#425: Baby, it’s freezing in here.

Dear Captain and Awkward Army,

My husband and I live a few hours from my extended family and often go to visit them, staying with my aunt and uncle. My parents live out of state and also stay with my aunt and uncle when they come to visit, but they will be moving closer to these relatives very soon. My aunt has commented sadly that no family members will stay with them anymore (they are great hosts and love hosting), since my parents will have their own house and, everyone presumes, we will go stay with my parents when we come to visit.

The issue is that I would much prefer to continue to stay with my aunt and uncle because my mom keeps their house ICE COLD. She seems to have the idea that since she hit menopause, this gives her complete and unquestionable control over the thermostat. As an example: On my WEDDING DAY, I was in my dress at my parents’ house before going to the church, and I was so cold my fingers were turning purple, and when I asked my mom if I could turn the temperature up, she said, “I turned it up earlier, but I got too hot, so I had to turn it down again.”

My dad is cold like me but just deals with it with thick sweatshirts and what not. This says a lot about their relationship, but that’s a separate issue. My husband has also told me how much he dislikes staying at their place because of the cold.

My mom is extremely sensitive to criticism and also can be passive-aggressive. Meanwhile, my aunt is always super-concerned about hurting people’s feelings, so I think she would feel horrible about having us stay at her house if she thought my mom was going to be hurt in any way.

So as I see it, our options for visits will be:
1) Stay with my parents, freeze, continue to suffer in silence.
2) Insist that my mom turn the heat up if we are going to stay with them, deal with the backlash, then deal with passive-aggressive comments about how hot she is the entire time we’re there.
3) Find a way to continue staying with my aunt and uncle and run the risk of damaging several family relationships.
4) Stay in a hotel, which we can’t really afford and which is kind of silly when there are two homes with rooms for us.
5) Not visit family anymore??

Are there other options I’m not seeing? Any suggestions for how to have the necessary conversations with my mom and/or aunt for minimal backlash?


Frozen Out

Dear Frozen Out:

This letter made me think of my grandparents’ house, where they kept the temperature around 58 degrees, even during a Massachusetts winter. They had a whole closet full of cardigans, and the ritual when you went into the house was to take off your coat, put it on a hanger, and choose your sweater. As a consequence, there are many family photos of everyone in their best holiday attire + a weird Mr. Rogers cardigan + you can’t see anyone’s hands because we have all tucked them inside the sleeves of the sweater. Whenever I slept over there in winter as a child, I would pretend that I was Sara Crewe during the “freezing garret” parts of A Little Princess. Endearing in hindsight! Itchy & freeeeeeeezing at the time.

While your mom may very well want you to stay with her and be miffed if you don’t, my opinion is that if your mom takes “It’s really cold in here, can you turn up the heat?” or “We’re going to stay with aunt & uncle, but we’ll see a lot of you guys, of course” as horrible, evil, mean personal attack, that’s completely 100% on her. That’s the kind of “hurt” where you were eating with a fork, your mom got a running start and impaled herself on the fork, and now she’s mad at you for stabbing her with a fork.

The fact that your aunt is so afraid of upsetting your mom (thanks to your mom’s EXCELLENT job at being controlling and making everyone anticipate and worry about invoking her anger) is also not your problem to manage. Your aunt’s “I bet no one will stay with us now” is premature. Nobody needs to be spun up about the question of Which Guest Room Is Best? this far in advance of an actual visit.

Things you can’t control:

  • Your mom’s comfort at a given temperature
  • Whether your mom will get angry and upset
  • Whether your mom will turn up the heat when you ask
  • Whether your aunt will get upset if your mom gets upset
  • What people presume about where you’ll stay and assume about what that means about your relationship

Things you can control:

  • Where you actually stay
  • How much you try to manage everyone’s feelings and worry about this

Good news, you don’t have to decide every single instance of where you’ll stay for the rest of time. It can be a case-by-case thing. If you want to, stay with your aunt and uncle. Your reason can be “We like staying with them!” or “We’ll just be more comfortable there” or “Mom, we don’t want to freeze, and we don’t want you to fry, so this just made more sense.” If you want to stay with your parents sometimes, may I suggest summer?

You can give your parents’ house a try and if it’s too cold (and you can’t find an agreeable heat setting, and your stealthy attempts to change the thermostat yourself do not stick) you can move to a hotel, or Aunt’s. “Mom, we love you, but it’s freezing in here. We want you to be comfortable, but we also can’t take it! We’ll be at Aunt’s and see you tomorrow.” “Mom, we’ll be more comfortable at Aunt’s, and you’ll be more comfortable if you can keep the temperature how you like it.” “Aunt, we’d love to see you, and we’d love to be warm. If you’re willing to have us, we’re willing to ride out Mom’s temper-tantrum.”

The truth is, your mom and dad get to decide how their house gets to be (and how their marriage gets to be). They have to live there. There are also predictable consequences to keeping your house at walk-in cooler temperature, and that consequence is that no one will hang out for very long. It’s not a mystery! Your love for your parents should not be measured in chilblains, and if they make your ability to endure cold weather into some kind of emotional test, they can look forward to failing that test.

Visit them when you can/want to. Hang out as long as you can stand it. Let the emotions fall where they may. You might have one really big tearful blowup, or some terse passive-aggressive drama, but the great thing about boundaries (and enforcing boundaries with your absence) is that eventually either your mom will figure out that you are serious about your own needs and set the heat at a slightly more comfortable level, or resign her self to the fact that you aren’t sleeping there anymore.

146 thoughts on “#425: Baby, it’s freezing in here.

  1. Couldn’t another option be wearing thick clothes, like your father does, while you’re there? I mean, it may not be the best option for any number of reasons, but it’s worth considering as a possibility.

    1. If the mother likes the house at a temperature where fingers are turning purple from the cold, I don’t know if thick clothes are going to help with the discomfort very much.

      1. Nicole, my fingers turn purple from relatively warm temperatures (think 60 degrees). Don’t get me started on overdoing it with the A/C in the summer–FFS, people crank it so low that if it was that temperature outside, they’d crank the heat on! If a house is cold, I’ll feel it no matter what sweater I’m wearing.

        But I suspect there’s more going on than a conflict over temperature anyway, since two people in a happy relationship would either make accommodations for each other or understand if one needed to stay elsewhere (or leave the house during wedding preparations because it was too uncomfortably hot for her).

    2. Often not. I have real problems with cold and get chilblains most years; extra clothing doesn’t help, especially since its the extremities that suffer first and there’s usually only so many socks you can put on, let alone gloves. (And gloves aren’t practical at all for a huge number of activities.)

      1. That doesn’t make it not an option, though, just a bad option. The letter writer asked what she overlooked, and considering that ‘freeze in silence’ is on the list, I think ‘wearing thick clothes’ should be there too. (Having said that, if I were here, I’d stay with the aunt or at a hotel, and let the chips fall as they may.)

    3. Not if the cold is so severe as to cause purple fingers. That is PAINFUL cold. I’ve done that while houseminding, and was reduced to tears because it hurt being so cold. Nobody should have to endure that.

      1. That really depends on the person. My fingers go purple in relatively warm temperatures that other people would [and do] fine comfortable, if a little on the chilly side. That might not be the OP’s case, but just because someone’s fingers turn purple isn’t really the best way to judge if the temperature is actually painful, or just uncomfortable.

      2. Not inherently. My fingers go purple at temperatures that are relatively warm [I’ve had it happen in the 60’s F], that might have been mildly uncomfortable but were in no way painfully cold. So, while that might not be the case with the LW, the purple fingers comment doesn’t actually mean that it’s painfully cold.

      3. Temps that make my fingers go cold in a sleeveless ball gown (which I imagine is what a wedding dress would be) are often quite comfortable in thermal undies and a thick sweater.

        Of course what temperatures are comfortable even with warm clothing is a very individual question.

    4. To turn this around, why can’t her mother just wear shorts and a tank top, rather than making everyone else miserable?

      I feel pretty grumpy around this topic. I share an office with a coworker who, when he feels too warm, turns on the air conditioner *for the entire building* *in the winter*, rather than taking off his damn sweater or even rolling up his sleeves.

      1. I agree that if you’re too hot and you’re wearing a sweater, then you should take it off.

        I wear short-sleeved, above-the-knee dresses in my 17C home. If the LW’s mother runs hot like me, she probably already wears as light clothing as she can get away with.

      2. Just wanted to agree with you on the wearing less clothing thing. Before I got my thyroid condition diagnosed and fixed, I was literally in a sweat state AT ALL TIMES. I just wore a tank top under my sweater and brought a personal fan to the classroom. That way I didn’t have to fight with people to turn the heat down from (literally) 80 degrees.

      3. This is extra-annoying in the workplace because face it–women’s dress clothes just aren’t that warm. Layers layers layers. And more layers.

        Of course, even with the layers, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s pretty impossible to be warm with the AC on high if your cute blouse has a neckline that goes below your collar bone.

        1. I absolutely second your gripes with women’s dress clothes. I live in turtlenecks (plus a zip-up sweater on top). They are almost literally all I own. I can’t imagine what I’d wear if turtlenecks didn’t look good on me 😦 I don’t bother to get nice work shirts anymore because no one sees them, they only see whatever sweater I’m wearing that day.

