There was a time when dressing up meant exactly that – young ladies actually looked the part.
These days, the meaning of the phrase has been turned topsy-turvy. Dressing up means… undressing. Whereas boys are supposed to look cool if their woolly hat covers their ears and eyebrows, and their pants sweep the ground, girls are fashionable if they expose more flesh than they cover.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine always warn against the dangers of going out with bare midriffs, because this does untold harm to the lungs and kidneys – but do these tweens and teens listen?
They fear being labelled nerds, geeks, and whatever other names their detractors may dream up if they do not go with the flow and buy flimsy clothes that could easily have been run up at home using a couple of their fathers’ handkerchiefs.
We have all seen them – sitting with their hands between their thighs, palms facing one another, in an effort to conserve body heat (and hide that which must not be revealed). We have all seen them standing around in bus stops, stamping their feet and rubbing their upper arms.
But for party girls, the danger is more than simply looking silly or weird. They risk their bodies going into tilt, followed by a complete shut-down of vital organs.
The word “hypothermia” is a foreign concept – it conjures up images of wayward trekkers in Alaska, or explorers in Siberia, miles away from civilisation, on their way to being mummified because they did not take enough down windcheaters with them.
Nearer home, we assume that hypothermia is something that happens to tramps who live inside cardboard boxes under bridges, because they get soaked in the rain and sleep in wet close that freeze and stick to their skin. Hypothermia is about to happen once body temperature drops from the level of 37°C to below 35°C.
But should we blame Saint Bernard dogs for the mistaken idea that ‘alcohol warms you up’? After all, we have all seen pictures of the huge dogs with the miniature barrels of brandy hanging around their neck, right?
Actually drinking alcohol when you are cold can actually be dangerous. The only reason that the dogs do not carry water to slake the thirst of lost skiers or travellers is… that it would freeze into ice and break the casks; the freezing temperature of alcohol is much lower than that of water. Water freezes at 32oC whereas 80 proof (40% alcohol) liquour freezes at -22oC.
Alcohol makes us feel warmer when we drink it – and hence the convoluted statement on the lines of “it doesn’t matter that I am half-naked – there will be alcohol at the party and it will warm me up”.
Alcohol makes our veins and capillaries dilate. This takes the blood to the surface of the skin – where the warmth is taken away quickly, if the weather is cold, by the surrounding air, this exacerbating the problem and turning it from potentially lethal to actually fatal.
The medical profession is reporting more and more cases – including some deaths – from hypothermia. The majority ofn these cases occur after a person has been drinking alcohol, not only for the aforementioned reason, but for a totally different one that intensifies its effect.
A person who is cold has less oxygen going to the brain. This means that a person is not in full possession of his mental faculties. In some instances, the mind actually tells the body to remove clothing, because it is confused and misinterprets what the situation is.
Ironically, since many of the symptoms of hypothermia – especially a lack of co-ordination, slurring of speech, and mental confusion – resemble those of drunkenness, some of the people accompanying anyone stricken by hypothermia could ‘abandon’ her on the assumption that she “only needs to sleep it off”. Some people are afraid to take an inebriated friend to hospital or a clinic, just in case anything untoward happens (such as alcohol poisoning) lest they be called as witnesses in court.
Girls who boast that “they would not be seen dead in a coat!” don’t know how right they may be!
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'Ghandi x' Nghid' (I have something to say) is a blog that focuses on current affairs and personal reflections - Andrew Azzopardi