I just counted, and I have lived through 25 summers in New York City. Despite volumes of experience, I have never learned to handle it. The only other area in my life where I've shown this kind of zero facility was 10th grade Geometry. Theorems? I still don't know.
My summer problem is particularly acute because I really find the heat tough to take, but also because for three months every year I feel like a pariah. Struggling with summer is like being allergic to chocolate or hating puppies. Like being anti-snack. It is an unpopular position. Everyone says, "Yay! It's the summer!" and I think, "only 93 more days until I can wear socks."
I want to be clear: the issue is mostly a NYC+Summer equation. I've rarely if ever complained about the heat in any of the following locations:
• Maine by the lake
• The Caribbean
• Europe (okay, when I backpacked, but only then)
• Anyone's country house, especially if there is a pool.
• Cold places.
But I don't live there. I live in Brooklyn, New York, where everything is artisanal except for the heat, which is oppressive, stinky, and NOT single-source if you know what I mean.
The city in the summer is a special case. If you have ever spent more than 30 seconds on a subway platform during rush hour in August, you will know of what I speak. I once got stuck waiting for a train at Times Square at 5 p.m. during a heat wave and thought of the iconic song lyric If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere and decided... I can't make it.
Because I am pro-personal growth, every May I design some new strategy for the approaching Hades of it all: Outfits designed to maximize comfort and cool. More weekends away. A commitment to remembering those without air-conditioning. But it never lasts. By the first time Eyewitness News uses the dreaded HHH acronym, I've got a new outfit and old issues.
My Top Ten Summer Problems in the City
1. Tall man next to me on the subway, my nose is in your armpit. Can you express your commitment to the environment in some way other than using a deodorant crystal?
2. (TM and I are standing so close because a homeless gentleman has moved into half of the subway car, squeezing everyone else to one side. Literally, he is using an egg crate as a side table. He has the same furniture I had in college.)*
3. Even after $17 of product, my hair mostly looks like a dandelion.
4. Sticky thighs.
5. I smell nothing but urine. Even when I am no longer outside, I smell urine.
6. Sweat is running down my face but I am afraid to wipe it away with my fingers, which appear covered in dirt even though I have touched NOTHING.
7. Wet butt.
8. Someone has convinced me to eat at a sidewalk café, that summer activity that people find "charming." I find that the cement radiates dirty heat, personal space no longer exists, and the ranch dressing has turned. **
9. My spaghetti-strapped sundress, which is adorable but meant for someone with smaller boobs, or perhaps a better attitude, just blew up in the air, revealing my underwear chosen only for "breathability." ***
10. What is that on my foot? WHAT IS THAT ON MY FOOT????
*By the way, a totally smart strategy. Very solid AC.
**I have no idea how they got me to say yes. But someone always does.
***A word about sundresses: No woman who has to wear an underwire bra ever feels free and glorious in a tiny sundress walking down a NYC street in 93 degrees. It may look cute, but in truth we're thinking about numbers 4, 7, and probably 10.
So what's the point of all this? I expect no sympathy, of course. (See chocolate, puppies, snack.) And I know none of you, as accomplished and mature and summer-skilled as you are, can actually keep me cool. So perhaps this is, in the end, a kind of good-for-always mea culpa to New York, the city I love:
Dear New York,
I am sorry I yelled at you (for three months). I am sorry I flirted with the suburbs. I am sorry I talked about the livability of, well, everywhere else while rolling my eyes at you.
And when the winter comes, I will have your back. When someone groans about stepping in a black puddle of dirty sleet impossible for the human eye to see, I will defend you. When the subways are overheated to the point that it feels like you are being slowly suffocated by a stained sleeping bag, you will have my support. And when it is February and the citizens of New York are so ashen that we look like someone has put the world's worst Instagram filter on each and every one of us, I will stand by you.
As I look for tropical getaways on the Internet.