Cold Wars (#334)

My Chinese American husband grew up in tropical Hawaii. When he moved to Los Angeles, his mom sent him with an electric blanket.

Years later, I laughed over that blanket before donating it to charity. I grew up on the East Coast, spending many holidays in New Hampshire. “Southern California is not cold,” I told Andy.  “Twenty below on a chairlift is cold.”

The disparity in our experiences was highlighted during vacations. I ignored Andy’s advice and ran up a sand dune barefoot on the island of Kauai, yelling, “How hot can it be?”

Answer: “Hot enough that you wind up whimpering with ice packs on your burning feet.”

On one trip to New Hampshire, our son woke up at the crack of dawn, yelling. We bolted out of bed and found him in the kitchen—unharmed, but convinced he’d seen a strange cat. Andy disappeared while I got Baby D back to sleep. It was only October, but the temperature had plummeted overnight. I found the very old school thermostat and turned the dial up before hunting through the house for my husband.

He was back in bed, shivering.

I patted his arm and said, “Don’t worry, honey. I turned on the heat.”

“Good,” moaned Andy, who is an engineer. “I couldn’t figure out how.”

The undecipherable thermostat had a dial like this.

The one time we went whale watching? Andy spent 30 minutes in the hotel shower afterwards. He drank hot coffee while standing under hot water, convinced he was hypothermic.

Before any readers start in on how cold it is watching the whales in Alaska or Cape Cod, please know that our ship barely made it out of the bay in SAN DIEGO.

So you’d think that my husband would be the first person to bump up our SoCal thermostat (which he finds easy to adjust because it is not “an archaic New England instrument powered by witchcraft”) to higher temperatures.

Wrong. Heat costs money. My husband, like many Chinese Americans, is very frugal.

Our tiny house, which was built for hot summers (e.g., no basement, just a crawlspace with vents allowing cool breezes to circulate under the house) can easily drop to into the fifties overnight during California winters.

Boss Cat sneaks under the covers. We cover up our short-haired dog with a blanket.

In the mornings, Andy will throw on a robe, slippers, and sometimes a beanie or wool leg warmers from Bolivia.

But he will not turn on the heat. Not even at 57°F.

Mark, a fellow blogger in South Dakota, wrote a whole post about how tough it was to get up when his household temp dropped to 59°F (though he immediately built a roaring fire).

Using oil for heating is prevalent in New England and expensive as fuck. Yet my ExStepmother in New Hampshire sets her winter thermostat to 64°F at night and 67°F during the day. So does one of my sisters in upstate New York.

And still Andy will not touch the thermostat, insisting, “It will warm up during the day.”

Which is often true. It might be in the forties in Southern California at 5 AM, but once the sun comes out at 7 AM, the temperature soars. Last Sunday we swung from 49°F degrees at dawn to 75°F degrees at noon.

Besides, most days Andy only has to last an hour before leaving for his warm office at work (in a car with heated seats).

Meanwhile, I type with fingerless gloves. Wearing a jacket, my own ski cap, fleece pants, a wool sweater, and a turtleneck. And wrapped up in a blanket crocheted by my friend JM.

But I’m not turning on the heat, either. Even though I have a history of sneakily turning up thermostats.

Because I’ve been on New Hampshire chairlifts in -20°F and no fucking way am I caving with the heat before someone who grew up in Hawaii.

Sometimes, though?

I regret not keeping that stupid electric blanket.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

33 thoughts on “Cold Wars (#334)”

  1. I love this. I am in stitches over the undecipherable thermostat dial. Oh the poor man, from the warm islands, who was unable to turn up the heat. I prefer to work in an environment that is a little on the cooler side because it’s easier to add a sweater and socks, than be too hot and no way to strip down. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t use the heat, just judiciously.

    1. Oh, I am with you on the temperature. I’d rather be cold than hot. I have to wear slippers inside anyway, to protect my feet from giant dog paws.

      And I sleep hot, so my preferred nighttime temp is definitely in the 50s. But during the day? The 9 degrees between sweater temp and ski cap temp are crucial!

