Martorella: To air condition or not to air condition

This is the time of year when my husband and I revisit what may be our biggest ongoing marital dispute — when to turn on the air conditioning.

In so many ways, couples can share items and experiences yet still tailor them to their individual tastes. Most cars have separate controls for each seat position, heat, air flow, even speaker volume. Some mattresses allow you to control each side separately to customize the firmness and slope that leads to your best sleep. There are ladies’ nights and boys’ nights out, you can salt and pepper your meals to your taste, split up activities on vacations. But science has not yet figured out a way to split up the air in our house.

My husband is proudly frugal, and while I am not extravagant by any means, (really, Honey, I’m not), I do believe in being “practically” comfortable. Why should we have to saunter lethargically through the house, fanning ourselves and wiping our sweaty foreheads, when we can turn on air conditioning and be oh, so happy?

We have a similar push and pull around the electricity use in general, as my husband follows me around turning off lights, which drives me nuts as I step out of a room for a moment only to find it dark when I turn back. Honestly, I only leave the lights on as an intentional reminder that I was still doing something in that room. Unfortunately, I need those kind of reminders these days, or I’ll find last night’s dinner still on the stove when I come down in the morning. And to be fair, I follow him around picking up cups, which I hear is equally as annoying as he is still drinking from them.

But air conditioning is a different, temporary, necessary luxury. On a hot and sticky day, when an open window offers no breeze, the right burst of air conditioning doesn’t just cool the skin, it soothes the soul. Stepping out of the heat into a cooled room feels like an exhausted traveler stumbling into a five-star hotel.

Really, as the saying goes, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that bothers me. I can actually feel my hair frizzing strand by strand as my skin becomes sticky with sweat. My brain gets muddled and my speech slower. And I can see our photos curling in their frames. On the worst of days, I convince my husband I am saving our memories as much as comforting myself. He thinks I’m overdramatic, but I don’t see it, do you?

Maybe he just doesn’t get as warm as the rest of us. For about eight months of the year, he is known to wear ski caps to keep the heat from escaping through his head. So it makes total sense that he has a built-in cooling system that the children and I don’t have.

It’s also possible that my husband has been informed that I wasn’t always so efficiency-minded when it came to AC. When I was a kid, we only had an air conditioner in one room on each floor, and my bedroom was not one them. On especially hot nights, I would camp out in our playroom, pulling out the sleeper sofa, laying out my sleeping bag, closing the doors (this was before open floor plans were all the rage), and blasting the window unit. It would get freezing in there overnight and I loved burrowing into the covers. Best sleep ever.

Now on muggy nights, the kids ask for the air conditioning so they can stay cool instead of tossing and turning themselves to sleep, and I abide for the same reason. I try to set the thermostat higher at the night, but the air usually pops on at some point or another, at which point I grimace with worry that the cold is bothering my husband while at the same time knowing the rest of us are reveling in it. Sometimes I get up and turn it off altogether, sometimes I don’t. My sleep is still disturbed due to my guilty conscience and people-pleasing nature, but somehow, I don’t mind.

Stay cool.

 

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT, welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at [email protected]