The children were asleep in their beds, an empty bottle of cheap champagne lay on its side, and the credits from Lost played on the television screen. These were all the ingredients necessary for a romantic date night, parent-style, and at this point a happy ending was pretty much guaranteed.
"I'll see you upstairs," I said huskily to my husband, jutting out my hip in a pathetic attempt to make my yoga pants seem sexy. While Hubs turned off the lights in the kitchen, I headed up to check on the kids and noticed that their room seemed a bit stuffy. I took a look at the thermostat: 76 degrees. I kicked it down to 75, just enough to get the air going, and went into our room to get ready for bed. Less than a minute later, I heard the A/C shut back down. My eyes narrowed. Oh no. Oh hell no.
As Hubs ambled into the bedroom, I flew past him, straight for the thermostat. The bastard had turned the thing off. Off! I turned it back on, set it back to 75, and returned to the bedroom.
"I live here too, you know," I said. My husband glared at me. "I can turn the thermostat down one degree if I want to," I continued.
"We're the only people on this street with the air conditioner running right now!" Hubs said angrily. I barked out a laugh. The man was being ridiculous. I happened to know Old Man Canady kept his air conditioner going 24/7.
"The children, Hubs," I said witheringly. "I did it for the children." I smiled triumphantly. I was playing hardball, and had just delivered a volley to which there was no possible response. Instead, Hubs sat up in bed, grabbed his pillow in a huff, and stood up to leave.
"You're going to give up a great night over one degree?!" I said incredulously. "Seriously? One degree?"
The bedroom door slammed in response.
Some couples fight about finances, others about sex. My husband and I wage war over the thermostat. Hubs believes this is a result of our vastly different upbringings. He was raised in San Pedro, California, where air conditioners were non-existent. I grew up in Atlanta, where they were essential for survival. Consequently, his idea of room temp is 78; mine is 72. That puts six degrees of separation between us, the equivalent of a vast pool of resentment that at times seems unbridgeable. And this season, it's only gotten wider.
Hubs launched his 2010 attack during the first warm spell of April, making a grand show of setting both thermostats in the house to a sweltering 78 degrees. After eight years of marriage, I knew better than to put up the fuss he clearly was expecting. Instead, I simply waited until he went to work each morning and then turned the A/C down to 74. I'd turn it back up shortly before he arrived home in the evenings. He's reading this news for the first time along with the rest of you, but whatcha gonna do about it, Hubs? Huh? Huh?
Oh! And it gets better! From time to time, Hubs has called home in a cranky mood and been, shall we say, less than kind. "I can't believe you forgot to mark your grocery receipts in the checkbook again," he'd say, for example. "It's not like you had that many other things going on today." I'd look at the kids clamoring around my legs for snacks, the freshly folded mountain of laundry, the floors that had just been mopped. And then I'd head for the hallway.
"I just don't know what got into me, Hubs," I'd say sweetly into the receiver, pushing a button on the thermostat as I spoke. 73 ... 72 ... 71.
"Well, you've got to do a better job, that's all," Hubs retorted.
70 ... 69 ... 68.
"I'll try," I said, smiling with grim resolve.
Lest you think I'm some kind of spendthrift, be assured that the tables turn when the cold weather sets in. I'm perfectly happy to put on a sweater and leave the thermostat at 68; Hubs insists on a completely unreasonable 74.
"I won't be cold in my own house!" he huffs, which sounds all too similar to my "I shouldn't have to sweat in my own house!" protestations in July.
The Great Thermostat Divide is one I'd love to overcome, but I don't know how it's ever going to happen. I've yet to find a psychiatrist out there who specializes in thermostat therapy. I imagine we'll persist in our atmospheric ups and downs for the rest of our married lives. And perhaps one day our tombstone will be embellished only with a thermostat respectfully etched between our names — its temperature set eternally to a somewhat acceptable 75 degrees.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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