Summer 2010: Ice Ice Baby


It is the tail end of summer in New York, and I’m having a hard time following the commonly held “green” recommendation to keep my thermostat set to 78 degrees. Believe me, I have my reasons.

For one thing, I am at a point in my life where estrogen is racing out of my body faster than oil out of a deep-water BP well. As a result, my inner thermostat is completely out of whack – it feels like I have my own personal furnace lodged under my pancreas, hitting me with blasts of steamy air throughout the day and night. The phrase “hot flashes” does not do this condition justice, as it implies intermittent spells of overheating followed by cooling-off periods. I have not found this to be the case. I am hot all the damn time – my face red, my clothes damp, my hair attractively plastered to my head.

I have noticed a temperamental component that comes with these mid-life changes – there is a certain moody intolerance, a cranky disinterest in the needs and opinions of others. I look at this as a positive thing: I have finally outgrown my lifelong habit of compulsive people-pleasing. Others, however, are less fond of this development and have referred to me as crabby, aggressive, and short-tempered. The phrase “meaner than a mountain polecat” has cropped up once or twice. My kids derisively refer to me as “Sunshine.” Although not, you can be sure, to my face.

On top of all this, New York has been having one of the hottest summers in recorded history, with countless days over 90 degrees and unbearable, rain forest-like humidity. Every morning it seems that the local weatherman announces another heat advisory, another day of oppressive, scorching sun.

For me, these conditions have combined to create a Perfect Storm of heat intolerance. I keep my air conditioner set to 67 degrees because any warmer than that and I might have to kill someone.

Not everyone is a fan of this practice – I am constantly being told that my house is too cold. My daughter walks around the house in sweat pants and a hoodie, with her nose running and her lips a lovely and delicate shade of blue. Guests come to my home in August wearing long sleeves and fleece vests (although given my combustible attitude, it’s a wonder they show up at all).

I feel guilty about the fossil fuels I am wasting and I try hard to make up for my eco failures this season. None of my summer barbecues have featured paper plates or disposable cups – which is a real sacrifice for someone as inherently lazy as I am. I am hoping to balance out my carbon footprint by using less heating oil during the coming winter, when I will keep my house at a lovely and arctic 63 degrees. Until then, my family is hoping for a leveling off of the weather – and my hormone-induced crabbiness.

Meanwhile, I am trying my best to ride out the summer and be more courteous to others. Book group is at my house next week and in an effort to be nice I thoughtfully sent my guests an evite that ended with some well-meaning advice: “Bundle up, bitches.”

Image: Ed Yourdon