    5. As an addition to this – if LW’s Mum runs hot then perhaps the bedding in her house is… not so warm. Because heating costs money we don’t run our house as hot as maybe I’d like; thick jumpers are good during the day, but at night heavy winter duvets are are marvelous thing. Sleeping bags designed for people who do daft things like climb high mountains in December also exist (although not cheaply); so it might be possible to arrange to sleep in comfort without heating the house.

      However I think the option of “sleeping somewhere else” is a really good one if it is available.

  2. How about staying home for the late fall and winter holidays and visiting during the summer? My family is in a notoriously cold part of the country (Massachusetts winters? Mild by comparison), with highways often closing at unpredictable times in the winter due to drifting snow, and I now live Far Away (i.e. I’d need to fly to the nearest airport to visit), on account of which my family recognizes that it’s much more practical for me to visit during the warmer months and doesn’t take it personally.

  3. The thing is, some people (I am infamously one of them) really are just a lot more comfortable at cool temperatures. I’m happy to go out without a coat when the weather is below freezing, and I regard my 17 degrees C house as nice and toasty.

    Put the temperature up to 21, and I get overheated and can’t sleep. This was A Problem the year when I shared a house with a Hawaiian friend; I ended up leaving my bedroom window wide open all winter just to make my own room bearable.

    Insisting that your mother turn up the heat and suffer in her home is a non-starter. She’s not being a hot-blood AT you, even if she’s oversensitive and passive-aggressive along with it. Your temperature preferences do not override hers in her own house. And that your father walks around muffled up may be a statment about their relationship; or it may just be more practical than your mother walking around in her underwear with her own personal fan, which is probably the main alternative!

    Either way, I would reframe the problem in terms of how you handle your mother’s reaction to you staying in your aunt’s (warmer) house. And there I think the Captain’s advice is excellent.

    1. Yes, my boyfriend is also hot-blooded! (whereas I am thoroughly an ectotherm; I do not produce body heat and am always cold). He keeps his place at 58 degrees, max; when I stay over he tries turning it up to around 64-68 for me. At which point I’m still freezing, and he’s too overheated to sleep! (And don’t get me started on summer–he’s perpetually heat-exhausted, but has the AC so high I’m still cold).

      Given we’re a couple, our solution probably won’t work for LW… (he keeps it kicked up a few degrees during the day, then drops it at night and I just steal his deliciously furnace-like body heat), but my point is that being heat-intolerant is a very real thing. Your mother is just as uncomfortable and wretched in a warm house as you are in a cold one. Which is not to say that you have to tolerate it! I think you should be able to say, in a totally not-blaming-type way, “Hey mom, I totally understand that the way I like the thermostat is way too high for you and makes you feel unwell. It’s so weird that I’m the opposite way! I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in your own house, so I’m just going to stay with Aunt/Uncle so I can be comfortable too. Can I stop by in the morning for brunch?”

      If you do occasionally stay at her place,perhaps bring a portable space heater along for your room? I know that doesn’t really address the problem, but they are a handy way to make a toasty bubble of heat just for you.

      1. I second your cheery and tactful no-blaming phrasing, because yes, every person’s temperature preference is legit, doubly so in their own house. Mom’s temperature preference itself is not really LW’s problem (the bit about poor Dad wearing sweaters sort of irked me, because that sounds totally reasonable), rather Mom’s potential irrational reaction to not having house guests is. I’m like LW’s mom in that I keep the heat down in the winter, for comfort and cost, but I am unlike her in that if someone said they’d prefer staying with X ’cause they like the heat up, I’d say, “Sounds great!” and that would be that, win-win.

  4. All great advice, except that I don’t think trying to stealthily change the thermostat setting is a cool thing to do. It’s your parents’ house and they get to control the temperature. If someone was a guest in my home and changed my thermostat without asking me first, I’d be pissed.

    Disclaimer: I also keep my house at a temperature cooler than most people find comfortable. I turn the heat up a bit when I have guests but not by much. But I do have lots of blankets and dogs to keep people warm.

    1. I definitely agree with this. Don’t passively change the thermostat – that’s shitty. Goofus passively changes the thermostat. Gallant has a conversation about how “It’s painful for me to be in your house, but I don’t want to cause you discomfort either, so staying with Aunt is really the best solution.”

  5. No one says you have to stay with your parents, and if they keep the place too cold for you, then don’t stay there. Heck, I have friends who have A/C they crank up to the point where you could store meat in their living rooms–and if I visit them, it’s for about an hour or so.

    And I’ll also say, it was crappy of her to not turn up the heat when you were getting ready for your wedding. I hate being cold (I’ve joked that I’m actually looking forward to menopause as I’ll finally be warm). I am, often, in the winter because it is expensive to pay for heat so I keep it on the low end of things if it’s just me in the house. However, I get where you’re coming from.

    It also sounds to me like you and your mother tend to clash a fair bit. So stay with your aunt. Your mother is a grown up and if she refuses to act like one, it’s on her. If she says anything, tell her that you know she’s more comfortable in a cool house, you are more comfortable in a warm one, and that you think you will get along better if you stay with your aunt and there’s no conflict over the heating level.

    Your father may be accommodating your mother regarding the temperature because she’s not just getting a little warm from her hot flashes. A lot of the women I know who’ve gone through menopause were uncomfortably hot. As in dripping with sweat, hot. Even in the dead of winter. Everyone experiences it differently, but your mother may be dripping with sweat when it’s 30 degrees outside. That was agony for women in my family, and pushing the heat up would have been downright cruel to them. She might be passive aggressive if she makes comments about how hot she is if she turns up the heat for you. Then again, she might have a point. I’m not saying she shouldn’t turn it up for guests, but I’m saying she could very well be very uncomfortable.

  6. I agree with the advice above. I would like to add, have sympathy for your mom. My husband runs hot and keeps the house cooler than I like, and I always complained about that…until my temperature increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It. Was. Miserable. Having been on both sides, it’s worse to be too hot than too cold, and it’s way easier to warm up in a too-cold house than to cool down in a too-hot one.

    Definitely don’t sleep where it’s uncomfortable, but try to understand that your mom is going through something that is physically tough. And give your dad props!

    1. Amen. I used to get cold hands – miserably, painfully cold hands when I was younger. I kind of outgrew it in my thirties. And then, in my late forties, the menopause fairy started visiting. Oh, my lord, “hot flashes” really doesn’t do justice to the experience. Imagine suddenly being doused with a cauldron full of hot tomato soup. Any sort of physical or emotional stress can bring one on, and then there are the freebies, which come out of the blue, for no reason at all. And in between, I run hot. I keep my house at 68, and run around in a tank top, with periodic breaks out on the deck to cool off.

      I hate that even a momentary twinge of irritation can trigger such a visible response, and I make a point of reminding the people around me that plenty of them are just plain random, and I’m not actually getting ready to explode.

    2. I’ve been on both sides, too, and I’ll take too hot over too cold any day. It’s definitely not universal!

  7. It could be a bill issue. 58-60 is what my house is at, and honestly, it’s never been a problem, socks and sweaters are just what comes with winter. But our bills would climb to $200-$300 a month for energy if we kept it any higher.

    1. I was about to say the same thing. I keep my own house much colder than I would like to, and sometimes I’ll turn the heat up for an evening if friends are over, but I legitimately can’t afford to do it much more often than that.

  8. Bring a space heater with you for the guest room and heat just that room up at night or when you need a break from always winter and never Christmas. Then you aren’t trying to change how she runs her household, you’re trying to make yourself comfortable. “Mom, you do things wrong and I insist you change them” becomes “I love to stay with you but I need to bring my own pillows since I’m allergic to down.” Clash averted!

  9. Some people are more comfortable at cooler temps for a variety of reasons (my in-laws among them), but there are those of us who can’t get warm no matter how many layers we’re wrapped in if we’re stuck in the equivalent of an ice box. Example: I can’t manage to get/stay warm at my in-laws’ house during the winter unless I’m under a massive stack of quilts…and being cold also makes me more prone to picking up whatever illness is floating around the house. Some accommodation has to be made somewhere so no one is roasting and no one is freezing. We are all people, right? Even those of us who freeze easily?

    I don’t recall reading anything in my Owner’s Manual that stated I’m required to endure physical discomfort without complaint when other people are intentionally causing that discomfort…and it’s pretty clear the mother knows she’s intentionally causing discomfort. Not bumping up the temp a bit on LW’s wedding day was cruel, especially given how flimsy most wedding dresses are and the visible signs of LW’s extreme discomfort.

    The Captain’s advice about staying with the aunt and making it clear that it’s so everyone will be as comfortable as possible is excellent. LW’s mother should be happy that people are trying to accommodate her need for cold temps while not endangering their own health.

    1. An accommodation where nobody is roasting and nobody is freezing may not actually be possible, depending on the extremity of the different environments. My father and I are sufficiently hot-blooded that we are uncomfortably hot at the ‘compromise’ temperature in my parents’ house; while my mother wears a vest and still feels chilly. And there are plenty of people in the world more cold-blooded than she is.

      Sometimes, even with our own family, there are just incompatibilities that can’t be compromised over.

