A Northerner’s Guide To Surviving Southern Heat


Those above the Mason-Dixon Line often greet the arrival of summer with enthusiasm. Those of us living in the South talk about summer in the same way that the Starks talk about winter: “Summer is coming.” Summer signals barbecue, vacations, and lake time. It also signals roughly three plus months of unrelenting heat that will sabotage your every attempt at professionalism. Maybe the heat is the punishment we deserve for saying things like, “I’m freezing!” when it’s 65 degrees outside, or for Googling “symptoms of hypothermia” when it dips below 50 degrees. Northerners can make fun of us for our intolerance to the cold, but let me elucidate a day in the life a Southern summer.

I wake up, already sweating. So much sweat. How is this even possible? I’m not even sleeping with a sheet and the fan is on at a decapitating speed. I know y’all are thinking, “Why don’t you have the AC on at full blast?” Funny joke, amateur. That is a terrible idea for three critical reasons. 1) Running the AC like that is prohibitively expensive. 2) There is only so much the AC can compensate for when it’s 112 degrees outside. 3) Constant overuse could cause the AC unit to break, and the thought of a broken AC unit is borderline nausea-inducing. I’m cringing even imagining something so horrible.

I get out of bed and immediately shower. Shower prep is crucial. I turn on all vents and fans in the area–I can’t run the risk of having the bathroom steam up in a humidity monster that resembles Hexxus from “FernGully.” Shower temperature is everything. I could take a freezing cold shower but the only people who do that are serial killers and kids at summer camp who don’t have a choice. I settle on a moderate temperature and quickly shower. There is a delicate balance between cleaning off and cooling off–and there is nothing worse than sweating in the shower, nothing. I get out of shower, dry off, and immediately begin sweating again.

Attempting to do my hair and makeup is nothing if not a disaster. I have to do my makeup after using a blow dryer or straightening iron or I will immediately sweat off what I just applied. Then I think, “Good luck getting your hair to stay like that.” It will immediately begin expanding again until I am full-on, pre-transformation Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries.” Essentially, my entire morning has been a loss.

The losing only gets worse. Getting dressed means more sweating. Pores I didn’t even know I had sweat. The name of the game is Dri-FIT. I think the next Nobel Prize should go to anyone who invents a Dri-FIT underwire bra. Heaven help you if you are wearing a button down shirt. You must never allow your arms to fall completely to your side or you will ruin your shirt in a mess of wrinkles. Instead, you walk around all day with your arms awkwardly angled out at your side.

I make a cup of coffee before I head out the door. With each sip, I sweat more and more. The steam from the coffee melts off my makeup and fogs up my glasses.

Now comes the final test: surviving in the car. I can either let the AC run for a few minutes before getting in, or I can open some of the doors and just wait it out. What do you call someone with black leather seats? A Northerner. Sitting in a car that has been parked in the sun is horrifying, and everyone knows that a shady spot is worth more than gold. I know I have some options here, like putting a beach towel down on my seat. Even light cloth seats are not immune to the wrath of the sun. Once I’m in, the real challenge begins. I must guide my seatbelt into the lock with a surgeon’s precision. Any slight deviations may result in an actual burn to my forearm or thigh.

Now that I’m in and buckled, it’s time to put the car in gear. I learned reaching for the gear stick without proper protection will cause you to burn off your fingerprints “Men In Black”-style–a golf club head cover or a potholder both work well at protecting your finger pads. It’s also best to pull down your sleeves to protect your hands on the steering wheel.

After parking at work, I look at myself in the rearview mirror. Complete disaster. All the effort I put into looking like a professional adult is lost. Sitting in the car caused me to develop back sweat, and it is so humid that my sweat isn’t even evaporating. I enter my building, look around, and notice that all my coworkers have met the same fate. The vicious cycle will renew itself every day until about November, but nobody wants to be the person who outright admits to losing the battle. I head over to the water cooler to stave off the dehydration and a coworker says, “At least we’re getting a cool front tomorrow.” Yes, 95 degrees will be a nice change. Maybe I’ll even cool off in Bikram yoga after work.

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Brown rice. Black beans. Barbacoa. Both Salsas. Corn. Cheese. Guac. Lettuce.

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