In case anyone reading this doesn’t already know, Alabama is hot in the summer. Specifically, the high yesterday was 103 degrees, and that was pleasantly cool compared to most of last week. Besides that, it’s ridiculously humid most days, and the sun is pretty intense, too. In this kind of weather, the common conversation starters “Hi” and “How are you?” decrease in popularity as most people choose instead to begin their conversations with remarks about the temperature. Heat is also the favored topic of facebook statuses and photo captions. These conditions will apply for at least the next eight or nine weeks, and probably a while longer than that. In recognition of this fact, here are a few tips for how to survive summer weather.

1. Ice Cream

This is the kind of ice cream that awesome people eat

This is a pretty obvious one. For most of the year, ice cream is something of a special treat. It’s something you eat sometimes (but not necessarily very often) because it tastes good. During the summer, ice cream becomes much more essential, and the flavor is only one of several reasons. When it’s very hot, foods that are generally served warm lose much of their appeal. In fact, even foods that are generally served at room temperature may not seem so appetizing. In order to keep from starving, it is necessary to eat cold foods. Ice cream, of course, is the logical choice. Besides, there are few joys that compare with eating a large quantity of ice cream outside on a hot day, allowing the ice cream to soften and melt as you eat it. (One of those few joys that does compare with it is the joy of eating a moderate amount of ice cream outside on a hot day. It is clear, though, what the one must conclude after making this comparison. More ice cream is better.)

2. Sun Tea

When I was little, I didn’t like iced tea, so it’s a little ironic that the memories of sun tea have stuck with me the way they have. My family has a big glass jar with a yellow picture of the sun and a yellow plastic lid. On some summer days, particularly if it’s a special occasion, my parents will fill it with water, stick a bunch of tea bags in it, and leave it to sit in the sun, causing the water to slowly and semi-magically turn into tea. Despite the fact that I rarely drank any of that tea and didn’t really enjoy it when I did, there was something pleasant about the knowledge that there was tea brewing outside. I think it was mostly because of pleasant associations. To my subconscious mind, sun tea was connected with various other aspects of the summertime, like the patriotic music that we listened to on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and like visiting my grandparents, whose sun tea was just like my parents’ sun tea. Now, I actually do like iced tea, and I was delighted to discover last summer that I can make sun tea on my windowsill in a little glass jar that originally had strawberry jam in it. This summer, I have been using a slightly larger jar that used to have apple butter in it. The iced tea itself isn’t any more effective at keeping one cool than ice water is, but ice water is less special, partly because it is boringly clear, and partly because it doesn’t sit on your windowsill looking very interesting. I like to think that anyone outside looking up at my tea-making window would think that I’m some kind of mad scientist doing a bizarre experiment.

3. Don’t Hide from the Heat

Besides, it’s beautiful. Why stay inside all day when outside looks like this?

Apparently, this one is a little counter-intuitive, because I have noticed that most people seem to think that the best way to handle the heat is to spend as much time as possible inside with the air conditioner set to a fairly chilly temperature. The problem with that is that anytime you do go outside, you’re not prepared for the heat. If you go outside every now and then, and if you set the temperature inside to be somewhat warmer than ideal, you adjust a little better. Of course, there’s nothing you can do to make yourself feel comfortable at ninety or a hundred or a hundred ten degrees unless you are one of the rare people who actually don’t mind heat as much as the rest of us do. Still, it’s better to be uncomfortable because of the heat than totally incapacitated by it, and letting yourself get accustomed to it can make a difference.

4. Ice Cream

Oh, I said this one already, didn’t I? Well, it’s the most important one, so it bears repeating. Eat lots of ice cream. It’s awesome.