This is not my favorite time of year. Crunchy ground, frost framing window panes, the warm glow of a fire, the silence of snowfall: lovely, lovely Winter is my favorite. In a close second is Fall with it’s rich colors and cool evenings, leaves rustling and falling, animals preparing, dashing about in their last hurrah. Next is Spring in its glorious awakening and unpredictability, delivering colorful abundance and the cheerfulness we have all learned to expect. The three together culminating in a nine-month family and friend affair chock full of birthdays and holidays, most of which have something to do with gratitude and love. And then, there is Summer…
One of my biggest issues with summer is the widespread obsession with sunscreen and the scorn that diehard adherents reserve for those who refuse to slather stinky stuff onto our skin just so we can brag about how brilliant we are for doing just that one thing. All else could be a complete bust, but if you dunk your family in 75+ you are a genius, and you can write a book on parenting, and run for office. Personally, a nice glow is the most decent thing about the entire season, the one chance for everyone to at least look cheerful and alive, to fill up on Vitamin D and melatonin. But the tyrants want summer to be sticky, noxious and pale. And expensive. I shouldn’t have to argue with so many about the whole sunscreen controversy. That I choose to not buy poisonous chemicals that may or may not prevent my skin from developing cancerous tissue at some point in my life is nobody’s business but mine, and that they think it is makes me despise summer even more. Because summer makes people nosy.
It is also when mothers turn into helmet centurions, wagging their fingers and shaking their heads as they paint their toddlers’ arms and faces in goo, while buckled to a tricycle two inches off the ground and strapped into a helmet the size of a suitcase. I am in the perfect frame of mind to argue against this paranoid, mom-generated tyranny all the way from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They must think an enormous ball of radiated rays is going to fall on their children if they happen to turn their helicopter eyes away from the flat driveway for a split second. I do not share this type of fear. It requires an extraordinary amount energy to maintain a complete suspension of reason. To be terrified of a two inch fall, one must constantly be imagining crashes and blood and breakage, and lost scholarships. I have not noticed the same degree of paranoia the other nine months of the year. Because summer makes people irrational.
Women love summer. It is a woman’s season, and women are difficult. They wait for it. They diet in anticipation of it. They buy clothes to show off how their diet succeeded and then they complain all winter long about how the cold made them gain it all back. They chat about camps and beaches and clubs and vacations. They read magazines and talk about their pedicures and how they’re just not as good as they used to be, and about what the heat does to their hair. I know this because I participate in the emptiness, and I hear it as it leaves my mouth and I feel like I’ve been possessed, unwittingly driveling and sniveling, and I pray that God will drop an arctic weather bomb and free us from our heat-inspired insipidness. Let the cold wind shock us into depth and mental clarity, let it force us to jump around and huddle close together to keep warm. May the temperamental and deciduous dream of Florida as their leaves and bikinis fall away for the year. Because summer makes people shallow.
There is another frustration that is gnawing at me, and it is that I want to laugh more. I want to be around funny people, and I want us all to laugh together in a cackling chorus of frivolity and wit. I want the random phone calls from faraway friends and the meeting of kindred spirits with whom you can banter for hours, best friends in humor, forever. But summer is too disjointed and hot for this. People are more easily agitated, they are too busy road raging and sitting in air-conditioned rooms to work into an endorphin laughing fit. So, here I sit, writing one unfunny essay after another, trying to fulfill an arbitrary posting goal and coax at least one crooked smile from my husband as he scans it. Of remembering the good ol’ days of September through May in any given year, and of being stuck, waiting for the pool to open, for vacation to arrive, for camps to begin, sitting in a lounge chair with a criss-cross pattern of plastic weave imprinted in the backs of sunburned legs. Because summer is not funny.
It’s an incredible feeling to make someone smile, or laugh. But good humor, for me anyway, is conditional. It has to be just right, the proper ratio of ingredients: affable companions, absence of stress, excess of endorphins, good energy, lack of judgment. It does’t take much more than a negative nellie or a know-it-all, or a super-serious jerk, humor parasites who suck creativity wells dry, to leave those around them inspiration-less and depressed. Conversely, there are the muses who may not even say a word but simply being in the same room with them fills you with so much positivity and energy you feel you may explode with ideas, and happiness. I don’t know where the muses hide, but I know they don’t like the heat. Because summer makes people crabby.
And so it is, I’m stuck in a rut that is just as un-fun to experience as it is to be around. I find myself wanting to read political treatises and to complain, to analyze human nature and protest things, and to be nosy. I want to brood and to be serious. To be analytical and argumentative, and at times, shallow. This time of year is very stressful for the mercurial types, irrationally sensitive to seasonal changes and who wilt in heat and humidity, indeed not funny. And, not to sound crabby, but for some of us summer is a misery filled with bugs, body odor, and a panoply of chemicals, mildew, skinned elbows and knees, and incessant demands for play dates. Where is the joy? I do apologize if you are a summer lover. I’m not trying to spoil your sweaty adventures, I’m just not a fan. Because summer is stressful. And I’m all funnied out… until September.