Air-Conditioning or ‘How I Became Weak’

I used to be tough.  I could weather a heat wave barely breaking a sweat.  Sure, summertime meant a small degree of discomfort, but it was eclipsed by fourth of July fireworks, barbecues, and afternoons at the outdoor pool.  It meant fun, freedom and adventure; it was a season to look forward to, and being hot was just part of the experience. . .

Until I discovered air conditioning.  Now everything has changed.

Now I am weak.

As eastern Massachusetts sweats through the first heat-wave of the season, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share my experience.

I didn’t start out this way

The first thing you must understand about me is, I hate to be hot.  I don’t hate very many things, but being hot is very near the top of that list.  However, when being hot is just a natural occurrence—a part of life a few months a year—a body and a temperament learns to deal with it.  With a lack of alternatives, one gives in to the inevitable, and perhaps even embraces it.  Such was the case with myself.

A humid afternoon in North-Eastern Wisconsin

As a child who split his summers between Colorado and Wisconsin, I became adept at managing hot, dry heat, and humidity respectively.  There was nothing a ceiling fan or a dehumidifier couldn’t accomplish.

At home in Colorado with my parents, I never had to worry about being too warm.   Even on a sweltering day, opening the windows of our house yielded a delicious cross-breeze.  Then at night, the dry high-desert air couldn’t hold much heat, so the moment the sun went down, so did the mercury in the thermometer.

On days when it was a little humid after all, or just after it rained, one of my great pleasures was to lay on floor of the living room as the ceiling fan spun rapidly overhead, buffeting me with the constant caress of cool, moving air.

Wisconsin proved a bit tougher.  Though the temperature wouldn’t rise as much as in Colorado, the humidity was the stuff of legends.  Having the windows open didn’t offer much relief on those really muggy nights, but the bedrooms in my grandparents’ home were either on the cooler north side of the house, or in the basement.  A cold shower before bed and the gentle hum-drip of a dehumidifier could put me to sleep in minutes.


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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . . 

All of this prepared me well for my eventual move to Massachusetts, where the summers are short but fierce.  I ended up living on the second floor of a house—in a bedroom that faced south and west—that refused to let go of its heat.  There were some nights in July and August when no combination of ceiling fan or open windows could cool me effectively.  I didn’t have a dehumidifier, and the cold shower trick only worked for a few minutes before I needed another one.

These were the nights I learned my true resilience!  There was a sort of magic to laying half-awake, barely covered by a single sheet, tossing and turning through the wee hours.  I could smell the perfumes of the night wafting through the windows—the flowers and trees and the sweet, damp air.  Then, somewhere around four, the temperature would drop to a tolerable level and I’d get a few hours of quality sleep before the sun came up and started beating down on the house again.

Waking up after these mornings, tired and a little sticky, I’d feel the oddest sense of accomplishment.  I’d made it through!  If I could take on an oppressive, humid summer night and emerge victorious, was there anything I couldn’t accomplish?

I was tough.  I was seasoned.  I was awesome!

That’s how I’d feel until the next oppressive night.  Then I’d just be hot and miserable until I made it through to another morning.  My confidence would be refreshed, and so it went, on and on for a few years.

Then I met my husband

Shortly after meeting at the end of March in 2010, our relationship advanced rapidly.  By June we were spending most nights together, alternating between our respective houses.  It took only a single night, however, at the beginning of the summer to shift that balance forever.

It had rained all morning, and then the sun came out in the afternoon with a vengeance, lifting all that moisture out of the ground, out the leaves of the trees, and into the air.  Muggy can hardly describe it.  It was thick.  It was a sauna that blanketed the entire city.

We were staying at my place that night.

I taught him about cold showers.  We tried sleeping with damp washcloths on our foreheads.  The ceiling fan was turned up so high it was rocking back and forth.  Nothing helped.  Nothing worked.

Add to the heat the disruption of another body tossing and turning in my too-firm, too-small bed, and by five in the morning neither of us had slept a wink.

