“In New York summers get hot,
well into the hundreds.
You can’t walk around the block
without a change of clothing.”
-U2, “New York”
Bono was right. New York summers are hot, but what he was really singing about was the humidity.
Living in humidity feels like someone is giving you a never-ending hug that you don’t want. Step into a subway station, and the next minute you look like you just jumped out of a shower—or a swamp. And moving to an AC-filled room doesn’t offer immediate relief. As your drenched body begins to cool, it will start to feel like the back of a Post-it note.
If you’re so blessed to be from a dry environment and your body isn’t used to humidity, you may notice some changes that are similar to signs of pregnancy. My California-born appendages swelled up, particularly my hands and feet, and I was craving salty foods, including pickles. My feet got so bad that they sometimes tingled when I walked. Fat feet and hands are the result of blood rushing to the surface to cool down the body. And the attendant cankles are a good way to ward off possible suitors. As for the pickles craving, sweating depletes salt, which leads to yearnings for salty snacks. Gosh, I could go for a pretzel.
Good news? I’m not expecting an unexpected child. Bad news? I’m stuck in this weather for three months.
So, I decided to do some research to find out if there was anything good about humidity. If I have to suffer through something — like a grueling workout or a standardized test — I like to think my pain has a purpose. All the best holidays run from the end of November through mid-March to give the winter an upside. People need presents and feasts to get through snowstorms and little daylight. So, what’s humidity’s plus?
Turns out there’s little to get excited about. According to CNN, humidity puts you at a greater risk for heat exhaustion, which causes more deaths than floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning combined. And if that weren’t bad enough, you should know that humidity makes it easier for mold to grow and dust mites to reproduce. So, if I don’t croak from heat stroke, I might die from spores.
But after weeding through all of humidity’s negative reviews, I did find some positives. Humidity decreases your chance of catching the flu, including SARS, since germs can’t travel as freely in the thick air. A sweat-soaked sundress might be less fashionable than even a facemask, but I’ll take sticky limbs over SARS any day.
Humidity is a mixed bag when it comes to your face. It can increase acne, since extra sweat mixes with face oils, but it also can prevent wrinkles. Dry skin is more prone to cracking and wrinkling. No wonder everyone retires to Florida.
Nothing, though, gives humidity a better image than a long, dark winter. On my moist, slow jog through Central Park this morning, I looked up at the reservoir and was startled by how blue it was. Set against the buildings of striated silver and the blooming trees, the water dazzled in the sunlight. The heavy air seemed to hold all the hues together. I felt like Dorothy stepping from her gray world into Technicolor.
For that moment, I forgot that I was living in a sauna and soaked in the beautiful park.