I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Like most of my private fixations, I don’t remember exactly when or how I first saw a paparazzi photo of Keri Russell gliding down a brownstone’s steps after a blizzard. The image simply stuck to the walls of my brain and convinced me it had been there all along, hanging out in its own little corner, popping its head out in quiet moments. I would be cooking dinner, or opening the car door, or getting out of the shower, and suddenly, there was Keri, in her luxurious coat and strappy stilettos, like the patron saint of chic determination.
She is a vision: the coat, a rich olive green, is draped around her shoulders. Her hair is expertly tousled. The pattern of her tailored pencil skirt should look like a grandmother’s bathroom wallpaper, but somehow does not. It’s paired with a painfully crisp white shirt and bright coral lipstick. And then there’s the pièce de résistance: a pair of towering, open-toed red stilettos that — while not precisely my taste — act as a kind of sartorial bow, tying the whole look together with a touch of élan, and also insanity. The steps, you see, are covered with ice and snow. My immediate reaction to these photos was to yell, “MY GOD KERI BE CAREFUL,” despite the fact that the entire scene had already happened and was thus immutable. My second reaction was an incoherent stream of questions: Why didn’t she wear flats and then change, like a normal person (me)? Why is she even wearing open-toed shoes in the middle of winter? How does she make pained alarm look so glamorous? Why didn’t she put her coat on all the way? What shade of lipstick is that? And, perhaps most importantly, can I live in that brownstone with her and her hot husband, pretending to be their large child?
I’ll never solve most of these mysteries, but here’s what I do know. Keri was on her way to the Today show in January 2015 when the photos were taken. The taping took place immediately after a blizzard that dumped nearly 10 inches of snow on New York City. In the segment, she told Savannah Guthrie that she and her children “made chicken soup” and “went out walking” and “played games.” Coincidentally, I, too, was living in New York during this blizzard. I spent it with a man I was dating at the time, and he fed me a bowl of lukewarm garlic soup. I trudged home in the morning wearing old Ugg boots with a hole in them. My look of pained alarm was glamorous in the same way that an old tin can sometimes looks nice when it catches a glint of warm afternoon light.
Now, some caveats. Keri’s steps were probably shoveled and salted. She was almost certainly tottering toward the warm embrace of a nearby black Chevy Suburban or Cadillac Escalade. She likely spent mere minutes out in the cold, allowing her to look like an angel instead of a pathetic baby horse learning to walk for the first time.
But let me ask you this: Have you ever walked down the stairs in five-inch heels? Have you ever navigated an icy tundra in formalwear? Have you ever actually draped a coat over your shoulders and had it stay in place? Have you ever had your hair fall in front of your face and not eaten an entire mouthful by accident? Have you ever clung to a precarious staircase railing and resembled anything other than an elderly chameleon? These things are both individually and collectively so difficult to accomplish that I am vaguely frightened she dared attempt them at all.
Keri looks like a beautiful nutjob in the way only a celebrity can, but to me, she also looks like an aspirational nutjob. I suppose this is part of why the photos have stayed with me for so long. I will never be the kind of woman who can pull this off, but it would be nice, even for a day. I might even like to be Blizzard Keri in another life. I would never need sunglasses for a hangover because hangovers would be beneath me. I would have the week’s meals planned out by Sunday night. I would always remember to wear deodorant.
As it stands, my right thumbnail is shorter than all my other nails because I recently broke it trying to open a can of black beans. I lived in New York for seven years and all but gave up high heels after the second, though I often dreamed of getting my shit together in such a way that would allow me to look like a simulacrum of Blizzard Keri. That I never will is almost beside the point: Blizzard Keri is merely a moment in time, a woman captured on a good day, the human equivalent of a scene on a mood board.
I should probably note that I’m not even a Keri Russell superfan. I never watched Felicity, and gave up on The Americans after two seasons. I know very little about her personal life. Why, then, does she occupy a special corner of my mind? I also think about Kevin Smith’s huge jorts a lot, but the two things are very different. Kevin Smith’s huge jorts are purely entertaining. They’re also beloved by many other people. To my knowledge, I am the only one who is fixated on Keri Russell’s icy jaunt, something I have deduced after receiving the same vaguely unsettled look from each person I confide in. If I wanted to overthink it, I might posit that it stems from some subconscious fear that I will never live up to society’s expectations for women, which demand that we successfully traverse treacherous landscapes while looking like we’ve done nothing but lounge around on a fainting couch all day.
But that’s pretentious, so I’ve settled on this: the mind works in mysterious ways, and sometimes you just have to accept it. That’s what Blizzard Keri would do.