      In this case, it’s rather fortunate that the LW’s aunt exists so that the LW can still visit her parents without either freezing or paying for a hotel!

    2. Chris, I agree with a lot of what you said, but please know that menopause is a real thing, the hot flashes are actually incredibly uncomfortable, and that keeping the temperature up can actually affect the well-being of a woman who’s going through this.

      Yes, it was shitty of the LW’s mother to not bump up the heat on her wedding day when she was getting ready. And certainly, the LW should feel free to stay with her aunt since she will be more comfortable there. If her mother gets angry about that, she’s being unreasonable.

      However. Menopause is a real thing. It actually does affect women physically, and to keep the heat up when my mother was going through a serious hot flash would have been really cruel. It can and does affect people badly to make them endure more heat when their body temperature is already going through the roof.

      1. Yes, menopause is a real thing. I’m at the start of mine. And hypothermia, asthma, and depressed immune systems are real things too – I have no idea how I’ll manage when the hot flashes hit harder. I acknowledge not all needs can be met, but there is zero reason why anyone should be made physically ill when it’s possible to try for a happy medium.

        It’s just as cruel to make someone freeze as it is to make someone roast, and it seems like you disagree with that point.

        1. No, Chris, I don’t disagree with that point. I actually run cold myself, and agree that throwing a sweater on doesn’t always help. I also put up with it when my mother went through the change because she really suffered when the heat was up. The only way the LW and her mother may be comfortable is if the LW stays with her aunt, and if her mother has a problem with that, it’s her problem.

          Sometimes there may not be room for a happy medium if one person is sweating and getting dizzy and nauseous from the heat and the other person is developing hypothermia from the cold.

        2. I’m like you, once I get below a certain cold threshold it can take me literally days to warm me up again. And it really kicks in my depression if it goes on too long. Hell, I fled back to my abusive ex mainly because the one friend I could escape to kept her house at 60F during her Buffalo winters (there were other reasons too, but that was the…er, icing, as it were…). There’s only so many layers you can wear, and once my core temp goes down, they just don’t help. I’ve had winters where my entire body constantly ached from hunching itself in under-heated homes.

          In my friend’s case, she simply couldn’t afford the warmer bill. But I can’t see flat out refusing to hear that someone else is uncomfortable, even if your own (opposite) discomfort is genuine and equal. I do think a space heater in the LW’s room would be a help, but if Mom refuses to even consider a small compromise, I’d be headed for the comfier house in a flash, and deal with the Mom-conflict with warmer blood in my veins.

        3. Chris, for what it’s worth, your hot flashes won’t necessarily get worse than they are now. It’s incredibly individual and variable, the kinds of “symptoms” women experience. (I put that in quotes because menopause is not a medical condition.)

          My mom had hot flashes of the kind that made her glad she had an office with a door where she worked. Me, I’ve only had night sweats and nothing during the daytime (yet??).

          (Here’s a search results page for wicking nightwear: http://tinyurl.com/be3bc9n)

    3. I am a little confused about how “intentionally causing discomfort” is only cruel in one direction, if going into someones home and insisting they change the temperature to something that makes them feel really uncomfortable is considered perfectly fine?

      You’re right, though; you definitely are not required to endure that. The LW, and anyone else, should feel totally free and justified in avoiding homes that aren’t willing to adjust the temperature to meet their needs, and the homeowners who prioritize their own comfort should accept that their choice has consequences. I don’t think they are being cruel by a longshot, but trying to ignore reality and getting upset about someone else needing to be as comfortable as you do is definitely out of bounds, and hopefully her mom can come to terms with that with minimal pain/drama.

  10. It sounds as if staying with your aunt will make a lot of people happy (your aunt, you, your mother because can keep her temperature preferences) and make only one person unhappy (your mother if she expects you to stay in her house), whereas staying with your mother will make everybody unhappy (you will be cold, you and your mother will fight, your aunt will miss your company). I think it’s important to reassure your aunt and uncle that you like seeing _them_, not just treat them as a convenient hotel.

    But while I have every sympathy for people who want to keep the thermostat where they want it, as someone who is just about to move out of an icebox of a room, (I’ve woken up one night with actual hypothermia. In the 21st century in a house equipped with central heating) I think your wellbeing comes before your mother’s sensitivities. If she can’t stand heated rooms, then you should visit during the day when you can move around, and stay away overnight.

    (For the ‘more sweaters’ brigade: there’s a limit to how many clothes I can wear at night. a) piling on more blankets over my thick sleeping bag *and* winter duvet gives me cramps, and b) no amount of clothes and blankets stops it being too cold to breathe. Waking up in the middle of the night because I can’t breathe from cold: NOT FUN, and way beyond ‘personal preference’. If you like your room cold: turn off your radiators and open your window.</rant>)

    1. (For the ‘more sweaters’ brigade: there’s a limit to how many clothes I can wear at night. a) piling on more blankets over my thick sleeping bag *and* winter duvet gives me cramps, and b) no amount of clothes and blankets stops it being too cold to breathe. Waking up in the middle of the night because I can’t breathe from cold: NOT FUN, and way beyond ‘personal preference’. If you like your room cold: turn off your radiators and open your window.)

      ^^ THIS. A million times this. Yes, people can only take off so many layers of clothing…but yes, people can only put ON so many layers of clothing and those of us with asthma have a hard time breathing in extremely cold air.

    2. I am always cold and hate the cold (though I keep my thermostat low because I do not have a couple of hundred dollars to throw at heating bills every month.) However, menopause is a real thing and I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone who is likely breaking out into a heavy sweat to increase the heat all the time. That isn’t a “sensitivity,” that’s actually about the LW’s mother’s well-being.

      1. It also isn’t a sensitivity to state that extreme cold sends one beyond simple physical discomfort. I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to suffer, be they menopause sufferers or those whose circulatory systems can’t endure low temperatures. Being cold isn’t a trick of the mind, it’s a physical issue.

        1. I didn’t call being cold a sensitivity. I was responding to Mostly Lurking’s dismissal of menopause as the LW’s mother’s “sensitivities”.

          1. The sensitivities are ‘you are staying with my sister rather than with me, your own mother’ which seem to be the expectation (and not entirely unrealistic). But when non-compatible temperature needs make that stay uncomfortable, *and* someone else would be happy to have company, the fight over the thermostat need not happen.
            That doesn’t mean that ‘Mom, I love you but I don’t want to stay at your house’ isn’t going to be a difficult conversation.

      2. Oh, I read that comment about “sensitivities” being about the LW’s mother feeling emotionally hurt if the LW chooses to stay elsewhere. Like, there are three issues the LW is trying to balance (the LW’s physical well-being, mother’s physical well-being, and emotional “sensitivities” about who stays where). While it is very admirable to try and be thoughtful of everyone’s feelings, I think this comment was saying that it makes sense to go for a solution that protects all parties’ physical well-beings during the visit, and it makes sense for those concerns to be the deciding factor (instead of whose feelings would be hurt).

    3. For reference, waking up in the middle of the night dripping with sweat and cramping from the heat is NOT FUN either, and also goes beyond a personal preference. My bedroom at home has the radiator turned off, the window open, and a 4.5 tog duvet on the bed. This is the temperature at which it is possible for me to get a good night’s sleep; and I’m an asthmatic.

      NEITHER temperature requirement is a personal preference. That is why it distresses me to see so many people here unsympathetically insisting that the mother should turn up her thermostat. Neither person can be happy at the other’s temperature; and NEITHER REQUIREMENT TRUMPS THE OTHER.

      But one can avoid staying in the house, whereas the other lives there.

      1. But one can avoid staying in the house, whereas the other lives there.

        Bolded for truth.

        LW’s mother doesn’t have to “get over her silly sensitivities”, ’cause feeling fucking uncomfortable is a real thing. She has to get over being passiv-aggressive when her children want to stay somewhere where it’s comfortable for them.

        1. “LW’s mother doesn’t have to “get over her silly sensitivities”, ’cause feeling fucking uncomfortable is a real thing. She has to get over being passiv-aggressive when her children want to stay somewhere where it’s comfortable for them.


          1. Well… yeah. But I don’t understand why “everyone is a little uncomfortable” is a less good solution than “one person is comfortable and one person is miserable.” I recognize being hot and being cold are both legit problems and sometimes a “perfect” temp can’t be reached, but when you care about someone’s well-being, sometimes being a bit uncomfortable yourself is worth helping them be a bit more comfortable/

    4. Agreed that piling on more sweaters isn’t always a good solution. For one thing, sweaters, socks, blankets, etc. work by trapping in your body heat, not by actually making anything warmer. If you aren’t generating enough body heat then no amount of layers is going to make a difference. My feet have poor circulation, and when they become painfully cold, the ONLY way they can warm up is through an external source of heat, such as my electric blanket, or my husband (the poor man deserves a medal).

