On August 27, 2015

Season war

Hey, look, guys: summer is almost over. Does that fill you with sadness or excitement? And if the former—and if you haven’t been enrolled in school in more than a few years—then why?

Selecting a “favorite season” is first of all an unnecessary endeavor and, like choosing a favorite thing in any other category (books, movies, albums, colors), feels to me contradictory of the erratic experience of actual living: we all have good and bad days and weeks in every season, usually for reasons unrelated to the weather. Still, whether as part of some calculated overarching personal brand that exists in substitution for (or in support of) a real personality, or as a reflection of some genuine temperature-sensitivity issue, most people claim to prefer one particular time of the year over all others—the least popular, at least among non-skiers, being winter, with summer and fall (on the other hand) sort of roughly tied for the lead.

Real or not, there is a debate here that deserves to be resolved in a logical, pedantic manner.

Both seasons have specific ways of marketing themselves. To be a “summer person” suggests a spirit of fun, adventure, and spontaneity: you have a young and lusty heart and an unself-conscious, extroverted way about you. Basically, you want your life to resemble one long Bud Light commercial—you are Up for Whatever™, especially if “whatever” includes drinking outdoors in a crowded setting and exposing body parts.

Fall, by contrast, implies a mild, pleasant wistfulness, a modicum of artful restraint—the more complicated thought patterns that humans are capable of sustaining only when the heat has died down. If you prefer fall, you probably enjoy rainy days (this is a lie—no one actually enjoys rainy days), strolling across the well-manicured quad of a private university as the leaves change, and reading the first ten pages of a novel and then gazing pensively out the window for the next 20 minutes while drinking coffee.

In short, summer is stupid; fall is pretentious. Summer is a dog; fall is a cat. So which season is actually better? I’ve broken it down by category:

Weather. Contrary to popular belief, being hot is not actually pleasant. The first half of fall can support the same outdoor activities as summer with a higher comfort factor. Summer weather is better for swimming, but is there anything really all that great about being submerged in water anyway? Meanwhile, the peculiarly autumnal sensation of “crispness” in the air is almost shockingly pleasurable when it first manifests itself every year. Advantage: fall.

Activities. Classic summer activities include going to the beach, attending outdoor concerts, hosting barbecues, and sexual promiscuity. I don’t actually enjoy any of these things that much, but I think they represent more authentic human impulses than the Instagram-oriented outings of fall: pumpkin picking, corn mazes, jumping into leaf piles despite being a grownup, etc. Advantage: summer.

Fashion. Women look good in everything, but the majority of them seem to derive greater satisfaction from assembling the perfect fall outfit—a convoluted mélange of textures and hues—than they do from the anxiety-ridden ordeal of donning a bikini. Every September, you can tell how eager they are to recomplicate their wardrobes with decorative jackets and “pops of color,” as the scarves and knit caps tend to emerge at least a full month before they’re necessary. Equally for men, this category is no contest, since, almost without exception, guys look like dorks in shorts and sandals, with their hairy legs and hideous feet. Jeans and a sweater for the win. Advantage: fall.

Food. The problem of “pumpkin-flavored everything” has been well covered over the past couple years, but can we talk about butternut squash for a second? Minority opinion: I think it may just be a triumph of branding. The word “butternut” sounds delicious, so the food ostensibly must be delicious as well, but I’m not so convinced that there’s anything so special about this specific style of vegetal mush, and it seems possible that the November restaurant menus have hoodwinked us here. On the other hand, I like hot dogs a lot and believe that they’re worth defending against people who want to explain to you how they’re actually made. Children are allowed to eat hot dogs year-round—adults are allowed only in the summer. Advantage: summer.

Beer. For some reason, summer is everyone’s favorite time for inebriation, but the actual experience of being drunk and dehydrated in serious heat is a hideous ordeal. In the fall, you can drink stronger, more flavorful beer without feeling like you’re going to die. Advantage: fall.

Holidays. Although Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day all celebrate different, important aspects of our nation, they’re experientially almost identical: you’ll probably end up at a backyard barbecue every time. Halloween and Thanksgiving bear more distinctive personalities and rituals; the culture that surrounds them is not quite as vast or detailed as that of Christmas (the ultimate “event” holiday), but they come closer. Advantage: fall.

Childhood associations. When we were kids, summer meant no school. Fall meant going back to school. Fall was the worst. Advantage: summer.

In general, I think summer comes with a lot of pressure: if you don’t go on some life-changing vacation or (for the young, single folks) experience some “Grease”-like seasonal fling, then you’ve neglected the pleasures of the world in some deep, antihuman way—and now it’s time to get back to work, sucker. In the fall, there’s a little less pressure to “live fully”; you can be yourself, stylishly embracing your complexities and varying moods.

And when autumn ends, a sense of anticipation, not regret, is there to greet you, since Christmas and the New Year are just around the corner: a fresh start awaits—in 2016, you’ll finally do summer right!

Overall advantage: fall.

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