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Unexpected Summer

September 18, 2011

The first chilly breezes of fall are rolling through the midwest like waves of an approaching high tide.  The northern air palpably amplifies my senses.  Warm bakery goods are more scrumptious.  Music sounds more present and alive.  Life itself tingles magically.

That’s my familiar annual reaction to the cooling weather.  I have always loved the fall.

But this year, a new feeling mingled with my autumnal bliss.  I was surprised to find myself smiling poignantly at my recently-acquired sandals—something I’ll miss wearing during the coming months.

Did I really grow to like summer this year?

I’ve never been an outdoors kind of guy.  I’m allergic to most of it.  Popular gear-related activities—camping, hiking, canoeing—fail to persuade me that they will be worth the invested money, time and energy.

I’ve never been very good at dressing casually.  I think formal clothing works better with my features.

I used to be a very sedentary person.  After high school, I thought I could get through life well enough without ever wearing tennis shoes again.

All this meant that I didn’t enjoy summer all that much.

My assumptions and attitudes have been mutating in recent years.  I sought out ways to be active—both for my health, since my teenage metabolism downshifted in my twenties—and to meet more people.  I’ve had to march into my yard to do battle with poison ivy and other hostile vegetation over the last decade.  I’ve become accustomed to the attendant rituals—taking preventative antihistamines and detoxing myself of pollen.

My slow adjustment to the outdoors received a big kick in the pants this summer, though, when I was invited to a destination wedding.

Accepting the invitation meant I would be on beaches, beside pools and potentially in wedding pictures.  I had to bite the bullet and buy real summer clothes.  I wanted to look like a put-together, twenty-first century, relaxed adult—even if I’m not one.  No jeans.  No 1980‘s short shorts.  No socks.  No ratty t-shirts.  No boat shoes.

My biggest hurdle was sandals.  I have never owned sandals.  And I think the moniker “flip-flops” is wholly undignified for an article of clothing.  For twenty years I’ve argued that casual, sockless footwear was a passing fad.

I had to admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, knuckle under and let my toes see the light of day.

I bought a pair of faux leather sandals, canvas flip-flops, two t-shirts, two pairs of cargo shorts, draw-string pants and a mail-order neon-sea-green linen shirt (which is entirely too thick to be worn at temperatures over 10°F).  Plus I needed swimming trunks—the first pair I’ve bought since I’ve earned a paycheck.

The last preparation didn’t take any money, just time.  If I wasn’t going to be a glaring eyesore, I had to get some kind of tan before I left.  (My goal was to be a non-glaring eyesore.)

The wedding created an unexpected summer vacation.  It was a nice break and a beautiful resort, certainly.  But pulling off a passable summer look let me feel comfortable there.  Assembling a casual wardrobe, like my own personal episode of What Not to Wear, exorcised the psychological demons that have long kept me from enjoying summer.  My clothing-induced attitude adjustment allowed me to be part of the outdoors rather than fighting against it.

I’m actually sad to see the summer go this year.  I’ll enjoy fall as always.  But I’ve found a new appreciation for warm weather and being outdoors.   Next spring, I’ll have more to look forward to than just driving with my windows down.

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