I can stand the heat. I can stand the sun, even though I am terrified that my nightly and as-yet-ineffective Retin-A applications are making me so sun-sensitive I am going to burn my face off. Bring on the humidity, and the long, languorous days of mid-summer—this is my season. I’ll bitch all winter about the ice and snow and cold, but summer is my time.
The days are longer, everyone’s more laid-back, it’s the perfect time to get everything done that you didn’t get done the rest of the year. Forget New Year’s resolutions, I make summer resolutions. And like all resolutions, come mid-July, I break them. What is it about summer that makes us so ambitious to live fully and healthfully? What is it about summer that makes it nearly impossible to follow through on those ambitions? I have it on good word that everyone you know made the following vows in late May, and everyone you know is now eating their words.
1. Get outside and exercise in the fresh summer air!
I spent the entire winter claiming I couldn’t go running because of BLACK ICE. Even when it was 45 degrees and sunny, I convinced myself black ice was a real peril and I should probably just stick with Gilmore Girls, which exercises a different kind of muscle (YOUR HEART).
When summer arrives, we imagine we’ll be up at dawn doing sunrise yoga. Or we’ll at least take a brisk walk every night after dinner—hell, it’s still light out! What we forget is the days may be longer, but we are equally tired. And of course, now it’s just too hot out there and we wouldn’t want to get dehydrated. Better do some gentle stretching on the couch.
2. Eat only fresh, garden-grown fruits and vegetables!
It’s summer! We’re going to grow our own lettuce! We’re going to pick our own strawberries and stop at farm stands and buy interesting vegetables like green cauliflower and then we are going to go home and make a delicious gratin from it!
If there is a not a pile of fresh vegetables rotting at the bottom of your refrigerator, you’re a far nobler woman than I.
3. Wear that long flowing muumuu-like thing that might be elegant or might be hideous, you aren’t sure.
I have a closetful of clothes that I theoretically wear in summer. They include a rockabilly-ish sundress printed with cherries, a looooooong wrinkly-on-purpose maxi-dressish thing that you can tie into a knot so it’s a cinch to throw in your bag for a weekend getaway, a yellow-and-white gingham shift from a thrift store that is so Peggy Olson Does Rehoboth you can’t stand it.
I have worn none of these theoretically perfect summer frocks in about a decade. I have worn the same three jersey sundresses every day since June 1.
4. Really get back to reading!
There’s nothing on TV, even 60 Minutes is reruns, so now is when you are going to read all the books you didn’t have time to read over the winter. You’re going to have Screenless Saturdays when the whole family will spend an hour reading together! Reading actual books!
Have you seen UnREAL on Lifetime? The show that’s about the behind-the-scenes madness of a reality show not unlike The Bachelor? Does “reading” Twitter count?
5. Make sun tea!
Also cold-brew coffee and watermelon agua fresca. We’re going to drink homemade refreshing beverages because it’s summer and that’s who we are, we are suddenly people who have time to wait a day for the iced tea to steep in the sun. Ha! We are also people with ready access to Crystal Light!
6. Wear so much sunscreen we’ll look like we summered at the bottom of a well!
Self-tanner is a miracle, and in the early days of summer, I use it and SPF 85 religiously. But then there are those warm, breezy days, and maybe you’re at the beach or a cookout, and you just showered and you don’t want to slather yourself in Coppertone right this very second, and the next thing you know, you are so scorched and you look like you were roasted on a spit.
7. Go to that outdoor movie/swing lesson/jazz concert/other fun summery thing adults do at night under the stars!
I believe the sheer volume of things that most cities and towns have going on in the summer months can bring on a kind of paralysis. There are so many outdoor events—so many of them free, which makes it more shameful—going on in summer that one would be a fool to stay inside in the yucky air conditioning and reorganize her closet!
I have put more obscure folk musicians’ free concerts in the park on my calendar than I care to admit, and I have attended precisely zero of said concerts. There are a ton of ways you could in theory “Lead Your Best Life” in summer, that you could be the sort of person who strings tiny lantern lights across the backyard and throws an impromptu barbecue. But the best way to spend your summer is actually doing whatever you really want to do. The sunscreen, however, is really non-negotiable.