Rain has a definite image problem. The sages of the ages hardly have good word for it. Curly haired people wring their hands over it. Television weathermen warn us of "the bad news" before predicting it.
Children are conditioned against it in the earliest stages of their lives with memorized rhymes pleading for it to "go away and come again another day" and hundreds of popular songs use it as a symbol for gloom and doom.
In fact, rain may have been given a bad rap. An informal survey of psychologists and just plain folks suggests that a lot of people really like it and that they identify more with Gene Kelly ("Singin' in the Rain") than with Joe Blpftsk, the unhappy wandered in Lil Abner who was followed by his own permanently raining cloud.
"I like the rain," says Peg Long, managing editor for an educational materials firm in Washington. "It gives me a cozy feeling."
Richard Rebh, a defense analyst with a private company in Washington, thinks "gray days can be nice now and then. People tend to take things easier: they're not so active. And it makes you appreciate the two nice days a year we have."
And Gypsy Steinberg, a downtown street vendor from Hampton, Va., loves the rain, she says, because it reminds her of England where she grew up. "And the rains around here are kind of soft," she adds. "I like soft things."
Some people find strange pleasure in the rain. One woman, a cashier in a downtown restaurant, confesses that rain "makes me feel sexy, I guess because the sun isn't out, it's time for -" She laughs, embarrassed.
This hardly fits rain's popular reputation. We all know - or do we? - that rain is supposed to make us depressed.
With all the studies that have been done on everything imaginable, you would think that someone would have studied whether rain does depress us. Psyhcologist - the people who are supposed to know these things - acknowledge ruefully that, well, they really don't know much about it.
Generally, though, they agree that rain probably isn't a major precipitating factor in depression.
Dr. Robert A. Harper, a clinical psychologist, thinks "a lot of rain has a generally depressing effect." but notes that "some people compensate for it readily. They say to themselves. 'The sun is forthcoming.'
"Some people, though, react to rain as they do to other stimuli, as though it's a permanent condition. And they tend to get very low."
Harper adds that long spells of rain "don't seem to bring people rushing to shrinks if they hadn't intended to come anyway."
Dr. Julius Senal, head of scientific and public information at the National Institute of Mental Health, offers another view - one, he stresses, based more on general obervation than on research.
"If some people are depressed, a rainy and cloudy day may be more in tune with their mood and less threatening than a bright clear day." he suggests. "It seems there's a world out there that's as miserable as their own. They may find a gorgeous, crystal clear day driving home to them their depression."
Not everyone, of course, either loves or hates the rain. SOme people simply accept it. As 85-year-old Edith MacRae, a Washington residential, put it. "What can you do about it? You can't do anything, so I just accept it." She adds that she has seen a lot of rain in her lifetime, and has done a lot of accepting.
May Thomas, a counter waitress at a downtown restaurant, doesn't mind the rain because "I think we needed a little bit of it." How she feels about it, she says "depends on how I feel generally. It just accentuates however I feel - good or bad."
Psychologist Mel Gravitz offers one idea why rain's image may be so bad, in spite of all the nice things people are willing to say about it:
"There's just the general mythology of gray skies and gloomy days producing gloom.If one person is feeling gloomy, they blame it on the weather, and that person says the same thing to another, and so on."
Gravitz suggests there may be a "silver lining" to rainclouds, though: "I don't know about other people, but I certainly sleep better when it's a rainy day."