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When I was a girl, I was always freezing. There wasn’t enough flannel to keep me warm. My dad, before I had a car of my own, would drive me to the train station; before I stepped inside, he’d warm it up. The most welcomed presents were made of wool or flannel, and I always needed socks to wear during the day and for sleeping.
And then came Michael, my husband. I wasn’t used to sharing a bed, so initially I slept as far away from him as I could. We fought about keeping the windows open during the winter (he said it was healthier, I said it was just plain cold). Then I discovered that he was a living radiator, with a body that gave off heat. So I became a heat-seeking missile, snuggling until he woke up with his nose pressed against the alarm clock. He would start out in the middle of the bed and as he rolled over to get away from me, I rolled with him. Until I heard him growl, “I’m falling off the bed again; move over!” That would go on until spring and start up again every fall. When he traveled, I would put an electric heating pad near my feet.
Menopause changed all that. I gave away the flannel pajamas and wore sleeveless cotton nightgowns year-round. That, too, has passed but my body temperature has stayed in that mode. Part of the problem is that I don’t have the slim, girlish figure I had in my early days, Michael used to say that if I stuck out my tongue and stood sideways, I would look like a zipper. But as the years went by, I learned to like the bedroom cool, with the window open.
Then something happened to Michael. He no longer liked the window wide open in winter. He wanted it mostly closed, not only in the winter, but most of the fall and spring, too. That left summer, when the ongoing argument has become about whether to turn the air conditioner on or off.
Our living room air conditioner died right after the last heat wave, but we couldn’t complain. It had had a good long life. Of course, as soon as the new one was installed, the weather immediately cooled off. But it was a new toy, so we used it. It was quieter, had a remote control, and actually told you what the room temperature was.
Then came the last gasp of summer. Time to turn the air conditioner on again. I put the temperature at 72, which really cools off the living room and the adjacent dining area. I went out and returned to find it set at 78. “You don’t even set a thermostat that high in the winter!” I yelled, and lowered the temperature.
What’s happened to us? It’s almost as if our bodies have switched thermostats. I know that married couples pick up each other’s habits, and sometimes even resemble each other, so maybe there is a logical—even a medical—reason for the change.
Whatever the cause, our internal thermostats have gone crazy and changed partners.
One thing hasn’t changed, though: I still hate getting into a cold car, so I’ve come to love the seat warmer in ours. My dad would have had it going before I set foot inside.