“I don’t know how the hell you do this.” He said.  “Now we have to go to work and hope we don’t pass out halfway through the day.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do?  It’s hot!”

He sighed in exasperation.  “It’s called a goddamned air conditioner!  Seriously, haven’t you ever considered—“

“Oh no!” I cut him off.  “Do you know how much energy those things use?  I’m sure they’re not great for the environment, and they’re definitely not great for my electric bill.  Plus, I’m tough.”

“And not sleeping because it’s a million degrees in here is terrible for our sanity!  We’re staying at my place tonight.  You’ll see.” He laughed.  “Tough.  That’s the stupidest excuse I’ve ever heard.”

I was more than a little indignant.  I was tough.  I’d lived almost twenty-six years without an air conditioner, and there was no reason for me to start now.  I was strong.  I was amazing!  The last thing I needed was an AC.

It was clear we weren’t going to see eye to eye, so we dropped the subject and laid there, miserable, for another two hours before it was time to get up.

He kissed me on the way out the door.  “I’ll pick you up from work tonight.  Remember to pack what you need.  We’re staying at mine.”

I rolled my eyes and kissed him back.  “Alright.  See you tonight.”


I worked until nine that evening, and the heat showed no signs of breaking.  When my not-yet husband pulled up in his X-Terra and I climbed in, the AC was cranked all the way up.  I shivered happily in spite of myself.  The air was delicious.  He chuckled a little to himself.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Nothing.  You just look a little relieved to be in out of the heat.”

“Come on, let’s go.”

Back at his place we sat on the balcony for a while and nursed a couple gin and tonics.  The glasses were sweating profusely, slippery in our hands.  “Sure is a scorcher.” He said.

“Sure is.”

“Maybe even worse than last night.”


After two drinks it was late, and being the middle of the week, we needed to get to bed.  Add to this our lack of sleep from the night before, and to use his expression, we were ‘fit to be tied.’  We left the porch and headed inside.  I brushed my teeth and headed into the bedroom, which was sweltering, and that’s when I saw it.

There in the window, gleaming white, was a pristine room air-conditioner, just waiting to be switched on.

My not-yet husband pulled back the covers and climbed into bed.  “Alright,” he said.  “Let’s get to sleep.”

I was sweating, but stubborn.  I knew what he was doing.  “Alright,” I agreed, as I laid down defiantly beside him.  “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”  I swear he was grinning as he turned off the light.

I don’t know if it was five minutes or an eternity that I debated.  I knew he was waiting for me to ask to turn it on.  I knew the only obstacle between comfort and discomfort was myself, and I understood that my decision had irreversible repercussions.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.  To never have tasted the sweet flavor of an August peach is to be blissfully unaware of all you’ve been missing.  Once knowledge and experience are acquired—once you know how good a peach can be—how can it ever be unexperienced? Unlearned?

I felt a trickle of sweat run down my forehead and past my ear.

I surrendered.

“Turn it on.”

He reached into his bedside table for a remote, pressed a button, and within a minute the room was flooded with cool, delicious air.  It was supremely quenching, and I drank it into my lungs as fast and as deeply as I could.

In that moment I realized all my toughness was just bravado—a farce.  Why suffer when by the miracle of modern technology, every night in the dead of summer could feel like this?

I don’t know that I’ve ever slept better.

Now I Am Weak

That was seven years ago, and all the tolerance for heat I learned as a child and a young adult has gone.  And honestly?  I’m just fine with it!  I’ve got enough to worry about.  I work full time, bike sixteen miles a day, volunteer on a farm, write this blog, I’m self-publishing a novel. . .