  2. I forgot to mention one important piece that factors into the equation: the cat. When she chooses to spend the night with us, she always does so curled up right against me. And that makes all the difference in the world. Last night was no different – it was back down to 59 in the house – yet, I woke up half-sweaty because the cat was keeping me toasty. She’s like a living, breathing, purring electric blanket.

    1. Absolutely on the cat blanket. I love it when the cat snuggles up to my back. But she will insist on trapping my feet and that is super uncomfortable. So she has to sleep with Baby D.

  3. Oh that’s hilarious about the thermostat! 😀 Himself doesn’t feel the cold. By insisting I pay the heating bill, I feel entitled to turn it on whenever I’m cold. It’s fairly temperate here – certainly not as bad as our previous apartment which had ceiling heating (yeah, I know) – but it’s still downright chilly first thing in the morning after he’s left for work at 5am. I tend to boil the kettle, before marching up & down for 10 minutes to unkink my back and knees, then snuggle under a blanket with my tea & breakfast. I’m suspicious of electric blankets, but I’ll heap up the layers without shame.

    I’d be with you on suffering so as not to give in before he does though 😉

    1. I am also suspicious of electric blankets! We have central heating and air conditioning and the vents are on the ceiling…which is great for AC.

      Andy always makes sure the beans are ground and the timer on the coffee maker is set the evening before. I suspect if I took away his morning hot coffee, he would cave on the heat.

      I’ll admit to warming up a blanket in the dryer some mornings, though!

      1. Oh I like to give my towels a quick tumble dry so they’re good & warm when I come out of the shower.

        It’s the little things…

  4. Love this post!! I remember when I first moved to LA I thought I was the tough girl from Utah who could brave any cold. But man, those LA mornings (and evenings!) can be REALLY chilly!! I tell my friends in Utah this, and they laugh at my weakness — but I know if they were in my shoes, they would be shivering in those frigid LA mornings as well.

    My husband thinks cause he lived in minneapolis for two years he is the master of the cold. When he came to see my family in Utah over christmas he didn’t even bring a coat or long sleeves. So yeah, he ended up wearing my brother’s old sweaters and coats the entire trip, otherwise he would have froze to death.

    1. LOL on your husband. He must be comparing Utah to LA or something–you can always identify the tourists from Michigan and Canda. They’re the only ones wearing shorts at the beach in February.

      Even the southern mountains in Utah get pretty cold. It was -5 degrees on the slopes at Brian Head one time. My delicate hothouse flower child tried to refuse to leave the ski lodge with the rest of the ski school!

  5. I like it warm. It’s a steady 72 degrees here all the time. If I was cold, I’d turn up the temp. No shame. It’s how I roll. Oh yes, I occasionally get hot flashes but never when I need them!

  6. It is interesting to hear that your husband refuses to turn up the heat. My mother did the same thing, here in Utah. I remember putting on a thicker winter coat when I got home from school. Why should I see my breath, inside the house?!

    Once I got my own house, 68 degrees! no more of it’s colder inside since there is no sun crap. Tell your husband to put behind the programming done by his parents. 68 degrees and 65 at night is a very thrifty temperature range(refer to stepmother example above).

    1. I’m okay with the heat being off at night, since I turn into a ranging furnace once I’m under a comforter. But it’s hard to type with cold fingers during the day.

      I’m glad you were able to escape your “frugality over comfort!” programming. Maybe if I put my frozen fingers on Andy’s warm stomach more often he will rethink his priorities?

  7. I live in Mississippi but am originally from KY/Ohio. We have two electric blankets and the one on the bed has a 10 hour timer. I got it for my first apartment which had the worst gas heaters (one in every room but the bedrooms) and saved so much money on heat keeping those on low which basically was “off”. Highly recommend an electric blanket! Good to know it needs to come with me if we ever move back to hubby’s home in CA though.

