Summer, summer, what a bummer. No, really. What’s to like about it? Long, hot days, sweat pooling in places you didn’t even realize you had, insects springing from the ether with the sole intention of biting the crap out of you.
Maybe your friends are already group texting you about a camping trip that, frankly, could become a survivalist parable pretty quickly. Maybe you’re already counting down the days until the inevitable #bikinibody #bullshit. And don’t forget that you half-heartedly told a friend you would “maybe” go with them to some godforsaken outdoor musical thing. They’re not gonna let you forget. No way.
There is a cultural expectation that we all look forward to summer. No one wants to believe that some of us prefer darkness, rain and socially acceptable Netflix parties for one. Telling people you hate summer is usually met with disbelief: “But what about sunlight?” “Surely it’s better than being cold!” (Not really, but you do you, I guess!)
If any of this is ringing true for you, fear not. Summer is terrible, but doesn’t have to be as bad as it usually is. Here is A Hater’s Guide to Summer, just for you!
Camping is one of the worst things ever. Sleeping on uneven dirt, shrouded from the totality of nature itself by a few strips of nylon, no phone service while in the middle of nowhere. I could go on. Yet people rarely understand why I think camping is scary.
Camping often feels like an activity for people who are comfortable enough that being uncomfortable for days on end is actually a novel experience — nay, a vacation. One’s comfort in being cut off from communication might bespeak a certain confidence about one’s position in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love nature. It’s beautiful. But unless you have the means to drop lots of cash on gear, are comfortable surrounded by mostly white people, are capable of the sometimes intense physical demands and feel safe in remote, rural areas, much of what camping requires just feels prohibitive.
If you must camp, though, there are a few ways to make it tolerable.
You don’t have to sleep in a tent if you’re camping somewhere accessible to vehicles.
Instead, just sleep in the car! Your car, your friends’ car, whatever car brought you there. If it’s near the campsite, it’s fair game. Let the folks you’re camping with know beforehand that you’re going to be doing this so they don’t try to pressure you into sharing their tents. In my experience, when one person says they want to sleep in the car, others often want to join them!
Roll down all the windows enough for good air flow. Lock the doors. Keep the keys where you can reach them, but out of the ignition. Bring plenty of blankets. I even like to bring extra sheets to pull across the windows and windshield for privacy. For me, the feeling of exposure is the scariest part of camping. Having a secure, sturdy place to sleep alleviates that a lot.
Related: #DropTheTowel This Summer!
If you normally watch shows to relax before bed, load them onto your computer or phone before you go. Make sure your devices are charged, or bring a car charger with you. When night falls, you can watch comfortably from the safety of your car-bed. The routine will make you feel more at home.
On the other hand, if you’re camping somewhere that doesn’t have vehicle access, take that friend up on sharing a tent.
Having someone beside you who isn’t afraid of sleeping in the elements can be nice. Just remind them to practice kindness if you’re experiencing (understandable) anxiety. If rain is even a remote possibility, bring a tarp. If it isn’t too cumbersome, a foam pad will make the ground more comfortable. Also, screw the sleeping bag. A couple of light blankets from home, rolled up with a bungee cord, can easily attach to almost any backpack, and will feel more comforting than contorting yourself into a zippered sack.
Make sure you have your own lantern and your own food. Sleep with the knowledge that most of the animals out there don’t actually want to bother you at all. Happily, the humans out there are also statistically much less likely to cause you any harm than the ones wherever you normally sleep.
‘Tis the season for people to want you to go walking, biking, skatin or swimming. Often, the way these activities are planned leaves people out.
Keep major group activities accessible. Don’t throw your Body Positive Beach Party at a beach that isn’t easily accessed by those with different mobility needs. Don’t assume people can hike for an hour to get to that swimming hole you love. Or, if you insist on throwing big events at these spaces, maybe invest some time, money, and energy into making them more inclusive. A bike trailer for the people who can’t hike, maybe? Or get together at a community pool that meets ADA standards.
Ableism is already an ever-present issue. Don’t perpetuate it — including against your friends who generally would like to hang out with you. For casual hangouts, ask your friends what their needs are. They might not be readily obvious to you, and your friends will be glad you asked.
