In 1970, my husband and I moved with our three little daughters from temperate Southern California to Tucson, Arizona, where my husband had gotten a new job.
It never occurred to me that we would have to adapt to the summer heat. Having been raised in Southern California, where the weather was so mild that they even wrote a song about how it never rains there, I never had to face any real weather. Cold or hot—as in really hot. Like over 100 degrees hot.
Recently, I got an email from a friend who had moved from Southern California to a suburb outside Phoenix, Arizona.
“How do you do it?” she asked me. She was having a very hard time adjusting and wondered if I had any tips for how to cope with such extreme heat.
“You can only go to so many air-conditioned malls and see so many air-conditioned movies,” she teased.
While I myself live further south in Arizona where there really and truly is the famous “dry heat” I knew what she was talking about.
At first, I couldn’t think of anything in particular that I do to cope with the heat. After 47 years in the desert I had become what we refer to as a “desert rat” and was not particularly aware of my coping strategies.
Then, however, I realized that I did have some tricks of the trade, and while they are not in any way “scientific” or even “proven,” they are what work for me.
Here’s what I shared with my friend:
- Don’t blow dry your hair.
I always end up being more sweaty afterward than when I started. What I do instead is wash my hair before I go to bed, pile it on top of my head with clips while it’s still wet and leave it to dry overnight. It keeps my head cool at night and in the morning, when I wake up, the coolness on the top of my head seems to cool off the rest of me.
- Don’t drink hot liquids, including hot soup.
I change to iced coffee and cold gazpachos when the heat gets to 100 degrees.
- Don’t drink red wine.
They say that drinking red wine actually lowers your core body temperature while only making you “feel” warmer. When it’s over 100 degrees outside however, I don’t even want to “feel” warmer. As far as I’m concerned, they invented iced drinks for a reason.
- Don’t eat red meat.
Too heavy. Too fatty. Too much work to digest in the summer.
- Eat few to no grains.
I was married for 18 years to a man who, when he was a hippy back in the day, made a living cutting firewood for a commune in upstate New York. Because he worked outside in all kinds of weather I believed him when he said that in the winter he ate oatmeal and any other grains he could load in for breakfast and it would help to keep him warm all day. When summer came however, he would get too hot if he started out that way.
- Eat lots of raw foods and salads.
They’re easy to digest, consist mostly of water and if they don’t cool me down, they’re cold themselves and look like they will.
- Get in the pool—with your clothes on!
This is one of my favorites. I wear tights and tank top with a sports bra and walk in the pool water for 30-40 minutes. When I get out, I leave the wet clothes on and drip dry before I go in the house or car. First of all, the cool pool water itself cools me down for quite a while and second of all, the wet clothes drying right on my body helps to keep me cool longer.
- Go for a walk—in the morning, before the sun comes up, silly.
It feels to me like when my muscles are “aerated” with oxygen, it keeps me cooler. I also find that exercising outside in the early morning air prepares me for the warmer weather that is to come during the day. Take a Camelback filled with water that you have put in the freezer the night before. It’ll defrost while it’s on your back and provide you with cold water during the walk.
- Don’t go out in traffic between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
I’m not necessarily hot when I’m in the car, but when I get out and walk on the black top or even just walk from the car into a building the change in temperature is a shock to me, and the hot air feels much hotter. Besides, it just looks hot out.
- Wear low necklines.
I learned a long time ago that in the winter, when I’m cold, if I wear a scarf around my neck or throat I am much warmer and that the opposite is true in the summer. When it’s 100 degrees out, there is nothing like showing a little cleavage to keep you cool.
- Don’t wear regular panties.
I keep my panties for winter and wear thong panties (or no panties at all) in the summer. It’s amazing how much cooler it is when you can more or less, feel the breezes blowing!
- Wear open toed shoes in the summer.
It keeps those little piggies from getting sweaty and hot.
- Don’t wear billowing clothes, peasant skirts, blouses or lots of layers.
Too many layers just make me hotter. Do cover up with thin, lightweight fabrics however. The less skin directly exposed to the sun, the cooler you will be.
- Don’t wear big necklaces in the summer.
It’s surprising but jewelry around my neck only makes me sweat and there are times when it is so hot out that the necklace itself gets hot.
- Use fans indoors and out.
I have indoor fans all over the house. When air in the house is moving, we are quite comfortable with the indoor temperature at 80 degrees, even when there’s humidity. I find that if I keep the house too cold when I go outside the outside air feels even hotter to me. In the long run, it’s easier for me to cope with the heat when I’m not in really cold air all day long. I also carry a small, Japanese style folding fan in my purse and take it with me everywhere. I like it. It’s Bohemian and glamorous!
- It’s true, you have to drink lots and lots of water when it’s hot out.
I drink three quarts of water a day. It ain’t easy, but with a little ice in it, I find that it keeps the hot wastes moving through my body quite nicely. It also keeps me hydrated and helps to keep me cool and—of all things—helps me sleep better. When I first lived in hot weather I would get a dull headache during the day, that is until I figured out it was a signal that I wasn’t drinking enough water.
- It doesn’t have to be a shower.
I sponge off with a cool wash cloth several times a day. Neck. Throat. Arms. Face. Upper back. It’s very cooling and refreshing and keeps me from feeling sticky—uh, stinky too!
Finally, and probably most important of all, don’t complain about the weather.
There’s nothing you can do about it and it only makes you feel hotter.
That’s what I told my little girls all those 40-something years ago when we were driving through the desert.
“When we get to Arizona it’s going to be hot. Really hot. And you’re not allowed to complain about it. Not ever. Not once.”
I just didn’t want to have the fact that it was hotter than Hades brought into my consciousness over and over again.
It worked. They never complained.
Today, they’re all three desert rats who feel the blue skies, the clear air and the beautiful hot desert is home sweet home no matter what the temperature is.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Caitlin Oriel