I love my husband very much. But he has one serious flaw.
And that’s how high he sets the thermostat in the bedroom at night.
How many of you share your life with someone who sets the thermostat way too high in the bedroom at night?
Here’s how it works in my house. I come in the bedroom at night, and if my husband’s already in bed, usually reading, he’s under the sheet, he’s under the comforter – a nice thick comforter – he himself is a space heater so the bed is warm… and he has the thermostat set at 80°.
I ask you, is that reasonable?
I say to my husband, “Handsome!” (That’s my nickname for him.) “Handsome. It’s too hot in here.”
“No,” he replies, “it’s warm, it’s comfortable, it holds you in a cocoon of comfort and security!”
“I have to sleep spread out like a starfish!”
There’s a reason that I prefer cooler temperatures and my husband prefers warmer temperatures. It’s not because I’m a woman and he’s a man; I hear from people who come up to me after I give this speech that it’s the opposite for them. It’s not that I’m from Seattle, with cool winters and cool summers, and he’s from Southern Virginia, where summers are hot.
At one point, he told me why it was.
It’s because I’m white.
See, my husband is African-American, and there’s this belief among at least some African-Americans – his family, African American friends of ours here – that if you have a bunch of people in a room, and one person says, “It’s too hot,” it’s always the white person.
The first Christmas after we were married, we’d been married about nine months, we were going to visit his family in southern Virginia. Winters in southern Virginia are similar to winters here. I didn’t know how his family celebrated Christmas, but the way my family celebrates Christmas, we’d have dinner, we’d go for a walk – even if it’s raining, right? Sometimes we’d even take the ferry over to Bremerton and back – we’d have dessert, and then everyone would sit around and read the books we got as gifts.
So as I’m packing to go to southern Virginia, I’m packing my long-sleeve blouses, my long-sleeve tops, my long-sleeve pullover sweaters. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I didn’t realize where my husband got his propensity to set the thermostat too high.
What’s more, when relatives come over, they don’t go out for walks. That’s a white thing. Certainly they don’t go for walks along the state highway they live on!
They all sit in living room, and talk. That’s what’s polite and friendly in their culture. But all of that body heat, that drives the temperature up.
My husband’s family are all sitting there in their pants, and their shirts, and their sweaters or sweatshirts – and they’re perfectly comfortable.
What’s wrong with me? I can’t take it.
My husband can walk five paces in 35° weather when it’s overcast, and he starts sweating. He has an amazing heat dispersal mechanism. But I don’t.
You know how people say that heat in the desert is better than heat in humidity, because it’s a dry heat?
No. It’s not. My skin is like this thick heat shield, that gets really hot, but it doesn’t release heat, it keeps it inside.
The inside of my body feels like it’s being baked in a furnace. My insides are turning into hot sand and ash, and I feel like I’m going to collapse into a mound of sand on the floor.
Now, I know I’m the first person from Seattle, the first white person, to marry into their family. I’m the first white person from Seattle ever to be a guest in their house. I know they’re covertly watching me, because they want to know how the white Seattleite behaves at home. And they’re using me as an example.
I figure that flapping the top of my sweater wouldn’t be a good idea. I could drink a lot of cold water, which I did, but I probably couldn’t put it on my pulse points over and over and over.
So I go outside.
The temperature’s maybe 35°, and it feels wonderful. The cool air says to the heat shield that is my skin, “Come with us, be free;” oxygen flows into my lungs – hot air doesn’t seem to me to have any oxygen in it; the flagstones that they put on the carport are cool underneath my feet…
Did you catch that?
Yes. I’m barefoot.
Here’s the conversation I didn’t know was going on inside.
My mother-in-law says to my husband, “Kyle!”
“Yes, ma’am,” my husband replies.
“Louise went outside. She ain’t got no shoes on!”
“Yeah,” says my husband, “that’s just something she does.”
“Well, why she do that?”
“Well,” says my mother-in-law, “I know that!”
It’s 13 years later, and my husband and I have come to some accommodation about temperature in the bedroom at night. I now know to pack short-sleeved tops and even shorts when we go visit his family.
But one thing’s different. Now, instead of saying, “It’s too hot in here,” I say:
“I’m too white in here.”