If my body is a buffet, summer is the server who rips the metal covers off the roast beef and the scalloped potatoes so that the hordes can start feeding. And feed they do, mosquitoes and ants and for all I know spiders. (I’m never sure which tiny glutton has made off with the most of me.)A bite on my ankle recently grew so large and Vesuvian that I had to go to the dermatologist to make sure it wasn’t deadly.
“What’s this?” she gasped, and the scariest part was that she was looking at something else, on my back. There she discovered a sizable carcinoma, for which summer — not the current one, but all the punishingly sunny ones past — can also be thanked.
The calendar says that the season doesn’t officially begin for another two and a half weeks, but it functionally started on Memorial Day weekend. Not long after, the temperature in New York City hit 90 degrees on two afternoons in a row. If that’s a mere prologue to summer, please speed me to the index. The sweat-stained pages in between promise to be unbearable.
Then again they usually are, all the more so because of the forced cheer. With fireworks and Ferris wheels, watermelon and water parks, we’re constantly being exhorted to wring summer for all it’s worth. No other season matches it for meteorological bullying.
“Are you ready for summer?” “Any special plans for the summer?” Unlike fall or spring, summer is always getting italics like that. I want to meet its publicist.
Because I have questions. Why, year after year, do magazines yammer on and on about what the song of the summer will be, as if it’s a coronation with actual consequence? Winter doesn’t have a song. If it did, it sure wouldn’t be sung by the preternaturally peppy likes of Katy Perry.
Does summer have to be so grammatically piggy, a vain noun with adjectival delusions? Summer vacation. Summer rental. Summer stage. Summer stock. Summer lover. Summer fling. Summer nights. Summer breeze.
And summer movies, God help us, which are a dopey and clangorous breed apart. If they’re not sequels, they’re sequels to sequels or reboots of franchises I thought we’d booted to the curb long ago. In May alone we had our third “Hangover” and our third “Iron Man,” and we were “Fast & Furious” for a sixth time. The “Man of Steel” is en route, with “The Lone Ranger” and “The Wolverine” fast on his airborne heels. Summer is rush hour for superheroes.
Speaking of which, did you know that traffic fatalities go up markedly in summer? The murder rate rises, too. It’s a mean season, even leaving the sun to the side. People drown, are struck by lightning and wear seersucker. I realize that the last item doesn’t really fit with the previous two, but it’s another potent argument against summer, and I had to put it in somewhere.
Perhaps my summer sourness is a function of aging, by which I mean my own, not the earth’s. Summer works best for the young. When you’re on the far side of 45, you and almost everyone you know looks appreciably better in a parka than in a tank top, and the sentence “I’d like to see more of you” concerns frequency, not swimsuits and open-toed shoes.
Or maybe I’m reacting to climate change and to the chilling prospect, or rather the blistering one, that an intolerable season could become a quasi-permanent one.
In a sonnet that assessed summer, Shakespeare acknowledged, “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines.” That was more than 400 years ago, so I’ll update the line in accordance with global warming and modern commerce: “Always doth I feel like a French fry under a McDonald’s heat lamp.”That sentiment holds true already from late May through early September. What if the period grows longer, to five or six or even seven months of the year? I don’t have that many sandals, and I can’t imagine that many bug bites.
My dermatologist biopsied the Vesuvian one, only to determine that it would eventually shrink if I stopped scratching it, for which she gave me an ointment that has proved completely useless.
For the carcinoma, I’ll get surgery and a bevy of stitches. And then, I’m told, all will be well, except that one carcinoma often presages others, especially for those of us whose pale skin and delicate natures aren’t suited to a brutal season of excessive heat and extravagant light. My body isn’t just a buffet. It’s a skin-cancer farm, and summer its fertilizer.
I asked her what I should do about that.
“Wear hats,” she said. “Cover up. Stay out of the sun.”In winter, that would be a cinch. In summer, it’s no breeze.