  11. Hey LW. As someone who is notoriously cold, I feel your pain. In fact, I tend to keep my apartment at 76 F which is much higher than anyone I know (but I live alone so I can do that 🙂 ) Usually when visiting friends and family, I can compensate by using a blanket, but even then I do get comments like, “Are you cold? But I turned the thermostat up!” And then I politely remind my friends and family, I’m not being cold AT them. I just get cold. Anyhow, since this is an issue that’s come up with your mom before, I highly recommend the suggestion of being straight up. “Mom, as you know, I get pretty chilly in your house, but I know you tend to be warm, and I want you to be comfortable in your own house. If I stay with Aunt, we can both be comfortable but still see each other tons!” If your mom gets all passive aggressive about that, it’ll all on her because frankly is says, “I care about you. I want you to be comfortable. I want to enjoy our time together instead of dreading our visits because I’m so uncomfortable when I stay here.” Another thing, you say you visit your often which at least to me indicates, not out of obligation for the holidays, but because you love and care about them. Presumably, they feel the same way about you and WANT you to visit. So I sincerely hope that the simple desire to be warm shouldn’t sever all that love and cause the family rift you describe. Best wishes!

    1. And then I politely remind my friends and family, I’m not being cold AT them. I just get cold.

      This, so much. I get cold really easily, and I have a lovely warm woolen overcoat that I wear pretty much everywhere in the winter–and people will be SO OFFENDED if I don’t take it off inside. It’s like, I don’t want you to overheat or jack up your heating bill, but I also don’t want to freeze. Wearing my coat seems like a reasonable solution to me, but people seem to think I’m being passive-aggressive.

      1. It is for this reason that I am accumulating a collection of pretty shawls, FWIW. I knit them myself, but you can also buy them from secondhand shops; I’ve got a few thick woollen ones that I love.

    2. Can I come live with you, runswithatoms? And I did not take my coat off on Monday at all. My office, which is usually very cold, was FREEZING. It was warmer outside than in. On a January day! But no one thought I was being passive-aggressive, since we were all cold.

      1. Ha! My office was doing this yesterday. The heating had actually broken. Thankfully everyone in the office knows I’m most prone to being cold and insisted I take the one space heater (sometimes my coworkers are wonderful people). Fixed now!

        My house also tends to be kept at warmer temperatures than most (closer to 73 than 76) – I think my husband would prefer cooler temperatures. The trick is we have a pet hedgehog – she’s at risk of going into (potentially deadly) false hibernation at any temperature under 70, so we’re very careful about it, and I get to reap the benefits.

      2. Yes! I do the office dance too. I had my own office for the better part of a year, and the temperature is highly dependent on how sunny it is outside meaning on a bright sunny day during the summer it’s about 100 degrees in here and on a dreary winter day, it’s about 60. I keep a space heater under my desk, but now that I have an officemate who is warm-blooded, I have to compromise a little bit more about space heater use. If it were up to just me, I would keep it like a sauna. Maybe I should consider getting an office hedgehog.

  12. You can bundle up to get warmer, but there’s a limit to how much clothing you can take off to cool off. If the temp is awful for you, stay with your aunt. I think the Captain’s advice and scripts are excellent.

    Full disclosure: I am the warm one in my household and group of friends. We keep our home cool. If we are just sitting around, there are copious blankies. If we are busy doing something, then we tend to be fine. I turn the heat up if there are guests, but we also usually turn the heat off at night. (It rarely goes below freezing where we live.) When I go to other people’s homes, I get uncomfortably warm in short order. I manage it by drinking lots of cold water and stepping outside to cool off if I need to. (You don’t want to see my in the summer time when it gets close to 30C/90F. We don’t have air conditioning at home, so I generally just keep the bathtub full of cool water so that I can climb in and cool off at regular intervals. If I’m working outside, I soak my t-shirt down with cold water before going out. And wear a hat. I am soooo susceptible to heat stroke.)

    Not to get all better than thou on anyone, but we do find that keeping the heat down keeps the bills down and better for the environment too. But that is our choice and we will always warm the place up if our more “reptilian” friends (inside joke, sorry: means the ones who need a warm rock because they are unable to generate their own body heat, no offense intended) visit.

    1. Oh, and I just want to add – there seems to be a lot more going on in this mother-daughter relationship than just incompatible body temperatures. I’m sure LW has already given some thought to that; I just wonder if that’s the question she subconsciously wanted to ask.

      1. Yes. I also have the impression there’s more to it. ’cause I’m pretty sure we don’t have to explain to the LW how to stay warm.

        1. I’m not sure there is necessarily more going on. I get on fine with my parents, but there’s always a thermostat conflict when I go home. Admittedly, it’s not as serious as the conflict between the LW and her mother, but then, my parents don’t like to keep the house quite as cold either.

          The question of whose physical comfort should be the priority is always going to be a tricky one, especially when there isn’t really a compromise position that doesn’t leave both parties feeling unhappy. This isn’t necessarily an issue with anything deeper behind it, and I’m not sure if it’s helpful to treat it as if it is.

    2. “Not to get all better than thou on anyone, but we do find that keeping the heat down keeps the bills down and better for the environment too.”

      Yeah, that lecture was what I got from my parents all the time growing up. Never mind that I didn’t feel any need for AC in summer – 85 degrees makes me happy! – and was usually already wearing a sweater AND a vest AND a hat when my requests for more heat were met with “Put on a sweater!” or “you’re not really cold!” Nothin’ like being told you’re not the expert on your own body temperature. I wonder if the LW got similar messages as a child, and thus her sensitivity to the topic now.

      1. I know I did, personally. I have a heater in my room, though not a very good one, but I don’t turn it on as often as I want to because of concerns for power use that were drilled into me as a kid. Instead I spend almost no time in my room, despite the fact that I’m seriously introverted, need a lot of personal space, and want to move out to get more distance from my family. Oh, and the teachers at primary school who’d say things like “Take that sweater off, I’m getting hot just looking at you!”

    3. You don’t want to see my in the summer time when it gets close to 30C/90F. We don’t have air conditioning at home,

      You would not have liked Melbourne yesterday – 41C and still 35C at midnight. I don’t have AC either, it was sit in front of a fan with a wet facewasher on me all evening.

      1. Yeah the heatwave is making me SO glad I left Australia. We lived just outside the Gibson desert so being 30C still at 9-10pm wasn’t uncommon, but the temperatures these weeks are just ridiculous.

      2. I’d probably straight up die from heat stroke unless I was somewhere that had air conditioning. As much as I’d like to visit Australia, I probably won’t get any closer than New Zealand. Or only visit in the winter.

        1. Spring and autumn (fall) are also lovely in the southern parts of Australia! The northern parts are in the tropics so tend to more of a wet/dry seasonal variation, though.

          Anyway don’t let the heat of the height of summer put you off visiting. 🙂 New Zealand is also an extremely lovely place to visit and I heartily recommend it.

    4. “You can bundle up to get warmer, but there’s a limit to how much clothing you can take off to cool off.”

      I mentioned this up higher, but I’ll reiterate here. If you aren’t generating enough body heat, then bundling up like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man will NOT make you warmer. When my feet get cold I could put on 6 pairs of socks and it won’t help, because only an external source of heat will have any effect (once I warm up my feet with an external heat source, bundling them up to keep the heat in does work wonderfully). But it’s a myth that cold people can simply add more layers and therefore they should be the ones to shut up and deal.

      1. Extra layers of clothing are just insulation; they will not warm you up if you’re cold. Think of a thermos bottle – you can keep cold thing cold or warm things warm, but the bottle won’t do much of anything to change the state of its contents. If you’re already cold, bundling up won’t help.

  13. My family has a similar problem, except for us the house is always too hot for anyone other than my dad. When I go home I deal with it by wearing shorts and sleeping with the fan on and window open. You could try the cold temp version of this with warm clothes, warm drinks, and portable heater for sleeping at night in combination with shorter stays at your parents house and longer stays at your aunt’s. And for when you stay at your aunt’s you can always tell your mother that you love spending time with both her and your aunt, and you don’t want to deprive either of them of the fun of hosting, so you are going to switch where you stay each time.”

  14. I HATE to be cold and I am always cold. I stay with my parents, rather than my brother and sister-in-law, in the winter because my folks let me have the warmest room. But it is well known in my family that I am cold-natured (at least half of us are) and people are generally solicitous.

    A friend gave me a hot water bottle for Christmas, complete with its own little knitted sweater, and it is the best thing ever. So stay with your aunt, but get a hot water bottle for any time spent at your mom’s. It’s better than a hot pad because it doesn’t create that drying static electricity. If I were a guest at your mom’s house I would be sitting at dinner wearing my snuggie and maybe a coat with my hot water bottle in my lap. And gloves. And a hat. And a scarf.

    I’m going to put on my coat now. I made myself cold just thinking about it.

    1. Corn or bean bags too, you can microwave them and they’ll stay warm for a long, long time. If you make it yourself (out of, say, cotton and seed corn), you can add some lovely-smelling herbs or tea to the bag, too. Can make a huge difference.

    2. I find hot water bottles really useful – I hate being cold, but at the same time I don’t want to drive my heating costs up too much. Having one warm thing to cuddle around makes a lower temperature much more bearable.

    3. I put my hot water bottle under my shirt! That way even when the water cools down body temperature keeps it warm longer. I intend to make a wheat bag at some point though. We’re into the height of summer now so I have time before it cools off again.

