NOW that winter is melting into oblivion, it's time for us to look toward spring.

Flowers will rise from once-frozen soil. Young people will fall helplessly in love. The Phillies will take the field with players as old as Methuselah. And the rest of us will sing the "Happy" song with all the gusto of Oscar nominee Pharrell Williams. Why? Because no matter what goes wrong this spring, we've got a lot for which to be grateful.

We escaped the evil clutches of a Polar Vortex that overtook us like The Blob. We survived a deep freeze that had each of us feeling like Snow Miser from "The Year Without a Santa Claus." We drove over potholes the size of small cities, and lived to tell the tale. We endured power outages that had us cooking breakfast by the heat of old birthday candles.

But all that's over now, and today, after surviving the winter madness, we can all take comfort in the fact that sunshine still exists. As an added bonus, we've got Daylight Savings Time, which means that we have an extra hour to enjoy its warmth.

All that sounds wonderful, right? Well, there's a catch. Spring, with all its benefits, also comes with danger. This is especially true after an unusually cold winter. Knowing there won't be many people willing to share this hard truth with you, I feel it's my duty to step up and warn you about Early Summer Syndrome (ESS).

Characterized by delusions of grandeur and patent dishonesty, ESS causes its sufferers to spend most of the winter telling their friends and family they've been working out. Unfortunately, they fail to mention that the exercise they've done most often is forklifts - an activity that involves lifting servings of cheesecake, turkey, stuffing and pie a la mode from plate to mouth. Perhaps if that were the extent of it, we could deal with ESS. Sadly, there's more.

At the first sign of sunshine, these poor, sick people feel the need to expand their circle of lies. Not only do they continue to tell their family that they've been training for a triathlon. They also begin to tell themselves that they've spent way too long hiding their buff, well-trained bodies under cumbersome winter clothing. They simply can't wait for summer's arrival to let all of us in on the big reveal, so they come outside dressed like music-video backup dancers as soon as the temperature hits 50.

You will recognize ESS sufferers because they will be the people walking down Market Street wearing thongs. They will come into the office wearing Speedos. They will ride the Broad Street subway sporting midriffs. In their own eyes, their exposed body parts will consist of acres of rippling muscle. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we'll be able to see the truth, and that truth will most often look just like the food they've been eating all winter.

This will be especially true of the place where the peach cobbler has been stored - their guts.

When we initially cast our eyes on the wrinkled nastiness hanging over their belts, we'll avert our gaze because it's hard to look continually at anything that so closely resembles chitterlings. But then the inevitable will happen. We'll start to wonder if that gut looks more like cottage cheese than chitterlings, and we'll steal another glance. Then we'll wonder if it more closely resembles curdled milk than cottage cheese, and we'll take another look.

Before long, we'll be treating that exposed winter stomach like a train wreck. We won't want to stare at it, but we won't be able to stop, and that, my friends, will encourage the ESS sufferers to keep exposing their guts to the world.

That's why I'm asking people of good will to take a stand. In this age of reality-show morality, when too many of us believe that shamelessness is the surest route to fame, we have to do something about ESS before it consumes us all.

I'm encouraging all my readers to carry a blanket with you on the first warm spring day. And when you see an ESS sufferer wearing a miniskirt the size of a napkin, a midriff of chitterlings or pants that show more crack than the Liberty Bell, do the right thing.

Throw the blanket over them.

By doing so, you'll not only help that person to heal. You'll also keep the rest of us from stabbing ourselves in the eyes.