Life is full of so many glorious struggles; being comfortable in my own home doesn’t need to be one.  Here in Massachusetts we’re in the middle of the first heat wave of the season, and I’ll admit that I felt a little guilty as I put the ACs in this morning.  Only a little guilty though, because now even though it’s 91ºF outside, I’m sitting in my dining room in absolute comfort writing this post.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How about your thoughts?  Can you live without air-conditioning?  Is there another technology you resisted but eventually succumbed to?  How do you deal with summer heat?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

estellalynch - May 18, 2017

This was quite a lush read. I felt the heat emanating from the screen, experiencing your journey of hot summers with you. I suppose that’s the glory of sharing posts: transporting others from their spot to yours. Sometimes all one can do is surrender to the heat and you wrote about that experience most engagingly.

    Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

    Thank you Estella! I’m definitely surrendering this week. Actually, I’m going to make a concerted effort to enjoy it this year (even while keeping my house at a comfortable 70º). Summer here is so short, I need to remember to embrace it! Thank you for reading!

SickChristine - May 18, 2017

I’m from south Florida, so I really never knew what life was like without A/C until I visited my cousins in Rhode Island one summer. I was shocked that they didn’t have any! I literally could not conceive of people living without it. I survived, though. It was a close one, I tell ya.

    Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

    I can believe it! I couldn’t even conceive of living in Florida without AC. I’m glad you survived your visit to the Ocean State! Perhaps next time you visit your cousins will have been converted to the Cult of Climate Control, like myself.

    Thank you for reading!

Jennifer - May 18, 2017

Oh my gosh this made me laugh! I think I was probably around the same age as you when my parents got a/c. My Dad wouldn’t put it in until we needed a new furnace and every year we would pray it would conk out, I remember my sister and I coming in the door when it was 90 degrees outside and saying “God bless air conditioning”.

    Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

    Jennifer, thank you for reading and for your lovely comment! I’m always glad when I can make someone laugh.

    You’re talking about central air! I’m still using window units because our house is quite old and there are no ducts. One day we’ll live somewhere that the cool, crisp air just floats out of a vent in the ceiling. For now though, I’m SO grateful for the window units.

    Thanks again for reading!

stoneronarollercoaster - May 18, 2017

I live in UAE
this place turns into a furnace in summers.
We cant imagine life here without AC.

Its a very well written piece.

Gail - May 18, 2017

I live in Tennessee and I can not imagine summers without air conditioning. My grandparents and an Aunt and Uncle lived in Indiana most of their lives and never had AC. I remember my grandmother opening windows when she worked and how the sweat used to pour off her face! Even when she visited us in Tennessee in the hot humid summers, she would turn off our AC and let the sweating begin! It used to made my mother livid!! I can’t stand to be hot and here the summer heat and humidity is stifling. We just about always have to turn the AC on sometime in April. In July and August it runs almost constantly.

    Gregory Josephs - May 19, 2017

    Hi Gail, thanks for reading. Sounds like your grandmother was ‘tough’ like me, except maybe she was actually tough! I can imagine your mother’s frustration!

    Personally, I’m glad I’ve seen the light of air-conditioning. I’ll never go back. And yeah, I shouldn’t complain about needing it in May when you need it in April!

    Thanks for the lovely comment, and for stopping by!

A.S. Akkalon - May 18, 2017

You should live in a real country where you don’t need AC. Like me. 😉

    Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

    Yes! This is exactly what I should do! New Zealand might be a bit far, but I’ve always had a thing for Canada!

      A.S. Akkalon - May 18, 2017

      Don’t get eaten by a bear.

        Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

        Perhaps preferable to being too hot! And bears are awfully cute.

        For now I guess I’ll just rely on my window units. . .

mumsthewordblog1 - May 18, 2017

I hate air conditioned air – it makes me cough! I love leaving our balcony door open on Summer nights and letting the fresh air in. Sadly here down under, we are heading into dismal Winter 😕🐻

    Gregory Josephs - May 18, 2017

    Yeah, I know what you mean about air-conditioned air. Luckily it’s going to cool off here over the weekend, so we’ll have our windows open again for a little while. . .

