Hot Enough For You?, by Elayne Riggs
With any luck, this morning the heat wave that has gripped New York since last weekend will have finally broken.
I’ve never cared for extremes of temperature, but all in all I’m much better equipped to deal with winter than with summer. Winter has its hazards — for instance, our apartment is situated among a row of houses recessed from the main street with a long U-shaped gravel driveway between our stairs and the street itself, and when it ices over there’s never a clear pathway to walk to the street, so unless I drive I’m pretty much trapped in the house. But that generally happens for only a few days, and most of the time I’m more concerned with layering. Which seems to be a lot easier for a person like me with, shall we say, natural padding.
Summer’s a whole different ballgame, though. It’s pretty easy to layer on clothing when you’re cold; it’s a lot harder to strip it off when you’re warm. Leaving aside societal proprieties and whether or not it’s fair or just for topless men to be acceptable but topless women to be verboten (my opinion: as long as women taking off their tops elicits a reaction of "look, boobies!" from the minds of most onlookers, I continue to agree with the status quo here), the fact remains that most of us can’t strip past our skin, y’know? And it’s more and more dangerous to leave skin exposed for long periods of time. SPF one thousand, anyone?
By the way, you do know that once you get past SPF 30 your additional so-called protection from UV rays is negligible at best? And that there are tons of assertions that sunscreen is actually bad for you and even carcinogenic? (Oh, the fun things you find out about when you set out to write about heat waves! That’s at least two articles I now wish I’d never read!)
Not that I enjoy spending time in the sun any more. Being fair-skinned I know I’ve always burned easily, although I also remember tanning in my, you should pardon the expression, dim dark past, when I spent a lot of my summertime outdoors working as a day camp counselor. I still romanticize those days, and imagine what my life would be like if I made my living outdoors.
I would guess that farmers, construction workers and the like don’t really notice summer heat that much until it becomes really oppressive. I mean, the human body has limits, and I think it being hotter outside your body than inside it is probably one of them.
Nowadays, I eschew the beach altogether. This is a very weird thing for a girl who grew up in New Jersey. When school let out and day camp hadn’t yet started and you wanted to do something, anything interesting, you either went to the malls or you went Down The Shore. In my youth, society wasn’t nearly as hypercapitalist as it is now and malls were still fairly new — Woodbridge Center had just opened in ’71 — but the beaches were plentiful, with their arcades (I became something of a Crazy Climber fanatic in my summer years between college and moving to New York) and relatively clean Atlantic salt water. And sand. Way too much sand.
I make fun of the beach at Brighton in England ’cause it just ain’t natural not to have sand, but that doesn’t mean I like the stuff itself. Gets in everything, including food and places on your body where you didn’t even know there were places. Speaking of which, it also wasn’t terribly much fun to be accosted with fatphobia whenever I decided to forgo the towel and stride down to the water. So that became not really a fun thing to do, real quickly. That said, when I lived in Brooklyn I adored going to Coney Island. Never in a bathing suit, never to actually swim there, but I still adore the smell of the ocean.
Now that I’m living where everything’s a long bus ride or car trip away, and that’s after the 24 steps down to street level, I’d just as soon stay home, especially during heat waves. I think many people in our sun-worshipping culture often underestimate the intense damage excessive heat can do. I was out in 90-plus degree weather on Monday (in an interview suit, no less) for maybe ten minutes and I felt like fainting. For a lot of folks it sneaks up on you, then suddenly you’re dizzy and thirsty and you have no idea how you got dehydrated so quickly.
Even when you’re indoors, particularly if you have air conditioning, you have to stay hydrated in weather like this — AC not only cools but it keeps things dry, including your body. And you really have to watch out for the most vulnerable, like pets and the elderly. I know that older people might feel the cold more bitterly and that’s why so many of them snowbird or live in milder climates, but there’s mild and then there’s Come On, Now!
And you just don’t feel like doing anything when the heat is so horrid. I wrote this column in between watching a Judy Garland movie marathon (she would have been 86 yesterday). Anything else requiring concentrated brainpower just seemed too much. You begin to understand why some hot countries simply shut down in the midday sun, why it makes more sense to move in the desert at night (hey, that’s why Vegas has so many neon lights!).
So I have no real ending to this column. It’s just too hot to think of one. And do you know, projecting forward, by August it’ll be like 800 degrees? But maybe it’ll be a dry heat.
Elayne Riggs blogs at Pen-Elayne on the Web, where her MoCCA 2008 pictures have just been posted. Illustration by Robin Riggs.
