Monday, July 21, 2008

Summertime, Good and Bad

Rachel Shukert has never liked summer.

Summer meant sweaty thighs sticking to plastic chairs and getting diaper rash, long after you had stopped wearing diapers. It meant waiting around at barbecues to scarf down a still-cold hot dog that tasted of freezer burn and lighter fluid. Worst of all, summer meant camp, where I would be required to live, play and shower with other children. I would be forced to sit atop an elderly horse as it plodded down a well-worn trail, stopping whenever a horse ahead paused to release a cascade of feces that hit the hard-packed dirt with a warm plop. It meant bleach burns in the arts and crafts shed, and being made to sing Zionist folk songs at dinner.

The word on the street is that people like summer. They welcome the chance to relax, to consume alarming amounts of melon and engage in casual sex acts beneath a starry sky. I can appreciate this on an intellectual level, but the inability to enjoy these kinds of simple pleasures has persisted throughout my life, and something about the summer months throws my general malaise into painful relief. The constant burden of forced merriment -- the sense that you should be out somewhere, anywhere, taking advantage of it all, like Gidget or the Kennedys, weighs heavily on me.

This surprises me a bit, coming from a woman born and raised in Omaha. I tend to agree with fellow area denizens James Lileks and Garrison Keillor, who look more favorably upon summer, miserable though it can be, because winter is usually so long and cold. It often seems that people here feel they must store up summer heat like bears fatten up in order to get through the winter.

I'm not a big outdoor person, but I enjoy the reduced logistics of summer - less clothing, no need to warm up the car, sunburn and heat stroke easier to manage than frostbite and hypothermia. In general, summer is just less burdensome.

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