It is summer in the south. Do you know how I know this? Because it is so flippin hot that I’m certain I could fry an organic egg delivered from one of my free-range hens right here on the deck of the barn. I grew up in the burbs of Chicago so recognizing winter was pretty easy too; when the arctic air hit me square in the face and it was powerful enough to take my breath away, I knew it was January. Staving off frostbite was my only concern, so as long as I put layers of clothes on top of layers of clothes and topped it all off with a down-filled jacket, I would be okay. Dealing with the oppressive heat and sun is another matter.
During the summer months, clothes feel awful against my skin. I sweat through them as soon as I walk outside, making my entire body feel immediately dirty. If I had my way I would probably just spend the day naked, but Miss Betty across the way would certainly take issue. That and my dermatologist would fall over in a faint. I already get the dagger eyes of judgment when I go for my check-up. Everyone in there, from doctor to patient, is so pale that veins are visible from 10 feet away. The waiting room is a sea of pasty white, dotted with one brown berry. I try not to look anyone in the eye in an attempt to avoid the scorn.
At least once a day, some well-intentioned stranger gives me their unsolicited opinion of my tanned skin. If I hear, “I hope you are wearing sunscreen” one more time I swear I am going to get a t-shirt stating “my day begins with #50”. I’m tired of sheepishly stating that I tan easily, always have and that I have never had sunburn. Do I really have to defend myself to the cashier at Publix!
I am determined to avoid sun exposure so I tried a new tact. I reverted back to my Chicago winter days and I piled on the clothes: long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks, boots and thickly woven hat. It worked really well for the first five minutes, but then my long linen pants became so saturated with sweat that the weight pulled them down and I looked like your average urban punk with my pants sagging well below my ass.
Then I had an idea. I spent the better part of a toasty afternoon on my computer searching for a traditional Muslim “dress” called a thobe. I figured it would serve two functions: keep me covered from the sun and also keep me cooler than my pants and shirt. I visited sites all over the world. I placed orders and then canceled once I realized that most weren’t going to be delivered until sometime in August, or because I misjudged the sizing.
So here I sit with nothing to show for my efforts except now every time I go online I am bombarded with advertisements from far away lands with deals on all things Muslim. Knowing that we are a country filled with unwarranted suspicion of those from middle-eastern countries, I can’t help but wonder if my quest to find the perfect southern summer solution has also landed me on several government watch and no fly lists. I’m expecting a visit from the NSA any day now.