If you’re set on that 20-mile bike ride, figure out a way for those who can’t participate to be included. Meet up for pizza afterward, or finish the ride at a cool vista point where friends can join up by car or bus. If you’re a very physically able person, when planning summer group activities, make “Am I being inclusive?” your mantra. You might be surprised how often the answer is “no.”
Being Outside in General.
The more unforgivably hot it is, the more it seems everyone expects you to be outside all day. If you’ve successfully avoided long outdoor stints so far, you’ll still inevitably be outside at some point. Chub rub, sunburns, heat rash, bug bites — it all comes with the territory. But you can be prepared!
There are a variety of awesome products out now that can help beat chub rub. Creams, shorts, powders, you name it! (My personal favorite is this powder. I’m also a big fan of these bandalettes.) The key to keeping the rub and heat rashes at minimum is to keep all places where skin meets skin clean and dry. Keep some wipes in your bag to freshen up throughout the day.
Related: Beat the Heat: Easy Summer Look
Sunburns are avoidable, too, with a little planning. The easiest way to protect yourself is to dress in layers. Think oversized cardigans, loose overshirts, big hats. If it’s too hot for layers (or if they just don’t vibe with the look you’re planning) spray any exposed skin with cooling sunscreen. Sunscreen sprays are easier and less messy than creams. They’re also super portable. I like to keep mine right by the door to mist on my body just before heading out.
As for the bugs, they are unavoidable. They will creep into your home, find you at the BBQ and be a general nuisance. Get to know the types of bugs in your area and what they’re capable of, then plan your defense. If ants, fleas and spiders are common, diatomaceous earth is safe, natural and can be sprinkled around your home to kill them. If you don’t want to kill any bugs but don’t want to touch them, consider this tool. Bug-repellant wipes are a miracle and can easily fit into whatever bag you’re carrying. And, if you have a strong histamine reaction to bug bites, carry anti-histamine cream with you, too.
Body Shame Season Denied.
The longer days apparently mean more waking hours for assholes to go online and troll people wearing bathing suits, short shorts, short dresses or anything that dares to show their human form. Catcallers on the street seem to have nothing better to do than to either verbally intimidate or insult folks who are just trying to keep cool. The same stupid memes come around about getting your “beach body” ready. The culture becomes even more hostile toward fat, femme and trans bodies.
This summer, when you see a stupid body shaming image, say something. If you don’t have the energy, unfollow the poster. Demand that your friends avoid perpetuating violence in the way they speak about themselves or others, online and off. #DropTheTowel at the beach. Just. Drop. It. Block every troll who has something negative to say. Take tons of selfies. Enjoy your body!
Unfortunately, the summer — at least in the United States — brings a rise in sexual assault and rape. The responsibility for others to treat you respectfully is not on you, but there are ways to defend yourself if people fail to be respectful.
If the music festival you’re attending is great but the attention people are giving you is not, ask a friend to stay with you and make a pact to return to the campground together. Watch each other’s drinks at the pool party. No vibe is more important than your safety. Don’t feel bad about asking for support if you don’t feel good about what’s going on.
How do you handle heat waves? My favorite way is to go on Yelp, type in “air conditioned” and plan my day according to what’s closest to my home. The safest bet is usually a movie theater, followed by malls, chain restaurants or, if you’re looking for something thrifty, hospital and college cafeterias. Bring a book or a laptop, enjoy a cheap beverage and wait for the sun to set.
If leaving the house is not your style but you don’t have AC, blackout curtains are a game changer. Keep them drawn during the day and open them up with the windows at night. They’ll help keep the heat out and even provide the nice illusion of a tranquil, grey autumn day — instead of the bleak, sweltering July hell that it actually is.
Window AC units can be found fairly cheaply on Craigslist, and almost everyone has a friend willing to learn to install them. You can also take two box fans and point them in an X pattern around you for an epic crosswind. If that’s not cool enough, pop some towels, sheets and pillowcases in the freezer. Put the sheets and pillowcases on your bed and put the towels over a fan — they’ll blow the chill toward you!
Keep on keeping on, Summer Hater. The cards may feel stacked against you while everyone celebrates your most hated season, but you’re not alone. Stand up for yourself, look out for your friends and remember that you can still have fun even when it feels like the world is melting. It just might take a few minor adjustments and a little bit of planning.