Is August the Worst Month of the Year?

Thirteen days till the most painful part of summer.

Memorial Day through July has a fizzy, juicy momentum. Spring is all about blossoming; summer is about reaping the voracious benefits: cold ice cream, extreme sunshine and minimal clothes, fireworks. The beauty of summer is that it’s not exclusionary. Everyone—young and old, partiers and wallflowers—takes what they want.

Then August comes along.

It is the stubborn bra clasp that never releases; the “last call” shouted with way too much glee. I’m not talking about just before Labor Day, when mailboxes flood with Kohl’s coupons. The beginning of August is when summer goes to hospice care. And I say this as someone whose birthday and wedding anniversary fall in August.

Why is the eighth month—13 short days away—so unbearable?

1. Everyone but you is on vacation. If you’re like me, your job depends on other people. Since August has no federal holiday serving as a vacation anchor—and the stretch from July 4th to Labor Day is interminable—you never know when someone will take off. Every automated “I’ll be out this week” message translates to hastily constructed back-up plans and pleading phone calls to bosses.

It’d be easier if we added a federal holiday. I recommend Vice Presidents Day.

2. Take it from a longtime Mets fan: Pro sports reach their nadir. Phillies fans should prepare for the most boring stretch of baseball. August is a blast when your team is winning and scrapping for playoff position. But for the hopeless, August is when blemishes turn into scars. The free agent gamble fails. The young phenom clearly needs another year. Coaches and executives start talking about the future.

Hockey and pro basketball are months away. The NFL has training camp and the preseason, which serves as an opportunity to see your favorite players get injured and to hear countless hours of speculation and predictions. If Michael Vick stays healthy and DeSean Jackson has 2,000 receiving yards and Jerome Brown rises from the dead in game shape, the Eagles could contend for the NFC East. You could watch the patriotic public relations extravaganza that is the Summer Olympics or the WNBA, a gravity-bound, slower version of the NBA.

The movies are still a possibility, right?

3. The multiplex is only useful for the air conditioning. When my brother and I were kids, my parents would take us (and a few friends) for dinner and a movie. Dave’s birthday is in June, so he could choose during the height of the summer movie harvest: Harrison Ford, superheroes, movies built on explosions. By my birthday, I got the bruised and overripe remains, like My Blue Heaven (Steve Martin as a federally relocated gangster) and Delirious (proof that John Candy probably chose projects by a series of coin flips).

Other than Candy dying, little has changed. The Dark Knight Rises opens this Friday. After that, the new releases—save for Jeremy Renner’s debut in the Bourne series and maybe The Expendables 2—lack the same let’s-skip-the-beach allure.

I’d feel better about The Campaign if Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) and his play-it-safe comedy style weren’t in charge of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. The Total Recall remake looks interesting until you remember that Colin Farrell willingly agreed to star in S.W.A.T., Miami Vice and Daredevil. Premium Rush, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger pedaling away from evil Michael Shannon, looks like a drunken hookup between IFC Films and MTV Films.

4. Based on 34 years of anecdotal evidence, August is the muggiest month. Nothing says “Hey, who’s up for some fun?” more than swamp ass.

5. For kids, the month is one long Sunday. Years later, I can’t shake that feeling. Back-to-school commercials. The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. That chirpy letter from school previewing the upcoming year, which didn’t reflect the bitter teachers, cliquey behavior, or the dry-mouthed fear of seeing your crush and having a mind full of possibilities but a mouth free of words. You couldn’t be reminded enough that your freedom was ending. School was almost a relief from the awful anticipation.

Back then August was a period of mourning. In some ways, it still is.