This past weekend I was at a college reunion at Swarthmore (in PA near Philly) and staying in a dorm without air conditioning. At least I brought the same fan I used way back then, but it was still not easy sleeping. I tried to spend a good portion of the time in the shade while outside but the back of my neck and ears got burned. All in all even though the weather wasn't pleasant I had a great time.When getting into the car Monday evening to go home the outside temperature reading on my car was 100. Yesterday it was only 99. When I arrived home yesterday, the air conditioning on the first floor and basement was working, but on the second floor it had stopped at some point and was at least 85 degrees inside. I had to get the house fan out to try to help cool out that floor. After I opened the thermostat and blew on a cobweb inside it, somehow it started the heat pump back up again and I was able to get the temperature down to 80 last night.Monday night Alan had a baseball game at 8:30 and it was still steaming. In addition the mosquitoes were very active. Tonight he has a game at 6:15, but it is supposed to be only in the high 80s today."And do you know, projecting forward, by August it'll be like 800 degrees? But maybe it'll be a dry heat." Colbert used a similar joke Monday evening at the Daily Show end tag as if the heat market was like that of oil prices, while Jon Stewart tried to explain it doesn't work that way.Neil
Yeah, we saw the Colbert line. Robin immediately said, "Hey, he stole my bit!" We've been mocking the "projecting forward" mentality for years at the Riggs Residence.
"My opinion: as long as women taking off their tops elicits a reaction of "look, boobies!" from the minds of most onlookers, I continue to agree with the status quo here."I understand that. However, the reason why people react with ""look, boobies!" is because boobies have been the forbidden fruit. Every couple of years, particularly during weather like we're having right now in the Atlantic Northeast, some feminists get together in groups and go topless for equality — usually on buses and subways. It's the right idea if you want to achieve egalitarian chestal freedom. Before World War I men weren't allowed to go topless on the beach, and many still didn't until the 50s.Problem is, some people — women and men — don't want to demystify boobies. We can't have it both ways. Either boobies are objects of awe, or they're body parts. Personally, I don't fully comprehend this whole clothes thing, although "deodorant" is a concept all should embrace. I think most nudity to any degree substantially beyond what we currently consider kosher will be greeted not with awe, amazement or lust… but with "Oh, yick."
I don't think the "forbidden fruit" aspect is the only reason prurient interest is piqued when women remove their tops. I think it's mostly modern advertisement. As long as "sex sells" we're going to be socially hard-wired to think differently of male and female chests.
Depends upon your predilection.
Reminded of a tune that Robert Crumb and I retrieved via the Wayback Machine for our first "R. Crumb Comix" stage revue: "When it gets too hot for comfort and you can't get ice-cream cones — 'Tain't no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones." (Lyric, Walter Donaldson; melody, Edgar Leslie; 1929.) Or "daynce around," as we tend to renunciate it down here in the too-sunny Southland.No kin to Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre," although it might as well be.
The Tyranny of Clothing. Just as heavy firepower is the great equalizer when it comes to physical combat. Clothing is the great equalizer when it comes to physical beauty. As a general rule, most people are better looking with their clothes on. I know I am. It's not just a matter of modesty or personal protection, it's a question of aesthetics. Clothing is "deodorant for the eyes" and a concept that all should embrace. Clothing makes the concepts of physical beauty, sexual availability and attractiveness a bit more secondary. It allows people to focus on more important issues, like making correct change at the drive through window.Society has determined that women's breasts are erogenous no-fly zones. It's poor manners to stare. And it's grossly offensive or battery to grope without permission. American Society (and others) have an unwritten code (and in some cases written laws) that the fewer clothes a woman wears, the more sexually available they are. I'm not saying that this is the truth. I'm not saying that this is fair. I am saying that women who want to look sexually attractive are encouraged to show more and wear less. Women who want to appear demure are encouraged to cover up. That's the game. Them's the rules. I didn't make up the rules and I'm not enforcing them.Do I think women should be allowed to go topless wherever it is legally and socially acceptable for men to be topless? Yes. Would I encourage my daughters to do that? No. If they were in the south of France and were at a topless beach would I be OK with my daughter going topless? Sure. Because Nice girls do that there. (It's a pun. And puns that you explain, are they really all that funny?) It's a question of context. Where and when you show your body has a lot to do with what message you are trying to convey. Even if the message you want to send is just, "Oh my GOD! It is so HOT! I just NEED to take off my top," the message you send in the good old USA is, "HEY! Look, boobies!"Take a look at the debate (that yes, I started) about the naked girl on page one of "The White Viper." What is the message that the authors intend to send? Is it, "Here is a woman who is very at ease and in tune with nature," is this integral to the character or plot development? Or is the intended message simply, "HEY! Look, boobies!"? Part of my problem is that there is NO context for the girls nakedness. We don't know who she is, where she is, what she is doing or why she is getting naked. It's all left open to my prurient interests and base imagination. Whose at fault for that, me, the authors or society?http://www.comicmix.com/comic/comicmix/white-vipe…Again, if clothing is the great equalizer, bras are the GREATEST of weapons. They minimize. They maximize. They conceal. They enhance. They are a wondrous and wonderful blend of fashion and engineering. They help maintain a woman's body against the ravages of time and gravity. I'm waxing poetic, like a booby crazed fetishist. Maybe I am one. I'm a product of the society where I was raised.