October 11, 2012

Publisher's Notebook: Losing the Cold War at home

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There’s a war going on at my house. I shiver when I think about how many battles I’ve lost in this war. I shiver because I’m freezing to death. It truly is a Cold War.

The war has all the elements of a classic struggle between two sides who want opposite things. It has harsh rhetoric, deception, subterfuge, espionage and stealth operations. Violence has been threatened. No shots have been fired yet because, mostly, I’ve thrown up the white flag.

The front is located in the hallway of our home, about five feet off the floor. It is the scene of daily skirmishes, especially now the weather has changed. For about two years now, my wife and I have been waging war to see which one controls the thermostat.

It is a battle between a menopausal woman who claims she could power a small city with her hot flashes, and a man who gets a chill when he opens the refrigerator.

An example of our latest skirmish: I came home Monday night to find Mary cleaning house and rearranging the furniture. It was about 45 degrees outside and there was a frosty chill in the air. But she had the windows and back door open and the air conditioner going full blast.

It was 64 degrees in the house. The dogs were trying desperately to light a match with their paws. But Mary was flushed and sweaty with an exasperated look on her face. I have seen that look many times before when she cleans the house. At least this time she hadn’t shed all her clothes.

I rushed to the bedroom to put on my sweatshirt, fuzzy pants and insulated socks. I glanced at the thermostat to confirm it indeed was freezing inside, but I knew better than to touch it. I’ve learned that menopause gives women the ability to see and to hear everything, and the disposition to do something about it if they don’t like it.

We’ve tried to have a sensible conversation about the thermostat. I suggested leaving it about 70 degrees all the time. But when she’s cleaning or drying her hair or walking through the house, 70 is not cold enough. The thermostat may give out soon from overuse.

Now that fall temperatures have arrived, Mary said we will be saving money by not turning on the heat. That would be true if she didn’t leave every light and television on in the house all the time. That’s another ongoing battle. But I don’t complain about the lights and the TVs because they’re my only source of ambient heat.

I do feel sorry when I see the sweat rolling off her. Together we’ve consulted with Dr. Google about the hot flashes and other effects of menopause. It was disheartening to learn this war could last up to five years.

I’m changing as well. I don’t tolerate cold weather like I used to. My hands and feet get cold very easily. I once bought a pair of battery-operated feet warmers.

It’s not poor circulation, it’s heredity. My Dad was cold all the time. He’d wear a sweater in July. In the winter, he’d go outside to get more wood for the fireplace and his dentures would start chattering. Dad and Mom had several skirmishes about the temperature in the house. She was a hotbox too.

Mary claims it’s easier for me to add clothes and blankets to stay warm, so that’s what I’m doing. When I go downstairs to my man cave, where it’s even colder, I wrap myself up like a mummy with a blanket over my head and one over my feet.

Adding clothes for warm doesn’t help in the car though. I’ve had my knuckles slapped many times attempting to turn up the thermostat in the car. When I travel with her, my dentures would be chattering if I had them.

Early on in the war, I thought about installing one of those electronic thermostats and putting in a pass code so Mary couldn’t adjust it. But I knew that wouldn’t work. She’d just use psychological warfare and compel/order me to unwrap myself, come upstairs and turn it down.

Sometimes after she’s gone to bed, I will slip unnoticed like a Navy SEAL into the hallway and turn up the thermostat just a little. But she notices any increase in the temperature and there’s usually hell to pay in the morning. It is then that I ponder, for just a moment, the warmth of Hell.

Mary listened to Dr. Google and got a real doctor to prescribe hormone replacement therapy a few months ago. Since then, the hot flashes have diminished. This morning after a frosty night, she actually said “we may need to turn on some heat.”

Seems like a truce in the Cold War may be on the horizon.