize that your goal is a worthy one, no matter what month you’re in.

7 – Winter Sports for the Athletically Challenged

If you can’t skate to save your life and even the bunny hill is a pipe dream, try these activities instead (couch potatoes welcome).

Ice Fishing
Yup, ice fishing is considered a sport, and as long as you’re bundled up enough to avoid hypothermia, it can provide some real health benefits, too. Being near the water (even frozen water) has been scientifically proven to help relieve stress, which in turn boosts your cardiovascular system and reduces symptoms of chronic illness. Plus, you might even get lucky and catch a fish.

Watching the Winter Olympics from the comfort of your couch, you’d be forgiven for thinking that curling doesn’t provide much of a workout — but you’d be dead wrong. Curlers slide across the ice in a constant squatting position, so their glutes, quads and calves are getting a major toning session each time they sweep that polished stone towards the target.

Shovel Racing
You might lack the ability to stay upright on a snowboard, but there’s a good chance you can sit your butt down on a shovel and hold on for dear life. Shovel racing got its start in the 1970s, when ski lift operators used shovels as makeshift sleds to get down the mountain once the lifts were turned off for the night. We’re not saying it’s safe — the World Shovel Racing Championships were held annually in New Mexico for 30 years before getting cancelled due to injury lawsuits — but it sure looks fun.

8 – The Most Devastating Winter Storms in American History

No matter how bad your month, remember, it could always be worse.

Stretching from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, the March snowstorm pummelled the East Coast, dumping a whopping 50 inches on Connecticut and Massachusetts, who got the very most of it. 200 ships were wrecked from the storm and commerce was halted due to the railways and roadways being covered. Over 400 people died, more than half of whom were in New York City.

The Knickerbocker Storm hit on January 27th and 28th, 1922, and dropped 28 inches of snow on Washington DC — the most snow the capital had ever received. On the evening of the 28th, people finally began to emerge from their homes and some even attended the Knickerbocker Theater. During the film, however, the roof collapsed from the weight of the snow, killing 98 people and injuring 133 more.

The Blizzard of 1978 was a series of three back-to-back storms that whacked the northeast. First — on January 19th to the 21st — 21 inches fell. Then, on January 25th to the 27th, the second storm hit the midwest, giving Ohio three feet of snow. Finally, a third storm landed during the second week of February, hitting the northeast coast with three more feet of snow. Just leave it to February to make a bad situation worse.

9 – How Come February is Such a Short Month, Anyway?

We’re all for making this sucky month shorter (we get an extra day this year, thanks to Leap Year — booo) but we still want to know how it happened.

It all started with the Roman calendar back in the 8th century BC, which consisted of ten months and started on March 1st. The Roman calendar only tracked the harvest period, since the time after December was just the winter and not worth tracking. They also used the lunar calendar, which followed the phases of the moon and consisted of 355 days. After a while, these two calendars fell out of sync, so Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, added two more months after December — January and February.

This new lunar calendar consisted of 12 months, each 29 days and some-odd hours: To spread these odd hours out, some months ended up with 29 days, some 30. But the Romans thought even numbers were unlucky, so they decided to make some months 29 days, and others 31. The downside here was that the calendar ended up being 354 days total, which meant the entire year was unlucky! It was decided that one month had to be unlucky, and February — then, the last month of the year and the Roman month to honor the dead — drew the short straw.

Later on, more days were added to match up with the rotation of 365 days around the sun, with Julius Caesar also rearranging the calendar to start with January. But through all that, February’s 28 days stuck — probably because no one wanted to punish the people with any more of it.

10 – Oh FAQ: How Do I Moisturize My Chapped February Face?

Stay smooth with skincare tips from Dr. Fayne Frey, of skincare info site FryFace. And, y’know, some of our very own moisturizing products, of course.

Step #1: Get yourself a humidifier and flick it on before you head to bed — this will prevent the dry winter air from sucking the moisture out of your skin

Step #2: In the morning, avoid long hot showers and harsh, non-moisturizing soaps, as this washes away the proteins and lipids needed to hydrate your skin

Step #3: When shaving, warm your face to calm the skin and use a gentle shave gel or lather to keep your skin moisturized *cough* Dr. Carver’s Pillowy Shave Lather *cough*

Step #4: Moisturize twice daily, once after you shave and once before bed — oh look, who put that Big Cloud Good Shake Hand Cream there?

Step #5: Your lips are sensitive, so apply balm repeatedly throughout the day. And if it just so happens to be Big Cloud Wind Master Mint Leaf Lip Balm, well, we’re okay with that.

Step #6: Bravely face the wind head on, because your skin ain’t stopping for anything.

11 – Get to Know Your Body: Lungs

Because, you know, they like, literally suck.

Oh Buoyant!
Your lungs are the only organs in your body that float in water — that’s because there are about 600 million air-filled balloon-like structures called alveoli in your lungs, which exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

Hold My Breath
The average person can hold their breath on land for about 30 seconds and underwater for about two minutes. As far as record holders go, on land, the record is about ten minutes and in water, it’s slightly over 20 minutes. The reason someone can hold their breath longer underwater is something known as the “diving reflex,” where the body naturally slows its heart rate when submerged and blood flow is prioritized to the heart, brain and lungs.

Right vs. Left
Your right lung is shorter because it sits on the liver, but it’s larger and wider because the left lung needs to give space for the heart. To survive, a person can get by with just one lung, though their capacity for exercise is generally reduced.

Full of Hot Air
No matter how much someone talks, everyone’s breath is a hot 98.6 degrees, which is why, in cold temperatures, the water vapor in your breath condensates into droplets of water and ice, like fog. This is why you can often see your breath in this miserably cold month.

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