  15. I have nothing to add in terms of strategy, but for when you are at your parents’ I highly recommend electric blankets and electric throws. Both are great for providing localized heat to make you comfortably toasty without affecting anyone else. A kind of weird variant that would get expensive for daily use but might help with visits when you need to be able to move around, rather than having to be plugged in, would be those stick-on ThermaCare heat things meant for muscle aches and such. I’ve used those for a little booster heat when I’m going to be at an outdoor event in cold weather; they last 8 hours.

    1. You can also buy microwave-safe dealies made of cloth and filled with flax or buckwheat. They are mostly intended for dealing with shoulder and neck aches, but the shoulder ones tend to sit pretty comfortably around my shoulders because of that and provide extra warmth when I’m moving around in a cold inside environment. When I’m sitting, I can wrap my hands around them, put my feet up on them, or place them against my abdomen to try to keep things as warm as possible. This may not help enough to make staying at your folks’ comfortable, LW, but it’s another thing you might try if you haven’t already. Experienced cold person here. Feel your pain. I tend to get sick if I get too cold too consistently, so I’ve really had to learn easily-packed coping mechanisms, particularly if I’m staying in an unfamiliar space that might be too cold for me.

    2. Seconding the love for electric blankets! (this whole thread is making my feet ache with cold!)

  16. Good advice!

    A lot of this situation seems to be linked to people making choices, and then being annoyed/put out when their choices make other folks unhappy. Your mom wants to be comfortable, and then is annoyed when people mention that they are cold in her home. Your aunt wants visitors, but may not be willing to deal with any unhappy feelings when you mom doesn’t have all the family staying in her home (which is still hypothetical, and thus doesn’t have to be deal with *right now*).

    LW, JenniferP is right- the way they feel *is* outside your control. The only thing I would add to her advice is, work out some scripts to have in your back pocket for when the time comes to actually talk about the issue. (And I am firm in my commitment myself to NOT responding to [what I think are] passive agressive forms of communication, so that colors my advice. I recommend trying it to see how it feels- I found it really freed me up from a lot of negative subtext that really didn’t matter all that much.)

    If you choose to stay at Aunt’s house, and (BUT ONLY IF) she brings up Mom’s hurt feelings, be prepared to say something like, “Oh, Aunt, I know that it’s really uncomfortable to find people around you are upset- please please please don’t worry about my Mom’s reaction as something to do with YOU. It’s between me and Mom and I will speak to her directly about it. If Mom brings it up to you again, please let her know she should talk to me directly. Now, how’re your azaleas doing? ” Repeat as necessary.

    And you don’t have to engage your Mom’s feelings about it if they come to you second-hand- deal with it directly if it comes up, but unless it explicitly comes up, it’s rewarding Mom’s tendency to communicate passive aggressively. But if it does come up, another script for Mom might be, “I’m really happy to come and visit and I love seeing all my family together! I’m here to hang out with you, Mom. Your house makes me feel cold if I stay there a long time, so I’m making my visit’s home base Aunt’s house, so I can be warm when I sleep. Is there something specific you’d like to do together while I’m here?”

    On a hosting note: my ideal concept of hosting involves caring about your guests’ needs. When I host, I make accommodations for my guests needs, including things like having food that works with their allergies, and sufficient bedding for people who get cold at night. I think of this as part of being a good host. Yes, it is your mom’s house. Yes, it is her right to structure her life how she wants. And it’s a real physical need for you to be warm enough to be comfortable and well during your visit. If that need can’t be met by your mom as a hostess, then you can’t stay there so much. A good guest would not make a big deal out of the problem, but a good host would also work to meet their guests’ need once it had been made clear. You mom might not be the host for your visit.

    TL;DR? Good advice is good- maybe make up a script to help you address it (IF if comes up), and find ways to help yourself stop worrying about the choices other people make that you can’t change. You have a right to reasonable physical comfort during your visit.

  17. I really like the idea of framing it as ‘this way we can both be comfortable’. If your mom gets passive-aggressive and says ‘you want me to broil in my skin?’ or something, you can say, ‘no, of course I don’t! But you know how uncomfortable you are when you’re too hot? I’m just as uncomfortable the other way. I don’t think either of us needs to be miserable when there’s an easy solution here.’

    On a sidenote, putting on a sweater doesn’t always help people who run cold, like me. For one thing, my hands and face are still freezing. And while I can start putting on more and more clothes, at a certain point that just gets uncomfortable too.

    1. agreed about sweaters. i have reynaud’s and so my extremities will suffer badly in the cold 😦

      1. Yeah, Raynaud’s is a big problem. My father finds it especially difficult, as he’s naturally hot-blooded and prefers cool temperatures; but they trigger his Raynaud’s!

        Similarly, I’m happiest at temperatures that cause my damaged ankle to ache with cold. This is not the most helpful thing in the world.

        1. I think I should come to your house and put my ice cold hands and feet on your back. 😉

          (I’m serious, my hands are often like ice even in summer.)

  18. A lot of the time, conversations like this turn into a referendum on Which Is Worse: Being Too Hot Or Being Too Cold? I guess on the theory that whichever is worse, the person who suffers the most “wins” and gets to determine the temperature.

    But the beautiful thing is, it doesn’t actually matter. You can both be comfortable. She can keep the temperature where she wants it and you can stay somewhere else where the temperature is bearable for you.

    It also helps becuase it’s a completely impersonal thing. You aren’t saying you don’t love your mom, you aren’t saying you don’t want to see her, you’re saying that the temperature that is comfortable for her is acutely uncomfortable for you and vice versa. It’s, “I really want to see you when I’m in town, but I’m staying at my aunt’s so my toes don’t turn blue. I know that asking you to turn up the temperature would make you really uncomfortable, so we can deal with it this way.”

    She may well take that personally, but there’s nothing you can do about that. Remember that you’re being considerate too: rather than asking her to be uncomfortable, or having fights about it, you’re solving the problem so that everyone can be in a temperature range they can stand.

  19. Hey, LW here. Thanks, Captain, for your excellent advice. It was exactly what I needed — some way to step back from the emotions involved in the situation and frame it as “this is the best solution for everyone.” Even though their move is a ways off, the holidays have meant lots of family time, including lots of discussions of the move and lots of assumptions being tossed around about how my husband and I will be staying somewhere different from now on. I especially appreciate Sarah B’s comment that my mom “isn’t being hot-blooded AT me,” which makes it seem more natural to frame the conversation as, “I know how important it is for you to keep cool, so it makes sense if we stay at Aunt & Uncle’s so you don’t have to worry about turning up the heat for us.” (Which she wouldn’t do, but acting as if she would be accommodating and suffer as a result seems like the best approach.)

    The word limit kept me from adding some things to my question, so I’ll throw out a few clarifications.

    Yes, whenever we stay at my parents’ house, my husband and I wear lots of layers and use a space heater at night. As others have said, this still leaves our hands and face very cold and the space heater can make the room dry and uncomfortable.

    My mom and I have a good relationship. I’ve learned not to push her buttons (i.e., say anything that could be construed as criticism), which isn’t hard because there’s not a lot to criticize except 1) how badly she reacts to criticism and 2) how she acts toward my dad, which I figured out in therapy a long time ago is not anything I need to concern myself with. Plus I don’t live with her anymore (am in my late 20s). So this is the first time in a long time where something she’s doing has the potential to directly affect me and I felt like I should take action, speak up, etc. for my own needs.

    I’m not really understanding how staying in the summer would be better. My wedding was in the summer. I’d say it’s actually worse in the summer, because the hot temps outside give my mom more justification for cranking the A/C up higher. No, it’s not a costs-savings thing at all.

    All of the arguing about menopause and whether it’s more uncomfortable / easier to fix to be hot or cold is interesting to me. I think I was reacting badly to my mom’s attitude that her being comfortable was a kind of medical necessity whereas all the rest of us not wanting to freeze was just our personal preference. But my feeling that “There are more of us who want it to be warm than want it to be cold” isn’t helpful either because my mom shouldn’t have to suffer just by virtue of finding herself with a house full of people who run naturally cold.

    Bottom line, you’ve all convinced me that it makes total sense for us to continue to stay with my aunt and uncle, that it’s worth speaking up about, and that it’s possible to frame it in a positive way.

    1. Yes! I am actually COLDER in the summer, thanks to overzealous use of the A/C at work. (No control over the temp and cannot close the vent, which is right above my desk=WAAAAAAAAAHHHHH.)

      I hope it goes well!

    2. I’m not really understanding how staying in the summer would be better. My wedding was in the summer. I’d say it’s actually worse in the summer, because the hot temps outside give my mom more justification for cranking the A/C up higher. No, it’s not a costs-savings thing at all.

      I had the exact same thought when I read the Captain’s (otherwise spot-on) advice. As a cold-blooded person, I find summer way worse for indoor temperatures than winter. If you’re visiting someone in the summer, you’re likely to be popping in and out of the house to do things in the backyard/run to the store/sit on the balcony, and since you know you’ll be outside and you have a summer mindset generally, you’re probably not going to be dressed to deal with sub-zero indoor temperatures. In the winter, at least I know I’ll be wearing pants/tights/sweaters/long-sleeves of some kind, which makes cold houses and offices significantly less of a hassle than when I walk to work sweating like hell and then hit a wall of air conditioning and spend all day at my desk shivering in summer clothing.

