People do not believe me when I say I don't want to see the sun again until April. They do not believe me when I say I never want it to be above 90 degrees again in my entire life. I have never been more serious. I am slowly dying. I look out the window every morning, see the bright blue sky with nary a cloud in sight, and feel a faint despair. It's like a cruel joke that has been carried on too long. "Sunny California! People love it here! They come here for vacations--think how LUCKY you are to live here! Come on, cheer up, smile! It's a SUNNY DAY!"
Excuse me while I scream. I've had just about enough. But the forecast right now is for ten more days of 90 degrees and clear skies. And don't tell me to go stand in the shower, or turn on the hose above my head in the yard. My senses will not be fooled by such cheap tricks. This is a malady that requires several cubic miles of cold, gray, wet clouds.
This is not a new mood or anything to worry about. As evidence, witness this, something I wrote during my first winter in sunny-evil-Cali...
I Hate the Sun. by Molly.
Ah, California's central valley. Summer is still robustly alive in October; November ushers in the bit of fog; December treats us with balmy frost-free days; the leaves fall lazily from the trees without getting pounded down by freezing rain or snowstorms. Spring rolls in before you even knew it was winter, and then the flowers and the foliage are coming back, and it's sun, sun, sun!
I hate it.
When I moved here in August of 2000, the constant sunshine was at first a novelty. Then it began to make me bored, then unhappy, then borderline psychotic. I thought it was just me. I tried to believe it was the natural adjustment to an 800-mile move. (I had lived in Seattle.) I thought maybe I just needed something more productive to do with my days.
But then it rained--unexpectedly, in a move totally unheard-of for August, it rained. All my tension relaxed. The air was clean, cool, and sweet. I could step outside, take a deep breath, and smile.
Of course, it was August, so that only lasted a few days. The sun returned. The dryness and 100-degree temperatures returned. Everything was yellow and brown and sky-blue for two months, like a photo of the African savannah, even into October. I plummeted into deeper unhappiness.
October is supposed to be the cool month, the month that is definitely no longer summer. In Seattle, October is when the battering rains howl in from the sea and knock trees down--if that hadn't already happened in September. Here in Cali, all remained warm and bright--an "endless summer," as the Beach Boys said. It was beginning to look like a curse. But that couldn't account for my bad mood, really, could it?
Finally the rain came back, a true autumn rain this time: soaking, foggy, misty, dripping rain. The scent of wet leaves and chimney smoke rolled down the streets. Pollen and dust swirled away down the gutters. The wet pavement reflected lights at night. My mood soared.
I could no longer rule it a coincidence, so I did some research. "Seasonal Affective Disorder"--sure, I'd heard of that. They blather about it every winter on the Seattle news stations. I never listened, as rain and darkness never bothered me. Now the question arises: if one is affected in a disorderly way by the seasons, that must mean that some people get dysfunctional in the winter, and some in the summer, and so forth. Right? It isn't called Winter Affective Disorder, after all. It should apply to any season, shouldn't it?
But despite exhaustive internet searches on S.A.D., then "Reverse S.A.D.," and even, as a last attempt, on "sun sickness," I came up with nothing. Nobody but me hates the sun. Getting depressed when it's dark and cold is normal enough to have a disorder named after it, but getting depressed when it's bright and hot is apparently so freakish that even the psychologists don't bother naming it. And these are the people who have a name for the incapacitating fear of the number 13 ("triskaidekaphobia").
"Sun sickness," incidentally, is when you have skin problems, headaches, and/or fever in direct sunlight, but that is not my condition. I can't even complain about a tendency to sunburn. I just...do not...like...heat and sun.
I emailed my friends and family. "Is there such a thing as reverse S.A.D.," I asked, "and does anyone else have it?" For the most part, I got blankness in response--probably the same heartless stare I offered to transplanted Southern Californians suffering from the fifth consecutive month of Seattle rain. But one woman did agree that the constant sunshine in L.A., when she lived there, "bummed her out in a big way." She shrugged it off by suggesting it was because she was from New York City, where they have seasons with a capital S.
