When I was growing up, I thought the “Dog Days of Summer” were days in mid-August when all the algae started appearing in the lakes and the best days of swimming had come and gone. …
When I was growing up, I thought the “Dog Days of Summer” were days in mid-August when all the algae started appearing in the lakes and the best days of swimming had come and gone. Without getting overly technical and forcing readers to hit the snooze on column reading...I learned from Farmer’s Almanac and Wikipedia that “dog days’ is the period of hot sultry summer days following the rising of the star system Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, meaning “big dog” in Latin. To Greeks and Romans, dog days occurred around the time when Sirius appears to rise alongside the sun, in late July in the northern hemisphere. They believed the heat combined from the two stars created a period of the hottest summer days with drought, thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and bad luck. In 2021, the Dog Days spanned from July 3 to August 11.
Looking on the bright side of all that, Dog Days or not, I can attest Lake Vermilion is still fit for swimming. I recently found myself suited up and easing into the refreshing depths, after a “dry decade”, one with no swimming. The last time I swam was at my mom’s cabin on Burntside Lake, which is a much chillier “dunk” than Lake Vermilion. After mom died, my brother and I sold the cabin and for lack of a spot to comfortably and conveniently swim, I just didn’t go for many years. What was I waiting for? Truth be told there has been that one inside voice that has gotten louder as I’ve gotten older, “I’m not exhibiting my cottage cheese to anyone!” (Cottage cheese is here defined as... the lack of completely smooth thigh skin where previously-eaten French fries and Nutter Butter cookies now rest in subcutaneous peace.) Yet, another voice inside would say, “Hey, there’s bigger cartons of cottage cheese than you out there on the beach....go have fun!” If it were possible, I now see that I should have gagged some of these inside voices long ago.
Several weeks ago, I had mentioned to my bartender and another gal at the local tav one afternoon, that I had resisted an invitation from a friend to go swimming because I would feel embarrassed.....and oddly, neither laughed. They said, “Nobody cares anymore, Scarlet.” Summarized as....no matter what your shape....just “go, do, be.” I started lightening up... “Really, what’s a little fun at a private stretch of the beach gonna hurt?” I am too hard on myself, I guess. I’d gotten a new, longer suit a few years ago and after the wrestling match of putting it on ended the other day, I decided I was just peachy. I did go to a local quiet beach and swam with my family, but did the “air mattress walk of shame”, the one where you put the thing behind you as you ease into the water and casually saunter out of the water holding it against you all the while with a wet suit clinging tighter than a scared child. This is a summer reality for modest types.
So, this whole concept of loosening my own uptight reins is a long process. Another incident of reckoning occurred this summer at my annual July Third T-shirt sale in Tower, when a customer was convincing her mother to buy one of my tank tops. Mom was very concerned about her bra straps showing and as I listened, I was empathizing with her, then the daughter said, “No one cares anymore, mom, what straps are showing.” I heard that; it ping-ponged from ear to ear several times, making a noted impression. The mom bought the tank top and I bought in to the daughter’s way of thinking. After all, I had been studying the visual shoulder strap deal for years and getting used to it. When I first saw straps hanging out...sometime in the new century...I did raise my eyebrows and sour my mouth resembling the shocked characters portrayed by British actress Eileen Atkins. I thought it was really tacky, downright cheap looking in fact. Years rolled by, miles and miles of straps passed in front of my eyes, and I have eased and concluded that the “strap look” can be achieved with narrow, smooth straps of varying colors...such as Victoria’s Secret pieces, while chunky, contoured elastic support straps should be avoided at all cost. You know the kind I mean, if you recall the large, missile-resembling cupped support structures from back in the sixties and seventies. Heavily endowed females cannot rely on a couple of flimsy ribbons to support their missile base. This I know. It’s head-shakingly worse if straps are dingy in color, fraying and pilled from being in co-ed wash cycles with towels and fleecy things.
Even decades ago, when I was trimmer and in good shape, I could never go as far as wearing a two-piece swimsuit or ever consider hip huggers with the tightly stretched “T” of a G-string manifesting itself across the top of my buns as I bent over in the grocery checkout line reaching for an issue of Farmer’s Almanac! This never would have happened, the sight of a “T” on me, however buying the Almanac was fine. My mother, a trim....“one apple for lunch kinda lady,” taught me never to wear horizontal stripes and steer clear of large prints or plaids. “Black is slimming, white enlarges, and never ever sew or purchase a blouse with large flowers positioned over each breast,” she directed. Add to it the “White Rule,” and you see why I am who I am. “One doesn’t wear white before Memorial Day and may only acceptably wear white up until Labor Day....Winter-white tones of cream or ivory are acceptable.” Garment guidance was ferociously stronger in decades prior. I’m a prude, I guess. Clothing is just a costume, so who am I to dictate? After all, portions of undergarments have been visible for centuries....pantaloons, corsets, slips, tights to name a few. Lately, I have been dressing more “Boho,” (meaning Bohemian, an artsy vagabond living an unconventional lifestyle). I’m having new fun with my clothing, slamming plaid or striped shirts together with lively printed shorts in various colors of a prudent length, but then I fix my hair and add some jewelry, so it doesn’t look accidental.
Many years of Dog Days have come and gone but strapless formal wear on heavy-set women will never look comfortable to me. This style has been sticking around for too many years in my opinion and I always worry there will be serious wardrobe malfunctions coming down an aisle or at the altar when I see the heavy packing that occurs. When stretched to capacity, fabric just wants to roll...down...off and away. I am a seamstress and I know these things. Zippers want to buzz apart with aching teeth and be left in a dark closet wondering why they were torn from the comfort of the notions drawer to be put to such a demanding task of holding it all together. I see this ongoing strapless style...it’s now in serious overtime...and I think three words, “You need straps.” Straps could be the life saver, like strong 550-rated paracord is to a jumper. My worrying does no good, it’s not my party, not my wedding....I’ve had my share and more. My own response to self being, “Always the bride and never the bridesmaid.” My maids had sleeves, lovely flutter sleeves back in the 80’s. Nothing could or would fall or tumble out. After that first nuptial there was no need for more maids, it was maid-free, and carefree actually. Simply put, there are more suitable styles for us voluptuous American gals...but again I am still a recovering prude.
I could rattle on about my concerns for changing styles but, in the end, people dress how they dress and it’s what’s inside their hearts that matters. My corseted ideas have been challenged by the changing times. The 2021 Dog Days have come to an end and soon enough the temperatures will begin to fall. There will be less skin in view as bathing suits get packed away until next season, and fewer chances for wardrobe malfunctions as full sleeves will push strapless things to the back of the closet. The changing season will bring out long pants, socks and sweaters, too, with those cool temperatures hopefully ending the drought, thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and any bad luck.