It takes a lot for me to sweat. I rarely get that overheated, since my body revels in warm weather, even hot. But humidity is another matter altogether.
July 4th weekend here in Central Massachusetts, the air was thick. The sweat was literally pouring down my face. That sensation is so rare for me, I was surprised. I had an annoying cough, too, so I wondered if that had something to do with it. Was it the air quality or a cold that was irritating my lungs? Why was I sweating so much?
The TV meteorologist had a simple answer: The humidity was so bad, it was “disgusting.” Agreed.
Disgusting enough for me to turn on our heat pumps, which double as dehumidifiers and A/C when it gets really bad. I hate A/C, because it inevitably makes my extremities numb, and avoid it at all costs, but I was perspiring so much that I finally caved. After a few hours, the house was bearable. By Saturday evening, thunderstorms had rolled through and taken care of the rest. Sunday, the weather was a blessing, and we opened the windows again.
On Monday, as I write, I’m back to my usual summer gear, a sweater over light clothes. I can sit at my computer and regulate the temperature in my home office to my precise needs. Outside, it’s in the high ’70s, sunny and dry. No need for anything but window screens and fresh air.
Now there’s mounting evidence that some of my aversion to air conditioning has nothing to do with scleroderma and Raynaud’s, and everything to do with gender.
According to a recent study, researchers at the University of Southern California and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center found that women perform better on verbal and math skills tests as the temperature rises. Women college students in Berlin improved test scores by 1.76 percent for every Celsius degree increase. And when indoor temperatures were raised from the 60s to 70s (Fahrenheit), their math test scores increased by 15 percent.
Any woman who has struggled to function in a frigid office space during the summer, wrapped in heavy sweaters or even winter coats, with a space heater under her desk, because the A/C is cranked to near refrigerator temperatures, recognizes the truth in this finding. (If this sounds all too familiar, feel free to cite this study to the Powers That Be. Here’s the full report.) I used to suffer in an office like that, and one of the great joys of working for myself is that I no longer have to put up with such energy-sucking practices.
So, I’m grateful to have an option when the humidity and heat overwhelm even me. But I’m also glad that I’m the one who gets to regulate the thermostat.
Image: Vitor Pinto