I am not one to complain about summer. We get so little of it that I took a vow, some years back, never to bemoan the heat, the humidity, the roadwork, etc. Instead, I allow myself utter impunity for complaining as much as I want about the cold weather. And I do, from November through May. By then, summer is more or less here and I am my normal, sanguine self.
So—what follows below is not a series of complaints at all. In an attempt to clear the mosquito-filled air, it is simply an earnest analysis and debunking of eight persistent summer myths.
For example, people say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. They’re wrong. It is the heat. In the winter we don’t say, “It’s not the cold, it’s the humidity.” We just say it’s too damn cold. Which is true. So when you’re sitting on hard, backless bleachers watching your nephew’s Little League game, I urge you not to feel compelled to qualify or excuse your discomfort. You’ve earned the right to say it: It’s too damn hot.
You also hear people say grilling is easy and fun. Fun for whom, I wonder? Fun for the person not doing the grilling? There is also the related myth that you can cook everything on the grill. Not true, mon frère! You can’t cook turkey burgers on the grill. You can cook fennel on the grill, but it won’t be edible. Everybody makes a big to-do about grilling fruit, but who wants a slice of pineapple that tastes like last night’s Angus steak? I don’t know. Maybe I should clean the grill more. But that’s definitely not easy and fun.
Since I spend a lot of time opening and closing the screen door at dusk in order to have fun at my grill, I worry constantly about bats getting in the house. That’s because a lot of bats have gotten into the house and it’s always fairly traumatic for everyone involved. So here is another myth to debunk: Bats are our friends. To believe that requires a radical re-definition of the concept of friendship. I mean, OK, bats eat the bugs and that’s good. But my friends, generally speaking, don’t careen around my house at top speed making scary noises. Nor do I chase them around waving a tennis racket and keening in fear.
Related, tangentially, to bats and grilling is the myth that alfresco dining is wonderful. I’d be more inclined to believe that if a raccoon hadn’t climbed up to sit next to me at the table where we were eating lobster by candlelight. I’d be more inclined to believe that if the bugs, which the bats aren’t eating because we had the house bat-proofed last summer, were not feasting on my flesh when we sit on the patio with our citronella candles and our grilled fruit.
On the other hand, it’s air-conditioned! This isn’t always a good thing, either. What “it’s air-conditioned!” means is that you need to bring a sweater. When your feet start freezing because you didn’t also bring a pair of woolly socks, you’re just plain out of luck. I was at a doctor’s appointment a week ago—with neither socks nor sweater and draped, merely, in the paper sheet—and my lips went blue.
Like grilling, some people will tell you that gardens are easy and fun. Again, for whom? Gardens are filled with dirt. And worms. And little crawly bugs whose names I don’t know and don’t wish to know. On top of that, you have to weed them. And water them. And then hope that your squash blossoms actually do turn into squash (mine never have). There’s an easy alternative to the easy-and-fun garden: Farmer’s markets.
I have a friend who, each summer, tells the same joke: Q: Why are you never hungry when you are at the beach? A: Because of all the sand which is there. And that’s the last myth to be addressed, that it’s fun to spend a day at the beach. It’s kind of fun to spend a day at the beach. But there is this big drawback: you have to lug all your junk there. The boogie boards, the sun block, the beach towels, the beach blanket, the beach umbrella, the cooler with the sandwiches, the summer reading (Oh, don’t get me started on summer reading. Why should people read brain candy during the summer?) and the water bottles. And then, at the end of the day, when you are sand-crusted and sunburned, you have to lug it all back to your car.
Having said all this, you might think I’m a summer curmudgeon, a sweaty misanthrope, a cardiganed complainer. But you would be wrong. Because I love summer. I do. I just think we ought to recognize that it’s not Valhalla. It’s a season. It’s my favorite season. Honest, it is.