It's time to tell the truth: Summer isn't for sissies, but we forget that every year. Here's what you need to remember:
1. Nobody looks at middle-age people at the beach, with "middle-age" being defined as being too old for work-study and too young for cremation. If you are between those ages, don't worry about what anybody will think about your bathing suit, your tan lines or whether your hair gets messed up. They're not looking. The only thing messed up in our culture is the idea that we're under a spotlight just because we're sitting in the sun.
OK, all right, so there is one group looking at middle-age women at the beach - other middle-age women, all of whom are nudging the poor soul sitting next to them and asking "Do I look like her? The one over there with the bad tan line? Do I look like her from the back?" As I've said before, we should stop doing that. It would make everybody's life better.
2. You will sit outside to eat in a moment of cheerful insouciance and you will be eaten alive by insects like a character actor in a bad horror movie. You will have sprayed yourself liberally with Off, Deet, Deep Woods Deet, and Get Off of ME Already, and you will still appear to the buzzing creatures of twilight exactly like a prime filet they roll out in fancy steak joints. You will need calamine lotion, anti-itch creams, anti-infections creams (for where you charmingly scratched yourself until you bled) and those little pink antihistamine pills that will knock you unconscious until October. But by October the bugs will be gone, so it'll be OK.
3. Nobody looks good in white pants. Forget it. Don't look at models. Professional models are as genetically modified as a Monsanto sugar beet. White pants on regular people simply become a convenient blank space upon which nature will write in grass stains, ketchup, mustard, red wine, salsa and oil from fried things you shouldn't have been eating in the first place. Nature writes dirtier than "Fifty Shades of Gray," which is also a good description of what your white pants will look like after two washings. For clarification: Off-white, ivory, pearl and light beige all count as "white."
4. Playing with an outdoorsy accessory called a "fire pit" in your backyard, on your patio or on your deck (which is, we pray, not made of wood - do we need to explain why?) does not make you One With The Elements or even one of the hirsute extras from "Game of Thrones." Not even if you're a guy. It makes you, at best, somebody who found a good use for twigs. Fire pits will not any more effectively prevent you from being eaten alive by insects (see item No. 2) than anything you can spray on yourself. But it will cause you to burst into flames like Johnny The Human Torch if you do spray anything incendiary in its vicinity, which includes very cheap "coolers" that spritz when you open the top.
Also, who was the genius deciding we all need to start lighting fires on hot summer nights? A guy with a lot of faux-copper basins to sell, maybe? I'm just asking. If he tells us to start burning old truck tires in our driveways as next year's new summer tradition, can we exercise some critical thinking before we all say "What a terrific idea! The kids will love it!"?
5. You will sweat. Even if you use stuff clinically proven to seal every pore in your armpit like grout, you will perspire to the extent that you will need to throw some of your shirts into the fire pit. They'll burn prettily next to the white pants.
6. Despite all this, you will have some great times this summer. There will be fresh fruit on locally made ice cream, homemade lemonade, buttery corn on the cob, sweet ice tea, cotton candy at state fairs and burgers from the grill. And this is precisely why it's good that we're all going to stop looking at each other at the beach (see item No. 1).
Gina Barreca is a columnist for the Hartford Courant.