October 7, 2005
It's almost cold today.
I hate being cold. It makes me sad.
Here in Houston, there's a big secret war between people who hate the cold and can tolerate the heat, and people who hate the heat and love the almost-cold. Under the guise of joking, they show disgust for one another.
I don't mind the heat, and I can't stand the almost-cold. But, at the same time, I can be happy for the people who enjoy it. After all, it's easier to deal with cold by putting on extra clothes than it is to deal with the heat. I can wear my Work Sweater when the AC's too high, but my coworkers can't strip and run under the water hose when the AC breaks down.
I don't know why I dislike the cold so much. It's not that I'm anemic - I've been checked. My friend Yvonne theorizes that being poor and coatless in one's youth is a trauma that can affect adults in wintertime, even if they can afford a closetful of beautiful jackets by then.
That theory seems sound to me. I don't remember being sad about the cold when I was young. In fact, I remember walking through the winter downtown winds in shorts, a t-shirt, and my little '80s lace-up boots, and thinking that I was having great adventures.
Now, though, I buy lots of cardigans and squirrel them away in various places where I might put in appearances - my work, my car, my boyfriend's car. I fantasize about furry gloves and scarves. I wish that Houston was a place where people could get away with wearing warm hats. But no one does. They don't think it's cold enough. Our culture won't support it. I don't even know how women in the North go about it. Where do you put your hat when you get to work? What do you do about your hat hair and the static cling?
The worst part is the arguments I get into with my kids.
Me: Oh, no. It's 68 degrees outside. You guys had better put on these huge parkas I bought you on clearance over the summer.
Josh, age 13: It's not that cold. I'm okay.
Me: No, it's colder than you think. I went outside and checked. Here, put this on.
Dallas, age 11: It's not cold. It's hot.
Me: Dallas, are you wearing shorts? Go put some pants on. Hurry up. We're running late. You, too, Rory. What's wrong with y'all? Didn't y'all check the weather online last night?
Rory, age 8: Aw, man. But I'm not cold.
Me: Yes, you are. Go put on pants, a jacket, and this ski cap I had to special order.
Josh: Mom, is this one of those things where you were traumatized because you grew up poor, like when we can't crunch soda cans because it makes you think there's rats in the closet?
Me: Don't talk back, Josh. Just put your jackets on.
Dallas: But I'm not cold.
Me: THAT'S IT. GODDAMMIT. YOU LITTLE BRATS PUT YOUR COATS ON BEFORE I SPANK YOU. NO ONE'S GOING TO SEE YOU OUTSIDE HALF NAKED IN THE COLD AND THINK THAT I'M SOME KIND OF SHITTY PARENT WHO DOESN'T CARE IF HER KIDS ARE FREEZING TO DEATH. YOU PUT THESE GODDAMN JACKETS ON RIGHT NOW BEFORE I SLAP YOUR FACES. WHERE'S MY WIRE HANGER? [Goes to find wire hanger or rusty stick with nails sticking out of it.]
Josh: [whispering to brothers] Just put the jackets on. We can take them off when we get to school.
Rory: [on phone] Hello, Child Protective Services? Yeah, can you come get my mom? She keeps trying to make us wear coats.
Okay, forget that. That's not the worst thing. The actual worst thing - no kidding around, here - is when there's a suprise overnight cold front, and then we wake up late and have to peel the hell out to school, and then I wind up not realizing how cold it is until the kids are getting out of the car and heading into class.
Whenever that happens, even though I offer to drive home and bring their jackets, and even though the kids assure me they don't need them... I cry a little bit on the way to work. I swear, I do. I feel so horribly guilty (and cold).
It doesn't help that my boyfriend also hates the cold and, like me, marvels at my kids' resistance to it. But then he gets all logical and reminds me that they grew up a tiny bit north of here and that, unlike us, they were born into constant central air conditioning. So Houston winters mean absolutely nothing to them.
And, so... I'm working on improving my cold-related paranoia. If you're in Houston this fall, and you see three cheerful kids in shorts and t-shirts followed by a sad bundle of black yarn and faux fur, then wave hi. Because that'll be us.