October 25, 2014
For the Herald
How I learned to survive the summer heat
Summers are sticky, broiling (*) and stifling (1). Aside from those suffering souls whose work keeps them outside or whose circumstances keep them in an unventilated environment, the heat is not so much a physical burden (2) as it is a challenge to aesthetics, decorum and professionalism. It's not easy to look powerful and composed with sweat pouring (3) from areas you didn’t even know had sweat glands.
In a heat wave — and with many more dog days (4) to come — there really is no way to venture outside, from one air-conditioned appointment to another, without working up a generous layer of perspiration.
The best one can do is to take a few cues from another generation — a time of greater civility, a slower pace and no central air conditioning.
1. Use a handkerchief to mop your brow — and then put it away. Do not be one of those uncouth (5) people walking around with a washcloth on top of their head.
2. Walk on the shady side of the street and do so slowly. Learn to saunter (6).
3. The wonders of Dri-Fit and other moisture-wicking fabrics are great if you're heading to the gym. But for professional purposes, make cotton, linen, wool — tropical weight — your friends. Light colours are cooler, although darker ones are less likely to show sweat stains.
4. Gentlemen, wear an undershirt and, hopefully, you will not sweat through to your dress shirt.
5. Near-nudity on city streets will not keep you cooler; you will only risk sunburning delicate body parts.
6. Be a kind host and immediately offer hot arrivals some cold water — or better yet, lemonade — and an opportunity to freshen up.
7. To glow is human. There is no need to aspire to a perfectly matte appearance. No drugstore makeup can withstand this heat and humidity. So go easy on it, lest (7) you look like an Edvard Munch painting. Even better, skip it.
8. Do not crank up the air conditioning until icicles form indoors. Let your body adjust to the warmth.
9. In polite conversation, it's fine to comment on the weather. Then, move along. Obsessing about the heat will only make you hotter.
Adapted from an article by Robin Givhan, The Washington Post.
(1) To stifle
When you stifle, you feel you cannot breathe because it is too hot and there isn't enough air.
A burden is a heavy load that is difficult to carry. By extension, it describes a difficult task or responsibility that makes you worried.
(3) To pour
When you pour a liquid, you make it flow from a jar, glass or other container in a steady stream. It can also be used to describe very heavy rain (“it's pouring”).
(4) Dog days
The dog days are the hottest days of summer. The Romans gave it that name because of the star Sirius, the brightest in the night sky and part of the Cane Majoris (“large dog”) constellation, which used to rise at the same time as the sun in mid-summer.
Something or someone uncouth is rude or socially unacceptable.
(6) To saunter
To saunter means to walk in a slow, relaxed way.
You do A “lest” B happens when you do A in order to prevent B from happening. It can also be used as a a synonym of “in case”.
(*) Meet the meat
We are now in the middle of winter, so all this talk about heat and sweating is a bit anticlimactic, but the reference to “broiling” (used here to refer to people suffering in intense heat) is a perfect excuse to talk about language related to that most Argentine of food traditions, the all-year-round asado.
Broiling is a way of cooking meat similar to grilling (cooking food by placing it above or below a direct source of dry heat in a grill or grill pan). Especially in the US, broil means heat comes from above the food and grill is used when heat comes from below.
“Barbecue” is reserved for cooking with heat from burning wood or coals. You roast meat by cooking it in an oven.