Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Cat Days of Summer

It's much too hot, indoors and out. Even with two elderly, inadequate air conditioners running 24/7, it's muggy in our apartment. (At least they have high energy-efficiency ratings, so I don't feel too guilty.)

Oh, for the days of hot cocoa, cashmere socks, turtlenecks, and flannel sheets. I have an arsenal of things to help me stay warm, but the only remedies for hot weather are cold air and liquids. There are only so many tepid showers one can take, and just so many cool drinks one can sip. Aside from that, I look forward to the stronger air conditioning in our car, and escape to bookstores and other shops for their more extravagant, wasteful, delightful AC.

How did women survive in the days of multiple long petticoats, corsets, knitted stockings, boots, and high-necked, long-sleeved dresses? I would have been tossed into the nearest mental institution for refusing to wear anything but a chemise.

These days, you'll usually find me in shorts, a tasteful tee, and flip flops — my staple summer outfit since I gave up rompers at around age 3. (I still believe that no one older than 2 belongs in a romper, and it's too bad so many Hollywood starlets disagree.) I suppose this ensemble of mine isn't terribly Proper, especially at my age, but it's better than nothing. I mean, nothing. When it's hot, I hate being covered up.

I have a terrible time finding dresses that suit me, but I think I have finally settled on this sundress with a '60's-mod print. From Boden, it feels like a summer nightgown, but it's suitable for public appearances:


When I visited Egypt the first time, we were touring sites in 100-degree heat, and it got up to 104 in Aswan. I hadn't brought shorts, short-sleeved tees, or knee-length skirts because I was told it wasn't acceptable to show that much skin in a Muslim country. People assured me that covering up in the heat would keep me cooler, and that there wasn't much humidity over there, so the heat would be less uncomfortable.

They were dead wrong on both counts. I was so miserable, I ended up wearing my husband's shorts one day, which came to my knees and were many sizes too big. I held them up with an improvised belt; I think it was a necktie. Whenever the tour guides and guards left us alone in the Valley of the Kings, I undid all but one or two of buttons on the long-sleeved, baggy cotton blouse I was wearing and flapped it around to cool off. So much for modesty. You won't catch me in a Muslim country in hot weather ever again, unless I'm not exploring beyond the hotel pool.

On that same trip, I remember visiting the Cairo Museum and watching a German tour bus arrive. As everyone trooped up the path to the entrance. I was amazed to see a stocky, platinum-blonde fraulein dressed in iridescent green hot pants and a matching bra top. In downtown Cairo. They let her into the museum without comment, along with her friend, wearing a string-tied, backless halter and bike shorts. So if you're willing to put up with people staring and rude comments, anything goes, apparently. But I'm not that far gone.

But our poor, furry cats are pretty far gone. I keep telling them to take off those fluffy coats and make themselves at home, but they are Proper Bostonians. Here is Wendy, who has staked out her spot directly in the path of the air conditioner. She's looking very possessive about its remote, beside her. The kittens seem to know it controls the cool air, and have so far avoided knocking it onto the floor and losing it under the furniture.

Go ahead, make my day.

It's too hot for them to run around and play. We miss the happy sound of them tearing around. Fingers crossed for a cold front. Soon.

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