Living in a House Where No One Can Agree on the Temperature or Lights

The signs outside my house
The signs outside my house
Photo by Jef Rouner

I am essentially a mushroom that can type. I never turn on a single light in my house I don’t absolutely have to, and I once failed a question on a test in fourth grade because I said 80 degrees was a more comfortable temperature to be in than 70 degrees…and yes, I have in fact held a grudge about that well into my thirties. Tenacity and a good memory are useful traits for a reporter.

My wife, on the other hand, is sort of like Elsa right after she sings “Let It Go.” She likes to keep the house cold enough to store lunch meat in safely, and as far as she is concerned, a home is not a home if it doesn’t have enough lamps to start a colony of genies. We are in every way total opposites.

It’s a constant struggle. Movement anywhere near the thermostat is regarded with suspicion, and lights casually flicked off or on become passive-aggressive moves in a game of domestic chess. Each partner proceeds toward his or her dream of environmental perfection at the expense of the other.

Over the years I’ve come up with some basic coping strategies for it. The first is this: Do not ever have just one blanket on the bed. I know it’s a really adult thing to have a nice comforter and matching pillows and stuff like that, but unless you’re both aligned in your preferred temperature settings, that's just not going to work. In my house, my wife has her blanket, and I actually have a nice collection of various throws I wrap myself in like a mummy who is really into Doctor Who-themed fabrics. Each person controls his or her own cocoon, and cover-stealing is kept to a minimum.

In my house there is the added fact that my wife works at night and sleeps in the day half the week, and her insistence on frosting the house while sleeping, combined with my essentially sedentary job, means I spend a lot of time shivering. The obvious solution is to wear a coat, and I do so most of the time. Thankfully, our apartment is fairly small and my office is off the laundry room and kitchen, so I can steal additional warmth by running the dishwasher and/or the dryer. It’s a good way to create little heat pocket oases while also getting some housework done.

I mean, I could also go work outside, but outside in Houston is often a cruel fiefdom ruled by an angry sun god. As they said in Tank Girl, “That light is not my bag.”

Of course, sometimes you’re going to clash over it anyway, and the best argument to get your way tends to be financial. The electric bill for my fairly new one-story apartment is actually smaller in the winter than my cable bill, but fighting off the heat of summer can easily double it. From friends who have two-story homes or less economical spaces with high ceilings, I hear horror stories of high bills incurred heating or cooling spaces no one is actually in. Nothing motivates people like money when you’re trying to get them to raise the temperature somewhere above Mortal Kombat special move.

Really, though, as in all good relationships, dealing with this sort of thing is about learning to compromise. Sometimes you work around it, and sometimes you just sit there and endure mild discomfort rather than making a capital case out of it. If you’re not willing to put on a sweater rather than fight over the temperature, you’re probably not going to work out together in the long run. 


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