      1. Ugh, my office last year was the WORST in summer. In winter we all joked about it being a bit cold but just kept our scarves on. In summer…let’s just say I only wore a skirt once. And had to borrow a scarf to cover my blue legs!

      2. The last time I ever wore a sweater was in the summer in a previous place I worked.

        The aircon was building-wide, and was set for the comfort of the upstairs office, which was in full sunlight and used desktops.

        Our office was in full shade, used laptops, and was open-plan. In the summer, it was like a fridge. We used to open windows to let the warm air in. Some people brought space heaters for their toes. It was crazy. I mean, when /I’m/ saying it’s too cold, it’s TOO SODDING COLD.

    3. Ahh, I love this. I wish every LW would comment to fill in the blanks and let us know what they’ve decided or how things are panning out. Thanks for coming back to us! 🙂

    4. Ha, I might have suggested staying in the summer because I’m from a country where we don’t really have A/C so wasn’t thinking of it as a possibility. Maybe there’s some similarly Europe-centric assumptions happening in the comments? Or people just assuming that the cold thing is a cost-saving measure.

      Good luck and I hope everything works out for you!

      1. We don’t have A/C much in houses but it’s a problem with going to shops for sure, and A/C is becoming a little more common now if only because more people are getting heat pumps that happen to be capable of also being cold pumps. Most people I know still just leave doors open but we’ve had a boom in sandfly and mosquito populations with heightened water tables, too.

        1. I’m not sure about shops, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house with A/C in either the place I’m from or where I live now. Especially especially where I live now, because we have summers that generally max out at around 21 C/70 F and you just… don’t… need A/C at temperatures like that. I’m much more liable to crank on the heating in August because I’m freezing. Back home (Germany) is warmer and thinking back I *think* the larger shops do tend to have A/C, but it’s still not common and the icy blasts of frigid air I remember from living in the US aren’t really present.

          1. Here it’s mostly just the big shops that have the cold air thing – malls, supermarkets and department stores, though malls are the worst culprits. Our summers usually go to about 25-27C but this year we’ve been hitting 30 repeatedly.

  20. Everyone’s kind of glomming onto the house temperature, but when I read this, it made me think of my own situation.

    I am very allergic to cats and dogs, to the point that I have made the decision in my life that whenever I can help it, I will not spend the night at a house where a pet is present.

    My in-laws had a dog (who has since passed). For the first several years that my partner and I traveled to visit, we stayed in a hotel. I am glad financially this was an option for me, because it saved my asthma a lot of anguish! There was part of me that wondered how MIL would deal with that, but in the end, the ease of my breathing was paramount. Now that they don’t have a pet, when we travel to visit, we DO stay with them, and all is well.

    So while people are talking about sweaters and heaters and all that jazz, there are lots of situations where this could come up – you travel somewhere and there is an “expectation” that you stay with a certain party. You really don’t need to. You get to do what works best for you. And I like the script about “this is what’s comfortable for both of us.” If you go in with that script AND SAY IT WITHOUT DRAMA you have a better chance of that working and not being dramatic.

    1. My partner and I both have similar allergy issues. My partner has actually stopped breathing a few times when ze gets triggered. Which makes visiting my parents’ farm difficult, as the dogs and cats and dust and mold in the old house are killer for us. In the summer (or when we had less discretionary funds) we would camp out, so as to avoid sleeping in the old house, but we find we prefer a hotel room these days. Everyone seems to accept it – it’s hard to get dramatic about your absence when you say “I’m really sorry, but sleeping here makes me sick and could KILL my partner.”

  21. I definitely empathize. My parents have a pool, and my mom gets really passive aggressive and pissed off when anyone asks to maybe turn the temperature down from 90 degrees F. During the summer. It’s like a hot tub. I can’t swim in it for long because any physical exertion makes me feel like I’m boiling alive. My mom is the only one in my family who’s able to use the pool comfortably (my sister only puts her feet in, my dad has to be on a floaty chair). We already have a hot tub, but my mom never uses it.

    Does anyone have any advice? I just want to be able to cool off during the summer.

  22. I do encourage you to follow the other posters’ advice about staying with your Aunt. But I think the cold temperature is less important the the personality clashes that may come about if you try to stay with your parents. Also, if the cold really bothers you, you don’t even have to go to your parents’ house – you can suggest to see your parents at a neutral location, like a restaurant.

    I am a cold blooded person, but my family keeps the temperature low to save on energy. My dad is just like your dad with the sweaters and hats inside (he’s bald).

    But I do have one perspective on the indoor temperature thing, which is for us to remember that indoor heating and A/C is a modern *luxury* that most people in developed countries *choose* to pay for (if they can), and is not necessary for survival. I lived in northern China in the winter. You want to know how they heat buildings there? In many buildings, they don’t! Even in buildings where some rooms may have heating, inevitably there are other rooms that they keep the windows/doors open to the outside air…at 20 degrees F! ***And yet, I survived.***

    For the commenters who say they wear lots of clothes to stay warm in a house that’s 50 some degrees….Are you wearing long underwear? How many layers of wool or fleece coats (vs. cotton, which is not as useful for retaining heat)? Or heck, a ski coat? Hat(s) when you sleep in bed? Muffler to keep warm, moist air from your lungs near your face, and your throat from drying out? How may layers of wool socks? Do you stay in bed under the blankets to read/watch tv/use the computer/chat? Because for many, many people in the world that is the reality of staying warm. And for your ancestors that was the reality of staying warm. And if the house is 40 or 50 some degrees you can stay warm by bundling up, eating more, and drinking hot liquids – but you need to bundle up a lot.

    If you have a medical condition which prevents you from maintaining your body heat, or endangers you if you’re cold or your lungs are exposed to air that is excessively dry and cold, then keeping the thermostat up is not a luxury, it is a medical necessity. If you choose to keep the thermostat warm so you can wear one long sleeve shirt inside when it’s 30 something outside, that IS a luxury and your choice – but it’s not necessary for other people to pay for that if they are not able or choose not too, or if that is not their comfort level.

    1. Uh, I don’t really get how “others have it worse” is a helpful argument here. Yes, it is a privilege to have enough money to be able to use heating / A/C. But this attitude reminds me of “Why don’t you eat your food while children in Africa are starving?” (people say this shit a lot around here), which is not only incredibly racist but also totally useless in figuring out what to do with your food/your feeling cold.

      1. I’m with zweisatz on this. The attitude that “Your suffering doesn’t matter because someone is suffering more” can be applied to anything from temperature preferences to surviving rape. It’s completely unhelpful and unproductive.

        Yes, it’s good to be socially and globally aware, but preach those issues in your own time. Don’t use someone else’s suffering – no matter how much you think they are or are not suffering – as a springboard for your own personal crusade.

        1. My goal was not to compare the LW’s suffering to other’s ‘suffering’. In fact, I don’t think any of the people I met in China considered their lifestyle ‘suffering’ at all. When asked why they would open the windows to the outside even in the winter, they will tell you that the most important thing is to allow fresh air into the room, regardless of the temperature.

          I have no idea how uncomfortable the LW is in her parent’s home. Blue fingers in a wedding dress sounds pretty miserable to me. But it also doesn’t sound surprising, since most modern wedding dresses aren’t designed for warmth.

          As I said, I think the advice of the other commenters on staying with her Aunt and Uncle is solid. BOTH because she is physically uncomfortable in her parent’s home, and because there is an undercurrent of other tensions with her mother. I also suggested the neutral meeting point as another solution.

          But my example, as I said in answer to zweisatz, was to illustrate that if for some reason she felt she HAD to go over to her parents’ home for an extended period of time, wearing lots and lots of clothes IS a possible thermoregulation mechanism.

      2. I DON’T think that ‘other’s have it worse’ is either a solution to the decision making process, nor a useless thought process. I think it is a complement to other factors in decision making. If you are horribly cold in your parent’s home, there are a number of possible solutions:
        -wear more clothes.
        -increase the heat.
        -wear more clothes and increase the heat.
        -exercise inside.
        -carry around hot water
        -leave the home.
        I don’t think any of these solutions is right or wrong (even if some people may find the idea of jumping jacks in the living room unusual) – but I felt like the discussion above was dismissing the possibility that wearing more clothes COULD be a solution. And I think a reminder that there are people who solve ‘being cold’ with ‘wearing more clothes’ is evidence that it can work.

        I also don’t think anything I said could be construed as racist, nor do I think pointing out there are people in the world being cold/going hungry/no access to clean water/etc. is racist. There are millions of families in the US (http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/us_hunger_facts.htm) who are food and heat insecure, of all ethnicities. As a factor in your decision of whether or not to eat the food in front of you, it’s not the final determination. But as a reminder of the comfort that comes with being able to buy fresh food at any time in any volume, it can serve as one of many factors that influence your choices about what and how much to buy, how much to cook, how much to put on your plate, etc.

        1. Actually several people above already suggested wearing more layers so it was by no means excluded from this discussion, however, that may not be the solution either since as pointed out, heavy sweaters and blankets can still leave you quite cold, and frankly that introduces a different level of discomfort. Also, zweisatz didn’t say you were racist. That was a reference to a common yet equally unhelpful quip made by parents to their children, “What about the starving children in Africa?” said to make kids eat their food. Cleaning your plate doesn’t put food in the bellies of starving children just as enduring frigid temperatures at your parents house doesn’t make people in other parts of the world any less chilly in their own homes. If your point was simply, there are other things to try, you could have just said that.

