When I was a kid, I spent many a summer night  sleeping on the sliver of carpet that existed between my bed and the windows facing the backyard. I cracked them open just enough to allow a semblance of a breeze through.

For many years, it was the only way I could sleep at night because it was so hot.

I slept on the second floor of our house and all of the hot air would inevitably rise and distribute itself across the rooms, suffocating my sister and me when we tried to sleep. So instead of staying in my bed, I would crawl onto the floor and will myself to slip into unconsciousness, or sometimes even sleep out in the hallway because it was approximately three degrees cooler.

My parents were stingy, so touching the thermostat (which I always would) was sacrilege. For a few years, they had a little note about the device that read, “DO NOT TOUCH.”

When I would complain that it was too hot to sleep, my parents always repeated one refrain: Natsu wa atsuinda!

Summer is hot.

Now that I have my own house, I freely adjust the thermostat to my liking so I can comfortably exist. But still, old habits die hard.

The other day, my husband exclaimed that it was too hot in the house and clicked the thermostat — which was set to 77 — down to 70 degrees! A whole 7 points! Can you imagine?

I immediately changed it back to 76 for fear that our A/C unit would implode from the shock of such a monumental ask.

My sister, who lives in Maryland now, is even more strict. She doesn’t even turn on her A/C. 

Instead, she and her boyfriend, who is apparently  as miserly as she is, rely on the little tufts of cold air that circulate through the apartment hallways to cool them down. They’ll crack their door a bit which allows a smidge of respite into their home. It’s absurd.

But that’s how so many of us have lived if you think about it.

There were summers that we spent in Japan in my old grandparents’ house, which didn’t have central A/C; many older homes still don’t. So families would sleep with barely a sheet covering their stomachs and a rotating standing fan in the doorway. It’s a reminder that the ease with which we can control our surroundings now in modern America is such a privilege, and fairly new.

So this summer, yes, I’ll turn down the thermostat if I can’t concentrate or if I really need to sleep. But in the meantime, I’ll break out the standing fan, set it on high and readjust the temperature when Sam sets it too low. Because old habits die hard.

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