Front Porch: Don’t sweat summer’s hot flashes

In Spokane we have two seasons: Complaining About the Cold and Complaining About the Heat.

We’re smack in the middle of “It’s too hot!” season, but for once I’m not whining about the soaring temperature.

My family is shocked by this development. Usually, once the thermometer hits 80, I crank up the air conditioning, brew gallons of iced tea, and use the phrase “I’m melting!” repeatedly.

I actually have a medical diagnosis to explain my aversion to the heat. My family moved to Guam when I was a year old. According to my mother, I promptly broke out in an awful rash. She took me to the doctor and he said, “She’s allergic to the sun.”

Who knew you could be allergic to a star? I think I’m also allergic to James Franco, but that’s another column.

I asked my mom how they treated my allergy. She said, “I just put baby oil on you and tried to keep you in the shade.”

Difficult to do when you live on a Pacific island.

I guess I got over my sun allergy, but it came with a side effect – an aversion to sweat. Sunshine on my shoulders didn’t make me happy – it made me whiny. The feeling of moisture beading on my forehead or trickling down my back made my skin crawl. This meant as a teen, I couldn’t enjoy the sun-bathing rites of passage my friends adored.

They’d spray their hair with Sun-In or lemon juice, slather baby oil all over their bodies and lay in the sun for hours.

I tried to keep up with the trend, but could only last a few minutes before the heat and perspiration got to me. Plus, it was so boring!

I went through my teen years with pale skin and dark hair that smelled citrusy, but never lightened.

This sun/sweat antipathy appears to be hereditary.

My firstborn son quickly developed sweat-triggered whininess. As a toddler, the minute the sun shone anywhere near him, he’d moan, “I’m fweaty! Make fweaty stop!”

For awhile I thought he’d changed his name to Freddy, but I figured out what he meant when he pointed to his glistening forehead.

Being sweat-averse made aerobic exercise challenging, but I still managed to letter in basketball in high school. Basketball has the advantage of being an indoor sport – no sun in my eyes, plus the game was so fast I didn’t have time to notice any perspiration. Even if I did notice, I wouldn’t complain because if anyone whined, the coach made us all run extra laps.

As an adult I embraced tanning beds for awhile. I could nap and listen to my MP3 player and emerge with a satisfying glow. Then my gym replaced tanning beds with some sort of noisy stand up rotisserie machine. No thanks.

Now, of course skin cancer warnings dominate headlines. The yellow orb in the sky is something to be feared, and the use of tanning beds is frowned upon. Teenage girls get orangey spray tans instead of baby oil, a blanket and the backyard.

Not surprisingly, Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise and many sun-avoiders now take supplements to replace what they used to get from spending time outdoors.

Just when sun-worshipping is no longer popular, I’ve come to love the feeling of its warmth on my skin. It happened gradually. I started timing my daily walks for maximum sun time and minimum scorching. Tricky to do this week when the best time to walk was probably before I got out of bed.

Maybe my bones are getting older, but what once felt searing and unbearable, now feels warm and benign. I sit in our backyard gazebo with my legs in the sun and my face in the shade and read for hours.

I still don’t like triple digit temps, but I find the 90s tolerable and the mid-80s actually enjoyable. My family is amazed by this transformation. “Mom is outside AGAIN,” Sam will announce and his brother just shakes his head.

As I talked about my newfound love of the sun a friend opined, “Maybe this is God’s way of preparing you for menopause.” Stunned I stared at her. “What?” she said. “It’s going to happen sooner rather than later.” She then launched into a litany of misery that she’d endured. “It’s awful! But we all survive it somehow,” she said.

Great. Apparently, there’s a third season looming on my horizon – Complaining About Hot Flashes.

This Front Porch column originally appeared in The Spokesman Review July 17, 2014.

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