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Baby, it's cold inside: Marriage is matter of climate control


Lately I've been doing lots of running, shadow-boxing, work on the speed bag, etc., to prepare for another long summer of battling my wife over the thermostat.

The sociologists and shrinks are always rhapsodizing about the essential ingredients of a marriage: love, honesty, commitment, blah, blah, blah. Fine, fine, I'm sure that's all very important.

But if I were a young single man today and a woman caught my eye at, say, a local Happy Hour, the first thing I'd do is take a long pull from my Molson Ice, wipe the swath of Buffalo-wing sauce from my chin and ask: "How do you feel about air-conditioning?"

Sadly, this was one area I neglected to explore when my wife and I were dating. Now it's coming back to haunt me big-time.

The problem (if you want to call it that) is that I have the physiology of a normal human being, which is to say that when it gets hot and sticky, I feel uncomfortable.

When this happens, instead of sitting there in a puddle of sweat the size of Lake Michigan and whining about it, I like to turn on the central air-conditioning in our home.

Then I like to bury the thermostat needle at 68 degrees and watch that baby crank out some serious Btu as the house gets nice and cool.

My wife, on the other hand, was apparently born with the circulatory system of an iguana.

Not only doesn't she feel the heat, but air-conditioning actually makes her . . . chilly.

This is something she manages to communicate in a number of subtle ways, such as by walking around the house with a quilt over her shoulders.

The point is, when the warm weather arrives, all we do is fight over the A.C.

I turn the thermostat to 68 and leave the room, she jacks it up to 74.

She leaves the room, I come back a few minutes later and turn it down to 68 again.

I leave the room, she comes in and jacks it up to 74 again.

This goes on all day and night. Which is half the reason we don't get anything done around the house. We're too busy making sure the other person hasn't fooled with the A.C.

Then a few days ago, my wife's air-conditioning phobia took on an even more disturbing dimension.

It was beastly hot that morning. So, as any normal person would do, I turned on the air-conditioning. Then I left the house to run some errands.

Naturally, when I came home two hours later, the house had the same breezy feel as a mango grove in Panama.

This time, however, she didn't just jack the thermostat up to 74.

This time, she turned the A.C. off completely.

And opened the windows.

As I lurched about searching for a pocket of cool air, my wife explained that she'd done all this so we could "get some fresh air."

This, of course, was an absolutely incredible statement.

Outside, the noonday sun was an orange fireball in the sky. Great clouds of steam were rising from the sidewalk. Birds were dropping to the ground in mid-flight. Dogs were foaming at the mouth and keeling over. Children and senior citizens were reeling about in a feverish, hollow-eyed stupor.

But we were going to get some fresh air in the house.

"The nearest fresh air is in Nova Scotia," I gasped, and by now the room was starting to spin.

"It's really not so bad in here," she said. "Just give it a chance."

Let me tell you something. When people say "Just give it a chance," whatever they're talking about is generally not going to get any better.

Anesthesia, novels, food -- if you hear "Just give it a chance," you can pretty much figure the experience has reached its zenith and is now about to go swiftly downhill.

Which is basically what happened in this case.

For the rest of the afternoon, the house shimmered in the heat like a rice paddy. It wasn't until the 12-year-old came home and nearly keeled over from an oven-like blast of hot air that the situation changed.

"If you don't turn on the air-conditioning," he said, "we're all going to die. It's that simple."

Watching him sprawled on the carpet, his face damp and pink like a newborn's, was apparently too much for my wife. She doesn't care if an ambulance screams up to the house and and it's me the paramedics hustle out packed in ice. Just as long as the kids are OK.

Anyway, she finally agreed to turn on the air-conditioning. In fact, she was apparently so moved by the kid's plight that she turned that sucker all the way down to 73.

A few minutes later, when she wasn't looking, I turned it down to 68.

Naturally, the next time I checked, she'd jacked it back up to 73.

There was a time in this country when being married meant a certain amount of trust existed between the two partners.

But apparently those days are over.

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