It’s not even astrological summer yet. But, as always in the weeks leading up to the summer solstice, the denizens of the Washington area are already sporting sunglasses, sandals, and flip-flops. (For that last one, oh god no, can we please restrict flip-flops to the swimming pools, please?) There are varying stages of undress: some are vulgar, depending on who you’re talking to. We take shelter in our air-conditioned abodes, but every morning, it’s straight into our air-conditioned cars, then a quick run into our air-conditioned offices, only to do the reverse every evening. And all of this is to avoid the stifling air that makes it hard to breathe, and that awful stickiness, that quintessential DC area summer ‘mugginess’ the weathermen seem all too keen to report with their Cheshire smiles, night after night on the evening news.
Anyone who says that the sun and summer weather in DC increases productivity is wrong. And Music in Notes is not immune to this heat either: I’ll be the first to admit that when the mercury hits over 80 degrees and I feel like I’m melting, the last thing I want to do is tax my brain for some serious contemplation inside a stuffy room with a computer. (Sorry. This is why last week there was no analysis on Tuesday. But I’ve got one for this week, so hang tight for that tomorrow. I just wanted to explain the extenuating circumstances, in case there are further gaps in the coming weeks.)
But the DC heat is something that I have gotten used over the years. You had to. I’ve known it since I was a child. I’ve never taken heat well and every time summer approaches, I’ve dreaded it. I always had trouble sleeping when it was hot outside. And then the summer dresses would come out. As someone who grew up with legs that her aunt would jokingly make fun of, for all the medically-induced scars I have, I’ve always hated summer. (I guess she was joking? But when you’re a kid, you take those kinds of things to heart.) I’ve also always been really sensitive to the sun. So when other kids were outside playing, I was both covered up with an embarrassing sun hat and stuck with slathering sunblock on. Trust me, both things make you real popular in school. (I’m being sarcastic. Kids are cruel.)
Oddly though, things feel different this year. Sure, the heat is terrible. Regardless of how far back I cut my hair in advance of the season, I still get a heat rash on the back of my neck where it seems my dark hair focuses in all available daylight. I’m still wearing some kind of hat when I’m out and about, and with all the sunblock I put on my face in the morning, I still look like I’m auditioning for Casper when I leave the house. But I take it in stride. It no longer seems to matter as much.
I feel different too. I no longer look up at the sun and get angry because I have to spend precious time every morning to shield myself from his rays. And I certainly no longer wave my fist at him for so freely shining his benevolent light over another while I was suffering in bitter torment, completely unable to ever enjoy a sunny day. A couple weeks ago, for what felt like the first time in years, I looked up into the sky and saw it for what it was: the perfect blue sky, the fluffy clouds, they were all beautiful. I almost cried. It was the most freeing feeling I’d had in years.
At first, I thought this was all the doing of one person. I met him a couple weeks ago, on somewhat of a last minute whim. I tried to think of how exactly I would thank him for the colours he’d brought into my life, when through my sorrow, I had become hard and unyielding, and all I could see at the time was black and white. But as the days went on, I came to realise the way I looked at the world had shifted, and I couldn’t give him all the credit.
He certainly played an important role: he reminded me of who I am. The intelligent, remarkable woman who had always existed but I’d failed to recognise while I had been in darkness. But I had already begun to change before I met him. I just hadn’t noticed.
I’m always going to hate DC summers: the way I feel like I’m a fish out of water, gasping for air; when clothes cling to my skin like limpets for at least 3 full months of the year; how I’m constantly wiping sweat off my forehead and taking showers too often because my hair feels like it weighs 2 tons from the humidity. But there’s a difference now. I no longer look at those summer dresses and skirts in the shops, discouraged, not bothering to try them on while saying to myself, “they’re meant for someone else. Someone skinnier, someone prettier.” No.
There is a perfect line in one of my favourite comedy films of all time, Keeping the Faith: “Sometimes we don’t see certain things until we’re ready to see them.”
I can wear summer dresses now. And for what seems like the first time in my life, I feel beautiful.