When dressing for summer evenings in Seattle, I need to keep in mind: There is no such thing as "balmy" — only barmy. As in "nuts." Because everyone out here suffers from a communal delusion that because it's "summer" it must be "warm."
You think we'd catch on, when, as the second weekend of June approaches, evening temperatures are still dipping into the high 40s. Women are nevertheless going out at night wearing strappy summer sandals and sleeveless sundresses.
I looked at my summer party clothes today and tried tell myself that I could wear them to evening events in July and August. You know, when it's really hot.
But after 22 years in Seattle, I should know better. I once attended an evening Fourth of July party in Port Townsend wrapped in an elegant down sleeping bag. Last August I put a pair of shearling-lined Ugg boots in my husband's car so I could thaw out a bit on my way back from an evening event in Bellingham.
But every year, before this reality sinks in, I dress up in a sleeveless sundress and sandals and trot off to dinner at someone's house, where the hosts, too, are in the grips of the annual hallucination. They have set a large festive table out on the deck, and clearly expect us to eat there — all evening. Like something out of Sunset magazine.
Sunset, I'll remind you, is published in California.
Guests sit down, oohing and ahhing over the summery decor. Initially, half of the table is blinded by the glare of the setting sun. When it finally sets, there are sighs of relief, quickly followed by a round of shivers as the 80-degree temperature plummets to 60 degrees in a matter of minutes. And a frigid breeze springs up from the direction of the nearest body of water. Perhaps the Bering Sea?
Someone mutters something about having forgotten her sweater. I realize that I've forgotten mittens, mukluks and a down parka. A dessert of chilled fruit and ice cream gets a noticeably cool reception, though the offer of coffee is greeted with great enthusiasm, and several people crowd inside and into the warm kitchen under the pretense of "helping" to serve it.
At this critical point, you discover the extent of your hosts' delusions: Will they keep everyone shivering out on the deck because "it's summer!," or will they come to their senses and let the guests into the house before frostbite sets in?
The suspense, I'm afraid, is too much for me. My summer wardrobe this year features an immense woven purse. Inside it? Big fuzzy socks, a nice fleece jacket, and a can of windshield defroster for my glasses.