Toronto
3 min

Downers

Everyone else is happy this summer

I like talking to people. I’m one of those people who’d rather spark up a conversation with a stranger on the subway than pretend to read that ad about Carmelina D’Amico dumping her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother-in-law off at the United Way.



This bold social facility of mine means that I am privy to societal trends that other people only become aware of after the fact, in the pages of Maxim magazine.



But this time, inward geeks, you read it here first: people are generally having a good summer.



Ms P Buttertarta: “Last summer I had my first hip replacement and walked like a pair of rusty scissors for months. This summer I had my second hip replacement, and was bouncing up and down on my pogo stick within the week! I’m really happy.”



Mr J Whammo: “Last summer I was friendless. All I did was eat crackers and read Maeve Binchy novels, one after the other, ’til I became convinced that I was an average-looking, middle-aged Irish woman named Finoola. This summer I’ve been to two dozen folksy gay cook-outs. I’m in the swing of things, and now I hate Maeve Binchy! She could get run over by a snow machine and I wouldn’t care at all! Gay cook-outs? Yeesss!”



Ms A Murray: “I’m a snowbird and I love it! I’m a snowbird and I love it! Guess what? Guess what? I’m a snowbird and I love it!”



All this seasonal gaiety has frankly caught me by surprise. Historically, summer has only ever been a time of inertia, despair and tearful binge-eating (at least among the countless friends I’ve made on the subway over the years). And I am no exception.



Every May, when I pack away my various capes and floor-length, handmade jump suits, it seems that I am also packing away my self-esteem. The poise and brio that carries me through the winter suddenly evaporates; I become stupid. The sound of the doorbell is so sonically complicated that I lose consciousness when visitors come calling. I spend the month of August shifting my weight from one unsightly foot to another, slack-jawed and palsied, struggling to open the wrapper on a Freezie.



I exercise like motherfucker all winter and yet, as I stand before my full-length mirror, nude, in the heat of July, I still resemble the Queen Mum preparing for bath time, her pendulous breasts joggling as a handmaiden applies scented talc to the various nooks and creases.



I think my beloved Norwegian grandmother said it best, as she took my fat little four-year-old face in her gnarled hands and spoke to me soothingly in her fractured English: “In winter you are like the beautiful whatever-the-English-word-is-for ncxivthuqq$xxzo. But in summer you are like a rotten dumpling with the maggots crawling all through it. I could vomit. Pull my finger.”



This summer has been yet another mess of indolence and terror.



Some people think that I am a relentless pessimist. This is not true; I simply prefer to temper my optimism with a certain amount of protective fatalism. The glass really is half-full – of cobra venom.



Like all survivors, I am able to savour those rare moments of earthly pleasure that much more because I know that my arms could be shot off by a rogue suburban terrorist at any moment.



And I want to give the gift of that seasoned perspective to all my suddenly summer-lovin’ friends. Bear the following in mind.



• Liza’s growing her hair out. Forget the aphid outbreak; the fact that Liza Minnelli no longer has a pixie cut is the thing that sent me running to the Good Book. From Revelations 22:5: “And the sky will rain blood and all that kind of thing, and Liza with a Z will forsake her bangs in favour of a sprightly, Sandy Duncan bob swept back with a headband.” The centre cannot hold!



• An old lady lost her licence after unknowingly dragging a woman underneath her car for five miles, despite the woman’s screams and the car’s unusually poor mileage per litre.



• When I was 16 in Northern Ontario, one wasn’t awarded their licence until one was able to parallel park while dragging someone beneath the car. Suddenly it’s a crime. Police state!



• There’s recently been a big to-do about the AIDS Committee Of Toronto’s “Ride Safely” ad campaign not being representative of those most at risk for HIV infection. You don’t know the half of it! Look closely at the cowboy couple – it’s actually an artfully retouched Ian and Sylvia Tyson album cover from 1968! Deception stings, doesn’t it?



• I have this angry-looking stretch mark where my pec meets my armpit. The bigger and buffer my pec gets, the angrier-looking the stretch mark becomes. Do I forsake weight-lifting to diminish my stretch mark, or do I ignore my stretch mark in pursuit of pectoral perfection? Muse on the impossible poignancy of this situation; my friend Bill Styron did, later basing his book, Sophie’s Choice, upon it.



If you can still say, after considering these motley tragedies, that you’re having a right-on summer – well, you’re a bigger person than I.



And I’m pretty big.