1) The Wet T-Shirt
Get out an old t-shirt. Wet it thoroughly with cold water in the sink. Wring out the excess. Put the t-shirt on. You’ll immediately feel cooler for as long as the shirt is damp. Repeat as necessary. For an added benefit, place your wet t-shirt in the freezer for a few minutes before putting it on. Ditto if you wet it in ice-water (leftover cooler ice is perfect for this). The effect is heightened if you stand or sit in front of a fan or a breeze, but your shirt will dry faster.
The following is for the ladies: I understand this can be done properly only in the privacy of your home. If you have a significant other, they will be the delighted and the sole judge of their own personal, one-woman wet-t-shirt contest every afternoon. But, if it’s an emergency, select a t-shirt for wetting that has a heavier, thicker weave, and wear a bra. Not only will the heavier weave hold the moisture longer, but it also will provide (along with the bra) enough coverage that people won’t even perceive that your shirt is damp.
Variation #1: If you need to sleep but it’s too ungodly hot, try this. (I’m assuming you’re already lying naked on top of the sheets, and you’re still sweating.) Get your t-shirt, wet it, and wring it out as usual. Hold it flat by the shoulders and, as you lie down, drape it over your torso. If you have to turn, adjust as necessary so the damp shirt is still draped over your torso.
Variation #2: Wet your hair, too.
2) The Ice-Cube Necklace
Reserve this for a time when even the wet t-shirt isn’t enough. Get a bandana or a cloth napkin and wet it in the sink. Wring out the excess, and lay it out on the counter. Line several ice cubes diagonally along the center. Fold over and roll up with the ice cubes inside. Tie the ends around your neck. Adjust the knot so that the ice cubes are sitting just off your neck, on your collarbone – it shouldn’t be too tight. The ice cools the blood running through your carotid arteries and, as it melts, helps keep your wet t-shirt wet with cool water. Even when the ice is gone, just the moist bandana around your neck will provide much cooling effect. There are commercial versions of these available, but my version is less expensive.
3) Cold Showers
Administer as necessary. They have to be only long enough to just rinse off the sweat and cool your skin. Go ahead and whoop and holler if you have to when you first step in. It’s okay. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to face the thought of clothing again. If you can’t do this, at least rinse your face, neck, arms, and thighs with cold water.
4) Go Barefoot
Even sandals can feel stifling when it’s ridiculously hot. Whenever possible, go completely barefoot. It makes a difference. We lose a lot of heat through our feet, hands, and head. (And by the way, there is a common misconception that it’s illegal to drive with no shoes. Poppycock. Ask any cop.)
5) Wear a Hat and Sunglasses
Any time you’re going to be in the direct sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses, and think of them as though they were armor. Wear them even if you’re only taking some garbage out to the can or fetching something from your car because — guaranteed — if you don’t, your friendly neighbor will drive by at that moment and you’ll be obliged by politeness to stand there for what feels like hours chatting while you’re being braised to a crispy red fricassee by the merciless sun. When it’s ungodly hot, the addition of direct sunlight becomes like a palpable force, a physical thing beating you about the head and shoulders. I live at a mild altitude, 4,600 feet. For every 1,000 feet of altitude above sea level, the sun’s damaging UV rays are increased by 10%. There is that much less atmosphere to filter and protect. So the sun where I live is 46% stronger than at sea level. Arm yourself as if you’re a military operation and dart from shady spot to shady spot as though a sniper has you in his sights.
6) Don’t Do Anything
We all live in a society where it’s considered a sin to loll about like a slug. Again with the poppycock. You know how you’ve been feeling sleepy, lethargic, slow, unmotivated and irritable? That’s nature’s way of telling you to fix a mojito and put your feet up with a trashy novel. Anything more requires far too much energy. Look to Spain and Italy, where they generally take off the entire month of August.
7) Don’t Eat Anything
Okay, of course we have to keep eating. I don’t know about you, but my appetite tends to disappear when it’s really hot. It takes too much energy to prepare, eat and digest food. Even when I do feel a glimmer of hunger, all I can even consider consuming are sorbet, salads, cottage cheese, cold cereal, any kind of fruit, and chilled white wine. Now, the experts will tell you that alcohol is dehydrating and should be avoided when it’s hot. That’s what this marvelous invention, ice cubes, are for, in addition to supplying your ice-cube necklace. Besides, when it’s so hot you’ll literally have to punch the next person who asks you if it’s “hot enough for ya?” it’s a good societal lubricant to have just a little buzz on.
I just got a retro aluminum ice cube tray, and I love it. Unlike plastic trays, it’ll never crack, and it makes nice large, angular cubes.
8) For the Ladies
Wear as little makeup as possible. It’ll just melt anyway and prevent you from splashing your face in some cold water when needed (see no.3 above). When it’s unbelievably hot, modesty tends to be the first virtue to suffer (“Naked, shmaked: besides if they haven’t seen a naked woman by now, it’s about damn time they did” – as my darling mother loves to say). This also applies to makeup. A little waterproof mascara and some lipstick is all we really need, if that. Your co-workers will get over their shock.
9) For the Pets
Take a few empty 2-liter soda bottles and fill them 3/4 to the top with water, replace lids and freeze. Before leaving for work in the morning, take your frozen water bottles out of the freezer. Place them standing upright in a shallow bowl or saucer in cool areas, like the bathroom. As the ice slowly melts, condensation will form on the outside and collect in the saucer. Your pets will lick the cold droplets off the bottle and lap the cold water in the saucer. They will also just loll around the bottles to feel the coolness emanating off them.
10) Bonus Recipe – Summer Succotash
This is good to prepare in the morning when it’s still cool and keep covered in the fridge for a few days. It’s light, yet filling, and you can pull it out and eat as much (or little) as you want.