        2. I don’t think that it’s necessary to tell the LW what they can do when they are cold. Not earlier in this thread and especially not at this point of the discussion. I just think … most people know.

          I disagree about the “can’t be constructed as racist” part, but we really don’t have to go deeper into this discussion, I was already derailing with my first answer to you.

          So, we are pretty meta at this point. That’s why I will just leave it as that.

    2. The 115-120 degree heat we get in my state and the below-freezing cold (yay temperature extremes!) for a good chunk of the summer is dangerous, full stop. I have gotten heat prostration twice in my car and once indoors. Heat and cold kill people here every year. AC isn’t a luxury here. Being at a temperature where you can’t function but your life is not threatened is still damned uncomfortable, decreases productivity, is demoralizing, and just allaround sucks. I get what you’re saying about it being a luxury that lots of folks can’t afford, but stating it’s a luxury people do not need to survive is untrue. Perhaps if we’d been raised in countries where that was the norm it would be different, our bodies would be used to it — to wit, my grandparents never were bothered by extremes; both were deep south farm folks from birth, and gramps was an oil rig worker . . . there is no climate control up there. And indoor climate control certainly has not encouraged us to develop the extreme temperature survival skill our forebears had. Also, houses that are built with the expectation that residents will be using indoor CC are not built to facilitate older methods of heating and cooling. My fireplace is a wood burner but doesn’t warm the room because the room is oddly tall with no ceiling fan. There are no opposing doors for a thru-breeze in summer. The windows are not large enough to let in lots of air, or placed to take in warm sunlight in the morning. There is only one east facing window in the whole house. I grew up in a house that we could keep comfortable much of the year without CC. Moving to other houses later was a nasty surprise. Nothing I knew worked. So it is a complicated issue. I agree we use it more for comfort, culturally, than need, absolutely. But our reliance on it at this point is not entirely an issue of being spoiled. Not even touching the need for AC for allergies.

      1. While I did mention A/C, I’m afraid I did so without considering extreme heat situations. You are correct that temperatures in that range pose a deadly threat to anyone exposed for long periods of time, through heat stroke and dehydration. The biggest problem with A/C and indoor heating is that temperature is scalar – is cooling the house to 90 degrees F sufficient to eliminate the safety risk? Is 89 sufficent? is 85? Does it need to be cooled to 72 degrees? Is warming the house to 60 degrees sufficient? Is 68 the minimum necessary? I am not a medical expert on this. I don’t know the relative risks of living at each degree.

        “Also, houses that are built with the expectation that residents will be using indoor CC are not built to facilitate older methods of heating and cooling. My fireplace is a wood burner but doesn’t warm the room because the room is oddly tall with no ceiling fan. There are no opposing doors for a thru-breeze in summer. The windows are not large enough to let in lots of air, or placed to take in warm sunlight in the morning. There is only one east facing window in the whole house. I grew up in a house that we could keep comfortable much of the year without CC.”

        This is also definitely correct. Construction standards have changed as over the last 60 years indoor heating and cooling have moved from ‘extreme luxury’ to ‘near universal’ in new buildings. The ‘best’ techniques for keeping buildings climate controlled have changed with technology. But there are also a lot of buildings that were designed ‘lazily’, or to emphasize form over function (your high ceiling comes to mind), because of the convenience of paying money for electricity for climate control.

        But this is getting off topic. As you say, the decision of how and how much to regulate the temperature in your home is complicated, and in the end, the choices are up to the people living the consequences.

    3. Cool korero, cuz? Actually I do live in a country that, while it isn’t as cold as northern China, does have a lot of illness caused by cold, damp, inadequate housing, which has been made far worse by damage from natural disasters, and I have occasionally snapped at people for going on about how awesome winter is for that reason. I kind of feel like *your* assumption that you need to remind people of this is rather egocentric. It’s not like everyone else on the internet lives in perfectly temperate climates full of modern luxuries, OR the alternate long history of acquired knowledge of how to deal with the local environment. Fairly recent colonialism has been a major disruption in local techniques and wisdom with things like settlers importing assumptions that might be fine where they come from but don’t fit at all in a new place – houses with huge windows facing the wrong way, poor insulation, foreign horticulture that damages natural protection against extremes, the endangering or extinction of animals that were previously a major resource, changes in the economy that drive other goods out of the reach of most people, etc. But thanks, I never thought of wearing good quality wool instead of cotton, I’ll just go out and pick up some merino with my meagre financial assistance.

  23. Bravo, LW! I’m glad you feel better about moving forward, and I hope all goes well for you.

    But mostly, I wanted to say that “Your love for your parents should not be measured in chilblains” made me SHRIEK with laughter.

  24. I’m a somewhat cold blooded person who lives in a fairly temperate climate ( Western Washington) but can’t afford to heat to a comfortable temperature. I’ve always got a throw blanket over my lap when I’m reading or using the computer. I wear a vest or a fleece shirt over my regular clothes most of the winter. I wear merino wool socks from Costco about nine months a year and have calf high fleece slippers at home and at my best friend’s house. When my toes get icy a hot water bottle to my groin is about the only thing that warms them up. I’m fortunate to have friends who don’t mind me visiting frequently and firing up their wood stove.

    LW’s parents should be capable of recognizing others discomfort and taking some steps to help them cope if raising the thermostat isn’t an option. If they have a shoes off house do they offer guests warm slippers? Guest rooms should have heated mattress pads. The next holiday gift exchange should include a nice heavy fleece robe waiting in for you in the guest room closet.

    In the end I suspect that the aunt and uncle are probably going to offer a more comfortable household. Regardless of the temperature passive-aggressive relatives are best tolerated in small doses.

  25. My parents like to keep their house at a balmy 52 degrees during the day, and they completely turn off the “heat” at night , even during Michigan winters! I know that it’s their house, and thus their comfort/money where the heating bill concerned, nevertheless there’s only so many layers of Smartwool socks I can wear.

    The key to happy, comfortable visits has been a series of space heaters. This past Christmas my dad even got some new ones for my sister and I from Costco. They rotate, turn off once the room reaches the temperature you want, and best of all, they turn back on automatically if your room gets below your ideal temp!

    Also an option for you LW, just say that you want to still stay with your aunt from time to time. It doesn’t have to be “aunt vs. Mom,” it can be you spending quality time with different members of your family. Switch back and forth, and when you do stay at your mom’s, please try out the space heater from heaven. (my personal name for it, besides ‘Spacey’)

  26. While I think the captain has some excellent advice when it comes to deciding where to stay, I’d suggest perhaps trying to think about things from your mother’s point of view.

    As a preface, I understand where you’re coming from. I’m hyper-sensitive to the cold, to the point where my hands actually stop working* at temperatures that are, for most other people, pretty uncomfortable but tolerable. [Trust me, trying to turn doorknobs when your fingers won’t bend is *not* a fun experience, particularly when people around you think you’re faking until they actually *see* how hard it is.] So I do understand how nasty being too cold can get.

    However, as uncomfortable you get when it’s too cold, you’re mom probably gets when it’s too hot. What’s too hot for her may very well fall into what’s ‘comfortable’ for you. Now imagine she was asking you to turn the temperature down to her comfort level when she came to visit [or if she’s done that, picture that]. It’d feel pretty miserable to live with that in your own home, right? You’re asking her to do the same thing, and I’m betting it feels just as miserable for her as it would to you. Also, when it comes to temperatures, it’s a lot easier for you to put on more clothing as needed than it is for her to take off clothes more clothes as needed.

    Also, I don’t know if this would apply to your mother [or if this is something she’d even tell you], but some people do need to keep on the cooler side of things to prevent aggravating medical conditions. I have a grandmother on one side of my family that needs to keep her house fairly cold because of just that. In that situation they really *can’t* raise the temperature too much.

    I’m not saying you should spend the night with your mother – just trying to point out that this likely isn’t simply a case ‘I’M DOING THIS ‘CAUSE!’

    *for lack of a better way of putting it, the liquid in my knuckles starts to solidify – at least, that’s how the doctor explained it to me

    1. Also, when it comes to temperatures, it’s a lot easier for you to put on more clothing as needed than it is for her to take off clothes more clothes as needed.

      Not necessarily.

      1. As a general rule it’s far easier for someone to put on a sweater or two for a visit than it is for the host[ess] to strip down past a certain level that would be socially unacceptable [and probably uncomfortable for everyone involved.]

        1. It’s very easy to put on a sweater, but it doesn’t always make everyone warmer. (nor does it help with the extremities. My nose gets crazy cold, but i have yet to find an article of clothing that can help without suffocating me.)

  27. Long ago I lived in Boston, and one winter the heating oil prices doubled from the previous year. Yipes. We kept the apartment at 64F that winter, wearing lots of sweaters, sitting down with a blanket always at hand, and after the blanket, at least 4 cats piled on at all times. Oddly, it made the outside temps seem not so bad, I guess since the differential was less.

    Now, we beat the cold with a heated mattress pad. Works wonders while not heating the house itself. If you do stay at Casa del Frio, LW, consider taking your own electric blanket for sleeping. Taking long hot showers when chilled. Remember that a cold environment requires more calories, you can’t make body heat with no fuel.

