the summer of my discontent

Throughout the northern hemisphere, the school buses are gassing up. Twentysomethings are putting away their cutoff shorts and Indian headdresses until next year’s Coachella. Bartenders are replacing their summer shandies with pumpkin beer and the Gap is stocking their shelves with another season’s worth of infinity scarves that will last all of four months until your cat eats one and you leave the other on the subway. Summer—the calendar and the thermostat aside—is over.

And I, for one, am celebrating.

Have I turned into a parody of myself yet? I hate hugging and chocolate ice cream and puppies and cartoons. And I hate summer.

I write this from my un-air-conditioned corporate apartment in Palo Alto, where instead of enjoying the drama and suspense of this episode of “Flip or Flop,” I am sweating from behind my knees. What kind of sadist builds an apartment complex in a city where it reaches 100 degrees without air conditioning? The same kind of sadist who builds a subway system that for several months out of the year is better described as the ninth circle of hell. Chlorofluorocarbons be damned, I want my air chilled and the backs of my knees dry.

“But it’s summer,” everyone says. “It’s light until nine o’clock! There are music festivals to attend! You can brunch on the patio! Wear shorts! Tan!”

Here are a few more things I hate: sunlight. Crowds. Day-drinking. Clothing that isn’t a muumuu. Did I mention sunlight?

Summer is the season when I feel even less dignified and cool than usual. (I do crossword puzzles for fun and I recently sent several important people at work a document that said “asses” instead of “assess,” so this is an achievement. On the scale from Urkel to Angelina Jolie, I hover somewhere near Katy Perry at the beginning of the “Last Friday Night” video.)

Nothing ruins my day like breaking into a sweat on my way to the train. Here is what happens every single day in summer: I break into a sweat on my way to the train. For the first six minutes of my walk, I think to myself how great it is that I’m not going to sweat today. It’s pleasant out this early! And then a minute before I reach the staircase, a single bead of sweat starts to drip down my back. At this point, I begin to consider turning around and going home. Who needs a job, anyway? Who needs basic human contact? But I work in an office with free food, so I climb the stairs and make my way to the platform, where as I stand in the sun the sweat that was one a single bead becomes a flowing stream. If California could harness the sweat of a million New Yorkers waiting on the subway platform for a train with a mind of its own, there would be no drought. Which is important, given that we’re in a state where they don’t give you air conditioning even though it’s a hundred degrees outside.

On the bright side, sweat is the great equalizer. Everyone looks ridiculous during summer. The only person who wins is the guy on the train who gave up and brought a sweat rag with him. You judge him until you realize that his mascara isn’t running because his bangs are dripping into his eyeballs.

What really does it for me is that summer makes me feel like a big loser. I can trace this back to the summer of 2002, the year that my best friend found new best friends and I spent the whole summer chasing after them on my bicycle while they made up inside jokes without me. The feeling of sunlight on my back PTSDs me back to age thirteen and all the sudden I’m struck by the burning desire for summer to just end so I can go back to algebra and ballet class and a ten o’clock bedtime instead of staying up until all hours waiting for someone, anyone to look at my BuddyProfile on AIM even though I know they won’t because they’re all having a sleepover without me. You know what doesn’t happen when it’s not summer? Sleepovers on a Tuesday.

It’s slightly less dire these days, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that watching everyone go on weekend trips to the Hamptons and Outside Lands didn’t tug that “everyone is having a sleepover without me” heartstring. Never mind that the idea of a weekend trip in the Hamptons gives me a migraine or that the number of people going to Outside Lands is significantly higher than the number of people that I’m comfortable being in a single location with. Also, I get mosquito bites if I go near an open window. Spending more than ten minutes exposed to the air pretty much guarantees that I’ll wake up the next morning with my ankles swollen to twice their size. I have basically bought stock in Benadryl.

This is why I like winter. In winter, you’re supposed to spend the whole day indoors, curled up on your couch with your own personal pot of coffee and a pile of novels. Radiator doesn’t work? Put on another pair of socks! You can’t get naked on the subway, but you can dress like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. This also means that nobody can tell whether you have a beer belly or you’re just wearing a sweater made from the fur of several alpacas. Who needs a bikini body when you can just wear five layers? Winter is also a great time of year to set new fashion trends, like sub-pants. Pants under your pants. See again: you can’t sweat off a layer of your skin, but if you buy your jeans big enough, you can fit a whole extra pair of thermal leggings underneath them.

In winter, I feel free to let my curmudgeon flag fly. Nobody is trying to get me to wait three hours for mimosa brunch on the patio with every other twentysomething in the West Village. Nobody is trying to convince me that waterskiing is something that would end in a scenario other than me face down in the water with my dignity trailing somewhere far behind me. “Going out” means piling into someone’s apartment with enough Chinese takeout for a small army and watching Mean Girls for the eighteenth time. My favorite theatrical event, the Super Bowl halftime show, takes place during winter, and so does my favorite holiday, the day Jesus was born so I would still have an excuse to ask my mother to buy me new underwear.

Every year, no day is sweeter than the day when I can finally stash my sunscreen and dig out my scarf collection. My coffee cart man will no longer give me the side-eye when I ask for large-black-no-sugar-HOT-NOT-ICED. With boots instead of sandals, I no longer have to fear contracting hookworm on the subway! (Ebola remains a threat. I have been on the L train recently, after all.) I can snuggle into the arms of whatever is most willing to receive me, my couch or the latest stranger I picked up from the Internet.

Happy Labor Day, readers. Let’s go buy ourselves some long johns and spike our hot chocolate. It’s time to hibernate.



  1. gretelingham says:

    Ditto on the scarf collection…


  2. I loved this….so. much. It touched me in places that also do not enjoy summer!


  3. Tom Hitt says:

    I’ll take this moment to “like” this twice. You are my new, vicarious city muse. ~TH~


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