My mother agreed enthusiastically with my feelings--of course. I believe her when she says she loves the rain, because she not only loves the rain, but loves the fog, the snow, the sunshine, the wind, the flowers, the dogs, my father, my sisters, the neighbors, and the paving stones in the lawn. She does, however, suggest a few new acronyms for people like me:
SLUG: Sunshine Leaves Us Grumpy
SHINE: Sun's Heat Is Not Enabling
GRACE: Give Rain A Chance, Everybody
PUDDLE: Prefer Umbrella Drip Drop-Like Environment
HAPPY: Have Always Preferred Puddly Yard.
Another friend agreed with me, but this is mainly because he doesn't like people who sport suntans and skimpy clothing. On a more noteworthy point, he also hates it when the streets are littered with noisy humanity. When it's raining or cold, these people tend to crawl quietly back under their rocks. I have a piece of my puzzle there--this hatred of noisy summer-folk is a common affliction of us introverts.
But that's not all of the puzzle, so let's keep reading the emails: A Seattle lady in my extended family admits to the habit of stepping back into the shade when waiting to cross a street on a sunny day. She also notes that her coworkers get into snippy moods when the sun comes out for more than a week, and then they relax when the rain returns. But again, that is Seattle. Rain is what they're used to. Dare I hope for such sympathy in California?
My uncle, who is an artist, puts forth the valid point, "If the rain washes everything clean, then what does that when it doesn't rain?" He also made the interesting observation that, of his paintings, the ones with stormy skies have always outsold the sunny ones. Something in the sight of a house, warm and cozy and lit-up while it rains and thunders outside, calls to a human being, stronger than sunshine does. Perhaps this is because the building of shelters and the use of electricity are what set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, a symbol of our success against the elements.
Possibly. But that shouldn't explain why I dislike heat and sun. I do have air conditioning here in California, and that didn't lift my spirits much, despite it being a symbol of victory over hot weather.
Hot weather makes me irritable. I'm not alone there: countries in the tropics are usually at war. When it's hot and humid, and the mosquitoes are spreading malaria again, and the sun breeds whole new ecosystems in your coffee cup, and there's really no end in sight because you don't have a winter as the temperate zones know it, you're a lot more likely to pick up a machete and slaughter a government official. Certainly we cannot ignore the valiant bloodthirsty efforts of the snow-zone Vikings and Russians, but in both cases it wasn't long before they got too cold and decided to go home. When it's warm, however, and there's no particular reason to be inside rather than outside, your tendency to meddle in your neighbors' affairs goes way up.
Thus the citizens of rainy Oregon and Washington, far from being driven to insane frustration by the weather, are most often described as "laid-back" and "even-tempered." Supposedly-perfect California weather, on the other hand, has done nothing to help L.A.'s motorists, who are easily the most deranged on the West coast.
Okay. So the heat and sunshine certainly don't cure any country of its troubles. This much should be obvious. And rain makes things cleaner, provided an adequate stormwater system is in place. Anyone with pollen allergies can appreciate that. And even the Californians know that they'd be lost without rainwater--the nation's top agricultural state needs its irrigation. (In fact, just to make sure they have enough, they want to pipe it down from Oregon--but that's a different gripe.) So is that enough to make me depressed? Dustiness and 3rd-World heat and glare, the dangerous strobelike flashing of the sun between trees as you bicycle along, the necessity of living under a slimy layer of sunscreen, the disturbing lack of the color green?
Yes, it is enough, but mainly because of this humble fact: it is not what I am used to. For 25 years, I have been attuned to the weather and humidity patterns of the Pacific Northwest, and though California is a lovely place to visit, palm trees and brittle-dry sycamores and flat rice fields and balmy winter days are not from my planet. A creature with moss on my north side I grew up, and such a fern-dwelling slug shall I die. Now put me back in Seattle.