Ugh. Heat. Oppressive. Can. Barely. Type.
No, seriously, folks… it is hotter than all blue blazes here in South Cackalackey. For the last few days we have enjoyed, along with most of the rest of the country, temperatures around 100 degrees and a heat index (a concept I will NEVER understand) up around 110 degrees. But despite all the sweating and the high electric bills and whatnot I am insanely grateful that I live in the deep South. (Wait… let me file that sentence under “things I never thought I’d type.”)
Why the gratitude? Simply put, it may be hotter than a 14 y.o. boy’s drawers at a Pussycat Dolls concert, but dammit we’re prepared!
Unlike many of those silly Yankees, we believe that air conditioning is not a luxury item; it is a basic component of survival like water, oxygen, and liquor. Decades of this kind of heat have taught us that if you are building a home and you can’t afford interior walls and air conditioning… yep, you go with the AC. Because privacy doesn’t really matter much in that kind of heat- everyone will be laying around in their underwear anyway. 99.9% of public places in SC have air conditioning. In the South, you are in danger of melting walking between your home and your car, then your car and the building you’re going into. But that sweet, sweet sound of the low steady hum of AC is never more than a parking lot’s distance away.
Southerners have picked up a lot of other ways to cope with the heat, too. You won’t find us standing around on street corners (hello? streets= asphalt= hotter-than-the sun!) on a sweltering day. We have learned the value of lawns, porches, and buildings with more than 3 inches of daylight between them. (Well, that last one doesn’t apply in Charleston, but they’ve got an entire ocean at their back door to compensate.) We figured out long ago, even before AC, that a porch and a fan and some moving air beats the grimey funk of a hot city street. I think that’s how sweaty can still kind of be sexy down South. At least we smell like grass and not diesel fuel. We live a little more spread out too, even in the urban areas. None of this summertime blackout business for us; because unlike NYC, we know better than to try to cram 6,000 people into two city blocks.
And let’s talk about clothing… another department in which Southerners are much better equipped for the heat. You remember that old rule about white shoes? Never before Memorial Day or after Labor Day? Well, we wear white shoes year round now. But we’ve managed to put a new twist on the old rule. Most women I know avoid closed-toe shoes and pantyhose like the plague from about May to September. And might I point out that Southern men have been taking advantage of the airy breezy goodness of linen and seersucker suits for many years? Stuffy non-Southerners can say whatever they want about us being too casual, but y’all can kiss our collective behind. We might be bare-legged and in a ponytail, but we’re sweating less than you are and we still say “yes, ma’am.” (Oh, and our thighs won’t be chafed come September because our mothers taught us that a little dusting powder triumphs over sweaty body parts.)
Even our food is better for the heat. We’ve got the lock on really good cold dishes and beverages. For instance, many people in Columbia subsist largely on sweet tea and chicken salad in the summer months and we’ve surely got the market cornered on mint juleps and icebox cakes. You know, the mint juleps just brought up another good point. Drinking figures largely in Southern summertime traditions and I think this is pure genius. Not only does a nice cold beverage refresh you and cool you down, but after two of three rounds you can see a marked decrease in everyone’s heat-induced edginess.
So despite the Republicans and Jesus bumper stickers on every vehicle, I’ll gladly take the South in a heat wave. "Global" warming, my ass! We've been sweating it out for decades! There's a reason we talk slow... we've learned how to keep body heat to a minimum.