Comfort zone

I don't know about you, but I'm cold. I'm so cold I'm wearing a hat in the house. The kind of polar fleece beret thing that looked great on Olympic athletes but makes me look kind of like an overage/oversize baby or a reject from the Italian Navy. It says just how cold I am that I'm willing to be seen this way. My niece, Ocea, gave me one look in the hat and shook her head as if to say, "No, no, no."

And it's not even that cold where I live. Maybe it gets down to 30 at night. In Scandinavia they wear shorts and smile a lot when it gets this warm. In places like Buffalo, it'd be a winter heat wave. You probably know more about real cold than I do.

But I don't care (do I sound like a certain American President?). I'm cold. I grew up in Southern California where cold was 72 degrees and I was never cold. When I was a kid I didn't know the windows in my house opened because they hadn't been opened since we'd moved there. That's because the air conditioning was set at 65 degrees, year round, to keep my mother cool. Was I cold then? No, I didn't know any better. I was young, I adjusted and didn't understand why anyone would have a down comforter when I'd throw off the one sheet I slept under because I was too warm.

I can only remember being cold once before I was 30. I was at a retreat in Japan and I had to stand "greeting the sun" for an hour when it was seven below zero. Even then I stopped feeling cold because I stopped feeling (I was more than a little afraid my hands would fall off but conveniently they didn't).

Until recently I'd wear shorts and a t-shirt all winter. I'd get hot under the collar about heat, but cold was cool. Meanwhile, my wife always felt cold. While I slept with no covers, she was like the "Princess and the Pea," sleeping under three blankets and two comforters, still claiming "The hair on the top of my head is cold."

Since all her friends were always cold, too, we had a joke, "all women are freezing all the time." Except it wasn't funny when she turned the heater up to 85 and still had to wear a sweater and wrap herself in a blanket and claim, shivering, that she could still feel the cold outside.

But she wasn't outside and if it's 80 where you are, it's hot (unless you're like one of my Cuban friends who's cold when it's "only 80").  Why do people turn up the heat in winter to a temperature at which, if it was summer, would have them running to turn on the A/C?

My wife used to claim her "comfort zone" was precisely between 71 and-a-half and 72 degrees. Or roughly 71-and-three-quarters, give or take a quarter. This made her more sensitive to climate changes than breeds of animals long extinct. If it was 80 in the summer she melted. If, however, it was winter and cold outside, she had the thermostat set at 80 and was still cold. I could never figure this out, but then, she's always prided herself on her sense of mystery.

Then somewhere along the way, we crossed paths on the temperature scale, kind of the way that Michael Jackson and George Hamilton crossed paths on the color chart. It can be 90 and I'm OK. But if it gets under 66, I'm cold. Meanwhile, 62 is cool to her, and 64 is hot. At least her comfort zone increased.

Interestingly, when she was cold, the heat was on all the time. Now that I'm cold I can't say the same thing, hence the beret.

What frightens me most is that I now understand why people move to Florida and Arizona. My own previously-refrigerated mother moved to Tucson. She calls to say how lovely the weather is when it's 110. This has led me to a new theory. Maybe if people live long enough they turn into reptiles. Maybe our whole idea of evolution is backwards, we just don't live long enough for that to be clear. Maybe when medical science prolongs life to 150, the elderly will feel compelled to sleep on rocks in the sun. Stranger things have happened, and in my own family.

Mostly, though, it makes me feel like I'm getting old...er,  post-30's posthaste. In my nightmares I see myself wearing long shorts with black socks and white patent leather shoes, roaming the beaches of Florida in search of one last ray of sun before my "early bird" dinner. I awake in a cold sweat.

I am not sure what to do about any of this, other than buy gloves. I think I'll sneak downstairs and turn up the thermostat to a blazing 68 degrees. Then my wife will be the one running around in shorts. Nothing wrong with that.

Daniel Will-Harris

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Take A Break

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