Sunday Salon: Heat + heat + heat = more reading

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The Sunday Salon.com

This past month was a bit of a reading slump for me, something that seemed endemic across the blogosphere. It’s summer, and everyone’s going on vacation, working in their gardens, laying by the pool. There were just a lot more non-reading things going on. And then the heat struck.

We’ve had heat indexes in Indiana in the 115 range for the past week or so. I know in other parts of the country, this is just another July day. No big deal. I understand that in places like Florida and Arizona and Texas, you’re probably inclined to laugh at our heat advisories and call us pansies. That’s okay.

As a sociologist, I understand that weather, like everything else in the world, is socially constructed. What is hot? What is cold? Hot and cold are whatever you say they are. So for the person born and raised in Miami, a day that dips into the 40s is cold. For someone in Maine, it’s balmy. Weather is all about your expectations.

For example, when I lived in Mississippi, I didn’t complain about the heat. What would be the point? And who would listen? You’re living in Missisippi, for Christ’s sake. Of course it’s hot. Next topic. Where’s the coldest beer in town? (The answer in Jackson, Mississippi, used to be the Cherokee Drive-In)

When I lived in Mississippi, I was a college student, so perhaps there’s an additional explanatory variable there (i.e., college students will do many stupid and crazy things), but I lived in an upstairs apartment with no central air conditioning. We survived with window units, but not, folks, not a window unit in every room. I have no idea how we did that. I think perhaps the heat melted the brain cells responsible for storing the memory of what that must have felt like. And looking back, mainly I think, why was there a house in Jackson, Mississippi, without central air conditioning in the first place?

In the Jackson summers, we walked places. We got in the car and drove places. I think I actually did things like run and exercise. We went on about our lives. It was Mississippi, you see.

In southern Indiana, I have decided that it’s best not to leave the house. Exercising is out of the question. If the weeds in the yard and garden time it correctly, they’ll be able to live out their long lives with no interference from me, because I’m just not going out there. Because in southern Indiana, this is hot. You see how it’s socially constructed? Or maybe I’m just older. Whatever. I’m still not going outside.

At any rate, in southern Indiana right now, it is hot. And the heat advisory tells us explicitly, “Find a good book. Curl up on your couch. Make a cold mixed drink.” I wish that’s what heat advisories said. It is, nonetheless, what we are doing. And it’s kind of fitting, isn’t it? We’ve come full circle back to like, February, when curling up on the couch is also the wisest course of action.

I’m currently reading Girls Like Us, which is the story of Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Carole King and the women of their generation. It’s enjoyable, and really needs a soundtrack to go along with it. Also, In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming, a Rev. Clare Fergusson mystery. In the Bleak Midwinter is especially nice because, well, it’s set in the bleak midwinter. I’m sure there are studies which will tell you that reading about cold places helps keeps you cool, but I’m too lazy to look those up. Also, everything’s socially constructed, so it has to be true.

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Comments

  1. I just lived it, sister! A whole week of it in fact. I'm sitting here now in long pants and long sleeves with a blankie. It's cool and 69 degrees – Ahhh!!!! I think we're getting it back next week though.

  2. Too true! It's been in triple digits up here in MA for the last week, but unlike most people in MS, most people here do NOT have central a/c. And that old yankee frugality makes them want to not install their window units even when they have them.

    Carla's been telling me about the Spencer-Fleming series for a while now and one of these days I'll actually read one of them.

    Another book that (for me at least) offers a good escape from the heat is Russian Winter, which is out in paperback now.

  3. Great observation about the heat! But, if you're uncomfortable with the way it, complain away! I am a true heat wuss since I live in southern California, on the beach. We get too much fog and the ocean usually keeps us below 80 degrees. I hope it gets better for you soon!

  4. 115 is stinking hot for everyone from Maine to FL– even in India! I have it too. Belle–69 degrees and wearing pants? I can't even fathom it.

  5. I was just talking to a friend about the relative perception of heat. :). I was complaining because it was 85. Poor me. 😉

  6. Funny – I am reading a book called Girls Like Us as well , but not the same as yours.

    Mine is by Rachel Lloyd and it is about girls surviving in tough situations.

  7. It's been hot as hell here in Teas too.

    My neighbors spend the late afternoons outside, commiserating, watching hteir kids ride bikes, and I'm the block hermit. I've never been one to take the heat unless I have to, and right now I don't have to.

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