Get Used to It
A heat-haters approach to easing into summer
have a little bit of a catch-22 about summer: I hate the
heat. And I hate air-conditioning. Well, you might say,
move to Calgary or Nome or some such place. Problem is,
I also like the sun, wearing short sleeves, and getting
to go swimming. (And Iím not so fond of black flies. As
if anyone is.) If summerís temperatures never went above
the low-to-middle 80s and the humidity stayed that of a
nice windswept beach town, Iíd be home free.
Of course Iím also fond of having four seasons and not needing
to live behind a seawall. So I figure I can sacrifice two
weeks or so to all my other multiple reasons for being quite
content with my climatic region.
weeks, you say? Surely you exaggerate a littleósummer in
upstate New York isnít that short. No, itís not.
But itís the minimum amount of time that it takes my body
(and my psyche, and my habits) to adjust once the full-scale
heat kicks in. Itís not that I donít still bitch and moan
during those insane, breathing water, steering-wheel-burns-bare-skin
interludes. But after my two-week easing-in period I can
generally handle most of summer with equanimity.
The first few days are usually sheer misery: descent into
hell, listless, you-expect-me-to-move-let-alone-work? days.
My usual complaints about stale, over-air- conditioned spaces
fall by the wayside. Sure, 50 degrees sounds like a reasonable
alternative to what itís doing outside.
The same way you never figure out that a cranky mood was
PMS until after the fact, it always takes those first few
days for me to remember that Iíve made it through this before.
In fact, 75 percent of what Iím feeling is probably dehydration.
Itís time for survival mode.
Summer survival mode is sort of like struggling not to come
down with a cold modeóonly instead of the barrage of zinc
tablets, echinacea, orange juice and extra sleep, my every
spare moment is focused entirely on preventing heat lethargy.
It starts with what goes into my body. It goes well beyond
the obligatory increase in ice-water intake. Somehow I have
to dredge up the memory of non-hot foods that I like to
eat. Being an oatmeal-in-the-morning and soup-and-roasted-
vegetables kinda gal, it always takes an unusual force of
will to remember that granola and a cold black-bean-and-corn
salad can really be quite satisfying, without adding unneccesary
BTUs to my system that Iíll just have to sweat out later.
But this is all small shakes compared to the emergency measures,
which are really all variations on consuming iceóeating
frozen vegetables without defrosting them or having sorbet
Next is what goes on my body: Often my clue that the transition
is in full swing is when I give up on my periodic attempts
to grow my hair long (people tell me if I make it through
the afro long enough itíll fall down in long flowing ringlets.
Maybe 15th timeís the charm, but Iím starting to suspect
they just donít understand my hair). Removing what amounts
to a very thick wool hat with the solar collecting power
of asphalt works wonders for temperature regulation. Combined
with unearthed sundresses, sandals, and tank tops, it at
the least gives easier access for the emergency measuresódunking
my feet in a bucket of ice water, three cold showers in
a day, or sleeping with my wrists resting on cold packs.
As I get into week two, the habits that make the emergency
measures less necessary start to kick in. A fanatical devotion
to shade, a strict speed limit on the walk to and from work,
keeping the lights off and the shades down, sleeping on
my stomach (donít ask me why this is cooleróit makes no
sense, but itís the only way I can sleep through long hot
nights) are only a few.
After a few weeks of this, some of it becomes ingrained
and feels normal. But also the survival part of it starts
to feel a little less urgent. Some primal tropical (OK,
semi-tropical at best) ancestral response kicks itself into
sluggish gear and says ďOh yeah, this isnít the end of the
world. You can do this.Ē Hell, (donít tell my family), but
if the stars are aligned right and Iím in the zone, by mid-July
sometimes I can even enjoy the heat.