I do not do well in heat. After prolonged exposure to temperatures north of, say, 78 degrees, I melt into a barely contained puddle. It is one of the characteristics I have most in common with an ice cube.
This tendency worked especially against me when I lived in large cities. Commuting to work in a subway on a hot summer day guaranteed two things: I would look like I swam to the office, and I would act like I had been adopted by a pack of rabid dogs along the way. My business casual attire would be soaked through, my makeup would be coursing down my cheeks in rivers of bronze, and I would be foaming at the mouth.
I do not know how to control myself in the heat, because I do not know how to control the heat. When one is cold, one adds a layer of clothing, or tenses every muscle of one’s body, or shuffles suspiciously from side to side. Even if there is no programmable source of heat within reach, there are measures the human body and human brain are designed to take, on their own, to counteract the cold.
Not so with heat. A person cannot strip down to the zero layers of clothes that would be comfortable in heat, because that would lead to shame and/or arrest. A person cannot lie down and play rag doll, because that would lead to being stepped on and/or a reputation for laziness. A person cannot run to create something resembling a cooling breeze, because that would lead to, well, running.
Living in Maine means that the opportunities for finding programmable sources of cooling are limited. The only places with air conditioning are places with (1) aisles and fluorescent lighting; and (2) the mall. So unless you are out of (1) excuses for ignoring your coupons; or (2) reasons to avoid an establishment with a “food court,” the life-sustaining purr of forced cold air is one you can only imagine.
“Turn on a fan,” say the Canadians. “Turn on an electric mixer,” I offer as a response. By my last count, we have nine fans in my house, and we have zero comfortable people. Fans sound busy, but that’s because they’re mechanically laughing at us idiots, who plant ourselves in front of a wire cage, exhaling in pretend relief, as a metal lollipop puffs ever-hotter air at our moist faces.
A pool is a source of relief only to the extent you are willing to live in a pool. A cold shower is like a short intermission between the many acts of Mother Nature’s Inferno. A trip to the beach is postponing the inevitable; all the effort you must later devote to ridding yourself, your loved ones, and your beach accessories of sand prompts the same degree of sweating I suspect comes from a midday jog through the Sahara.
Back before we were married, I lived with my husband for one summer in Puerto Rico. I interned for a judge. My husband-to-be suggested I wear pant suits to work, as Puerto Rican legend has it that pants actually keep you cooler than skirts. That advice almost cost him the reward of becoming my husband.
In short, after decades of research, I have found no reliable solution to the problem of Being Hot. That means that I no longer waste any time or energy in trying to cool off. Instead, I concentrate all of my resources on fully succumbing to the heat.
I encourage my hair to go beyond frizzy and to achieve such states of tangledness that passers-by stop and think, “Her hair is so tangled, it has compelled me to believe ‘tangledness’ is actually a word.” I eschew communication by speech, and focus on the nuances of my whining and the specificity of my finger-pointing. I abandon sleep in favor of perfecting my impression of a body resisting exorcism. I give up trying to think, and to move.
Which is why, out of respect for my deadline on this column, I had to order up a thunderstorm.