    Dismal winter! Oh no! I actually love winter best, but you could probably guess that. I’ll send you some warm, summery thoughts.

Stef - May 19, 2017

This post made me laugh. My heat went off 4 days ago and my central air went on 2 days ago Ha! And I could hear Brian saying ‘Its called a goddamn airconditioner!’

    Gregory Josephs - May 19, 2017

    Thanks Stef! I know, our heat was on last week too! What a ridiculous spring we’ve been having. Also, totally jealous of that central air! See you soon!

Aimer Boyz - May 19, 2017

Survive without air Conditioning? Hell, No!
I’m happily addicted to all my little devices. The older I get, the longer the list of things I deem absolutely necessary. At the top of that list is my cell phone. I can barely breathe without it 🙂

    Gregory Josephs - May 20, 2017

    Yeah, cellphones are another thing I was stubborn about! I didn’t like the idea of people being able to reach me anywhere at any time. It didn’t occur to me to just not answer!

    Couldn’t live without it now, though!

pjlazos - May 22, 2017

So with you on this which is why climate change is particularly troubling (among other reasons). It was 90 last week here in Central PA which is crazy for May!

    Gregory Josephs - May 22, 2017

    Yes. We must’ve been caught in the same heat wave. Luckily it has cooled off enough that I probably won’t need the ACs again for a while. Regarding climate change, it is troubling. I’m happy to do my part biking, taking the bus, and composting (among other things) for the greater good, with the added benefit of hopefully having less days of needing the air conditioning. Every little bit counts.

Wind Kisses - May 22, 2017

While I was reading, I was thinking, just turn the dang thing on. hahaha. In AZ we compete the same way with the heater in the winter. AC IS that delicious necessity beginning in May. But there is one other thing that does put a smile on my face in the heat. It is a double-scoop, mint chocolate-chip ice cream cone with jimmies (but Arizonans don’t know what jimmies are) Have a good week. I enjoy your blog and your correspondence. Donna

    Gregory Josephs - May 22, 2017

    Hi Donna,

    Oh jimmies. When I first moved to New England I had to learn a whole new ice cream vocabulary. Frappes, Hoodsies. . . Jimmies. I can still recall the confusion the first time I said ‘Chocolate Sprinkles.’

    I also enjoy your blog/correspondence. Thanks for stopping by!


joeflair - June 1, 2017

Well written, and So true! I never realized how badly I rely on Air-conditioning, until I settled on a car that didn’t have it.

I went through a tough financial stage, and sold my beautiful Dodge Avenger for an older Trailblazer (that SUV was a nightmare on wheels), and aside from it’s MANY mechanical shortcomings, it didn’t have A/C. They were paving the highway I take home, in the middle of July a couple years ago and it was a brisk 95 degrees out. I was sweating in places I didn’t know you could sweat.. It was absolutely disgusting..

Rewind to my youth, where you couldn’t keep us inside, during the summer. All we wanted to do was run around, play, and not pay any mind to the heat.

Gah, getting older sucks…

    Gregory Josephs - June 1, 2017

    Wow, what a nightmare that drive must have been. I can just imagine the heat radiating up from that fresh asphalt.

    Ditto on the attitude as a child. Luckily I haven’t needed to turn on my AC again since I wrote this, but when it comes time again, I might try to channel that inner kid and hold out a little longer.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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Patricia Richardson - December 8, 2017

Love your writing! I felt hot…just reading the words, on the screen! Glad you finally gave in! I couldn’t survive, without A/C. Currently living in Florida.

    Gregory Josephs - December 9, 2017

    Aw, thank you Patricia! This is one of my favorite posts, and I find it’s a little bit easier to read when I months away from needing the air conditioners again!

    And yes, I can’t imagine life in Florida without air conditioning! Well, as you saw, I can’t imagine life in the northeast without air conditioning, so. . .

    Thanks for the lovely comment. It is much appreciated. How’s the weather this time of year? Still need AC?

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