    1. Yes! Everything here is built to 1) stay cool, and 2) survive earthquakes. Bring that blanket!

      My Exstepmother had an old school electric blanket in New Hampshire. When she had surgery, I brought Bat Cat and stayed for a month so I could take care of her and my little sisters. Bat Cat figured out how to turn on the electric blanket by stepping on the switch. Then she’d dive under the covers. A California cat for sure!

  8. I’m with Kate. I like the house to be warm enough, even at night. I think a part of that is getting old. Maybe living in the Philippines for so long also had something to do with it. Although I hated the tropical heat in Manila at first, since we never had air conditioning, I had to get used to it, and I did.

    1. Andy is apparently becoming less tolerant of the heat as he gets older. The first time we went to Hawaii together, I sweated and whined. The second time, we happened to be there when the trade winds quit blowing. It was oppressively hot and humid. Even Andy complained!

      And now he tells me how hot it is every time he goes back. But that could be because it is hotter and the trade winds are less reliable.

  9. Joburg weather is very similar to LA weather, and I live with a man who grew up mostly in the deserts of Namibia and has less than zero tolerance for cold (but is also extremely frugal). So I really relate to your feelings here. Except we don’t even HAVE a thermostat because central heating does not exist in South Africa. Thorsten is literally terrified about the coming winter in our drafty Victorian house.

  10. That’s so funny Andy doesn’t turn on the heat when it’s freezing cold. I can actually relate, because I don’t turn on the heater at all – mainly because it dries out the air inside even more and dry air is really not my friend. It doesn’t get easier each year though, and every year I wish summer would come around faster. One time a very long time ago I did put on the heater all winter here in Melbourne, and my electricity bill went up by a few hundred. Sometimes it’s so cold I can’t sleep at night. Don’t have issues sleeping in 30’C/80’F overnight in the warmer months though

    1. I feel for you with the dryness.It gets so dry here that we have a humidifier–especially for when the Santa Ana winds blow and/ or the wildfires are close. It’s the only way to avoid the bloody nose of winter. Except half the time I forget to turn it on.

      I think our bills only go up by about $50 when we run the heat, but I still wish we had solar panels. Of course, as Andy reminds me, those are REALLY expensive.

      1. It really sounds dry over there. I had a humidifier once. It made everything around it wet. Like really wet – the floor and the surface where the humidifier was sitting on was water. Very bad experience

        Agreed. Solar panels are expensive. They should save you and Andy money in the long run. But it also depends as you also have to factor in maintenance fees.

  11. When I’m in Suzhou, I also type with fingeless gloves and I’m bundled up in 5 layers of clothes. When I lived in Beijing, I went on a trip to Hangzhou and Shanghai (“the south”, according to Chinese people) and I didn’t bring my winter coat because people in Beijing said it was not cold there. HA. I haven’t been more frozen in my life, not even when I was on an icebreaker ship in Lapland. Winters in the Shanghai area (Suzhou included) are absolutely the worst: cold, humid and without central heating. Miserable. I am definitely not missing the winter in Suzhou, and even with the mild temperatures and the heating here in my hometown I got my chillblains as every year.

    I am pretty sure my in laws are not turning the hot air conditioning on these days, even though it even snowed a couple of days ago.

    1. Chillblains? Wow. It’s like you’re from a Victorian novel!

      Surviving winters in cold places is all about dressing properly. It is sad that I have sometimes broken out the long underwear I use when skiing just to sit at my computer in Southern California, though!

  12. Yes, I was chuckling repeatedly at your Cold Wars 😀 I prefer cold to heat, but still love our heated mattress pad, and the marvel of central heating, and so I’m curious: why is it better to spend $ on the electric blanket than on central heating?

  13. At the risk of sounding irrelevant coming from a warm country, I have to say I do like the cold – but am stuck in a warm place. I am the one who stays in the snow in Northern Sweden to play and make snowmen long after the Swedes return inside to warm up in the sauna. I wonder is the frugality of the Man of the house also out of concern for the environment? Or does he love beanies from Bolivia that much? (lol)

    1. We do try and reduce our environmental impact (compost pile, public transportation and one car for years), but I really think it’s frugality.

      I would totally be out in the snow with you. I miss fall and winter.

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