Part of being from the South is being at least somewhat adept at dealing with a true Southern summer, although many people claim that it’s not the heat that does you in, “it’s the humidity.” Maybe it’s not about being adept, it’s just accepting your fate gracefully for three months. July has settled over us and walking outside after eleven in the morning means walking into a steamy wet towel that will wrap itself around you with a drippy embrace from hell.
You know you live in a hot place in the US when you go to India in August and the best way to describe the weather in comparison to your hometown is “refreshing.”
I was assigned once to write an article for a women’s magazine on how to look nice in hot humid weather. The list of interviewees included a couple of pageant queens who have to smile and wave at fairs and 4H contests all year, and a local news reporter whose job involves being outside a lot. Most of their advice included the sorts of makeup that doesn’t melt off your face if you happen to be sweating like a Derby thoroughbred in 97 degree weather. Honestly, in the summer I am willing to admit defeat on the facial front. Yes, I realize my mascara is forming a black tear on my left cheek. No, I’m actually not wearing blush today. And yes, I’m aware that my eyeshadow is pooling just under my nose.
Southern summers are about becoming one with your iced tea pitcher. I have made two batches a week for the last two months, experimenting with flavors like black currant and lime mint. Sometimes you can pick out the glimmer of a sun tea jug on the back patio, pekoe leaves soaking up the rays in their tannin bath. Southern tea is the best. My mother’s family hails from the northeast and bless your hearts, you northern folks can’t make a decent pitcher of tea to save your lives.
One of my favorite books is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking bird. And one of my favorite lines from that book: “Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft tea-cakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.” Doesn’t that sound genteel? I’d like to be a frosted soft tea-cake instead of a panting sloth covered in a thick film of sunscreen and perspiration.