While over here at the Atlantic Wire we love summer and simply cannot get enough of its charms, it has come to our attention that not everyone is completely thrilled with the hottest season. Along with being sweaty, irritable, and already so over it they can barely even muster an "o" shape with their mouths, some people are plagued with doubts about the season. For example: Can you wear shorts to the office, and if you can, should you? What happens when you have Summer Fridays, but your friends do not? How long should you string out your summer romance even when it's clearly donesville just for the sake of having a summer romance? Is it excessive PDA to make out in a fountain if there's a heat wave going on? What if you're being given mouth to mouth after passing out from the extreme temps? How do you divide the air conditioner bill when your roommate insists on setting it to frigid levels and you believe in a balmy 78 degrees? How should we feel, really, about fake tans?
Never fear. We will address the most pressing ethics and etiquette questions of the season in our new Friday column, Sweatiquette. An etiquette question is not an etiquette question until someone actually says it, however, so we will rely upon you, dear readers, to express the deepest concerns and dilemmas you are facing. Email or tweet at me, and you may find your question addressed on a future Friday, assuming you're not already Jitneying off to the Hamptons or whatever it is that you do. (Is it rude to do that, and not read this? Yes. Free WiFi.)
Today's questions have been sourced from Atlantic Wire staffers and friends. But please send me your dilemmas for next week.
To beard or not to beard?
Many a facially hair-laden fellow has shaved off his beard in preparation for the hottest months of the year. Does that mean that you have to or that you will be judged if you decide not to? Further, what are the implications for keeping your beard year round?
First of all, we are not here to tell you what to do (even if this is an etiquette column). We are here to gently advise, or, like a therapist, present a partially impartial outside voice that helps you find the right conclusion on your own (unless you're asking something that clearly can have only one right answer). In the case of a beard, this is a matter of choice, primarily. But it's not your choice alone. It's also the choice of anyone who must make contact with your beard. Thus, if you have a girl or boyfriend who, in the summer months, will be particularly annoyed and disgusted by your scruffy mange that holds onto sweat and God knows what else (we don't want to think about it; we haven't eaten lunch yet), you would be advised to shave to maintain that relationship in its most healthful, pleasant, tactile state. Similarly, if your beard is extremely long, unruly, and/or prone to touching strangers, say, on the subway, even if accidentally, get rid of it for the summer—heat is high and so are tempers, and the accidental touch of an unknown tendril of facial or other hair has been know to start fires, at least metaphorically.
But consider this, as well: If your beard is fairly short and easily maintained, if it does not make your own face sweat excessively or break out in summer heat, if you, mostly, not only love it but also consider it part of you, your look, your soul, whatever: Don't shave it. Keep it. Wash it. Groom it. Love it. After all, no one is demanding that you shave your head for the summer, right?
How do I explain that I have no "summer travel plans" without seeming a total loser?
Ah, this is a tricky one. It's also one of the questions most commonly asked during the season by random acquaintances and people like your doctor or hairdresser or the nosy lady in line next to you at the Post Office. Maybe you just haven't decided yet, maybe you're too busy with work to go anywhere, maybe you're broke or simply hate leaving town. Nothing wrong with any of that. But this question, which is intended only to create some pleasant, if meaningless, conversation—do they really care? Probably not—can strike a pang of fear and dismay in the hearts of many an otherwise stalwart individual. What to do?
Do not, even if tempted, lie. You only make it harder for the rest of us, and you jinx yourself from ever going on that vacation of your dreams. If you said it to the stranger with the nervous laugh and face mole at Starbucks, it will not happen—if it does, you will always remember said stranger, which means, vacay to the pristine beaches of Barbados ruined. Don't, either, do that cutesy thing and talk about how you might take a "staycation": That word alone is fraught with the tinge of inherent rationalization. If you want to take some days off and stay home in your underwear and eat microwaved nachos in front of the A.C. while watching soaps, do it. No need to name it something "cation"-y in hopes of making it sound more fun.
The response, here, then, is that you shouldn't have to explain what your summer plans are to anyone, except for the person with whom you are planning summer plans, and possibly your parents or next of kin or whomever you keep as an emergency contact, just in case. If asked by anyone else what your summer travel plans are, say, "I fly by the seat of my pants in the moonlight like a carnivorous forest owl. Hoot." Then change the subject.
Clear bra straps: How do we feel about them?
We feel terrible about them, just terrible. It's unfair to them, and to anyone who wears them, and to anyone whose eyes must accidentally alight upon them. There is an inherent conflict with the clear bra strap, which is: You can see them. Just because they are clear does not make them invisible, which is something the makers of said "clothing item" did not see fit to deal with in their engineering. If these bra straps truly were clear, now, we would support them for all! But they are simply colorless, obvious plastic, and they are tacky. Wear a colored bra, or just a bra made of material rather than plastic, and let its strap peep through on one side of your tank top if you must; that's a far more elegant look, not to mention more comfortable in appearance, than the sight of a piece of polyeurethane digging into someone's shoulder.
Summer questions? We have answers. Get in touch.