    As for menopausal coping, I had night sweats for 2-3 years. I kept a small six-pack size cooler under my bed, filled with ice packs. One of those on the back of my neck would quell the sweats within minutes. I had a Chillow, one of those water-filled pillow things, too. But that always got warm too soon. I highly recommend the ice packs, though. Easy to do, no drugs, and cheap.

    1. Hey, thanks for the ice pack idea. I’m not menopausal yet, but I’m living through an Australian summer and, like most Australians, don’t have aircon. A supply of ice packs to apply to pulse points sounds like a really good coping strategy to add to my repertoire.

  28. This discussion may be exhausted by now, but I’ve been thinking about it more and feel like I should add one more point + question.

    My aunt and uncle’s house isn’t exactly tropical. My uncle runs hot like my mom (though not as bad), and the first time we stayed with them, we were cold. Since it wasn’t as bad as my parents’ house and I’m used to having no say over the thermostat, I just bundled up and was OK, but our second day there my husband asked if it was OK if he turned the thermostat up a degree or two. My aunt and uncle were very apologetic, not realizing we were cold, and every time we come to visit they turn the temp up a few degrees, plus make sure we have plenty of blankets and a space heater in our bedroom. I’m able to wear a sweatshirt and be fine, and my uncle still walks around in a sweatshirt and seems to be fine, so to me this seemed like a reasonable compromise. In the same way, my husband and I realize we like to keep our apartment quite warm (72 degrees F) but we will turn it below 70 if we’re having guests over.

    So that was my understanding of what compromising for guests looks like. But it occurred to me based on the comment discussion here that if my mom’s ideal temperature is somewhere around 50, and the rest of us would like it to be 70, then to her, 60 degrees may already be a compromise (albeit one where she’s still fairly comfortable and the rest of us are cold).

    It occurred to me that when I have this conversation with my mother about not staying with them, she is very likely to say, “But Uncle likes to keep his house cold too!” I don’t really know how to respond in a way that doesn’t turn into an unproductive conversation about Who Is More Accommodating or about What Exact Threshold Is Too Cold. Any suggestions?

    1. Something like, “He likes it cold, but we’re closer to a middle ground,” might work. But if she tries to turn that into either of the battles you mention, I think you just need to say, “I just think this will work better,” broken record-style and with a smile, and change the subject–as often as necessary.

      The important thing is that, as you are an adult, you actually do not need to convince her or explain to her satisfaction. If she wants to take it personally, that’s sad, but it’s not under your control or–really–your problem.

    2. Not sure if the distinction will stave off that objection, but maybe “We want you to be comfortable in your own home, and aunt and uncle’s house is at a more comfortable temperature for us.” The instead of it being a referendum on hotter/colder, it’s an issue of comfort, which is entirely subjective and therefore not as open to debate? It doesn’t matter that their house is cold too, because its a cold at which you are still able to be comfortable.

    3. I think a very matter-of-fact “He doesn’t need* it as cold as you though.” is probably the best way to go to start with – you may well need to resort to the “This is just how it’s going to be”-type conversation blockers if she keeps trying to argue, though.

      *I use need rather than keep because then it’s a matter of what each person’s inherent comfort level is, not a personal preference thing. Stick to the framing of “Uncle isn’t more accommodating, he’s just not quite as uncomfortable as you in the warmth, and I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

    4. I think you may be giving your mother some short change when you’re saying she’s ‘still fairly comfortable’ while commenting about how cold you still are.

      *IF* her ideal temprature is 50 and she’s turning it up to 60, then that’s a 10 degree jump, and that’s actually a fairly big change. Remember, you’ve said you like the temperature roughly around 70, so that 10 degree jump is big enough that it leaves you freezing. It’s possible that 10 degree jump on her end leaves her burning up.

      I agree with the people in that the best way to put it simply saying ‘We want you to be comfortable in your own home, and they’re home is a better fit for us comfort-wise.’

    5. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but why does it have to be you Bringing It Up and making it into something? You’re already usually staying with Aunt and Uncle, why not “But we always stay with Aunt and Uncle!” and surprise if someone assumes you’ll stay with parents instead. Act like it’s not even an option that crossed your mind? You always stay with them, you’re not going to change that as long as they’re still willing.

      As seen in this thread, temperature and comfort is a very personal and very charged topic. It’s something that can be argued about all day long. “We always stay with Aunt and Uncle!” is nice, true, and irrational.

      Aunt: Guess no one will be staying with us now….
      You: Why’s that? We always stay with you! We love staying with you.
      Aunt: But your mother will…
      You: Well that’s silly! We always stay with you guys. So we’d really hoped we’d continue to do so.

      They’re adults, and while you do have a reason (a good reason!) for not wanting to stay, it may be better not to give them something to debate. You want to stay with your Aunt and Uncle. Your Aunt and Uncle want you there, end of story. You don’t really owe them a college thesis justifying your preference any more than, well, if you went to buy your favorite ice cream and someone asked “Why don’t you buy *flavor you dislike* instead?” “Well, I don’t want to!” You’re an adult and you get to decide these things.

      1. I’m not concerned about bringing it up with my aunt and uncle. I’m concerned with when we decide to come visit and my mom says, “So, you’ll be staying in X bedroom, what time will you get here?” and I have to tell her that it’s not a good idea for us to stay with them. I appreciate Moi’s suggestion on how to phrase that discussion. The only reason I mentioned having a discussion with my aunt is if my mom does end up throwing a fit about us not staying with them, she will inevitably talk to my aunt, who will then spend the whole time we’re there saying, “I just feel SO bad about how hurt your mom is…”

        If I said to my mom simply, “But we always stay with Aunt and Uncle!” she’d look at me like I was an idiot and say, “Yes, but WE’RE living here now.”

        1. When you surprise your Mom with the happy news that you are visiting, don’t wait for her to tell you what room you’ll be staying in. Work in that you’ve already made you plans as you tell her you’re coming for a visit

          “Husband and I are coming to stay at Aunt’s place in June! I was hoping to do X and Y activities with you and Husband wants to do Z. Did you have any ideas of what we should all do together?”

          If she protests you get to say that you’ve already made your arrangements and change the subject again to planning stuff,not sleeping arrangements.

          If your aunt tells you about how badly she feels for your mom, you can make a joke of it by mentioning how much worse she’d feel if she had left you sleeping in an icebox

          And if you really and truely can not stand the thought of your mother possibly pitching a fit, I suggest you buy some hot water bottles.They are so cozy at night. Keep one at your feet and a second cuddled to your gut at night and you’ll probably wake up sweating.

  29. My MiL does this. It means we visited her about once a year, as I have Reynaud’s Syndrome and my fingers and toes turning white frightens people. We now compromise with

    1. We will visit, but not stay, unless it is in warmer weather.
    2. If it is cold, she will either put on the heating or put a heater on in my vicinity
    3. We will happily meet on neutral territory like a restaurant or another relative’s house

    She is actually completely fine with all of this because she hates her house being too hot.

    However, she’s not passive-aggressive or manipulative as the LW’s mother is. I am very blunt and she seems to like that I don’t pussy-foot around and just say “No, I’m cold, I need it to be warmer” so my situation is a bit different.

    1. Meeting in neutral territory is a great compromise! My family does this a lot for reasons of convenience, rather than drama, but it also solves drama.

  30. Thanks for checking in, LW. And thanks to everybody who took advantage of the teachable moment to point out that (a) people are not being hot or cold AT you, and (b) there comes a certain extreme of hot or cold that makes it impossible to cool down or warm up, depending on the person. Unless I somehow mummfiy myself indoors, there’s really no way to keep my fingers and nose warm when the temperature dips.

    I wish I’d had this blog to read when I was growing up. “Take your coat off and stay a while?” Ha ha! That’s even funnier the 500th time I’ve heard it than all those other 499 times.

  31. I’ve been cutting this problem off at the pass myself, with a friend who wants me to move in with her. Problem is, her thermostat is under the control of her landlord, who loves upstairs and is therefore much much warmer. Her apartment is usually in the 55 range and she’d rather bundle up than go bother him for more heat. So I’ve been pretty blunt about the fact that I physically couldn’t live there.

  32. O Captain Awkward,
    I already knew you were awesome, but the “Sara Crewe during the freezing garret part of A Little Princess” reference just pushed me over the edge. Dude. If I had a quarter for every time I fantasized about that when I was little while I was doing chores or in trouble, I would be as rich as Captain Crewe before the diamond mines failed. My brother and I used to actually call our mother “Miss Minchin” when we were mad at her. You rock.

  33. My mother also does this (maybe it’s a post-menopausal thing in general?). She’ll try to remember to turn on the heat when I visit, which is rare in the winter because of the heat issue. But then she’ll turn it down when she gets “too hot” instead of taking off the extra sweater and long underwear she’s wearing.

    One thing I do is heat up a mug of water in the microwave and drink it, about every hour, to help keep warm. Hot water is awesome in the winter. Extra layers won’t keep my nose/face from freezing, but the hot water provides relief. She also lets me keep the guest room warm (it has it’s own heater), so I hide out in there a lot and pop out for short visits in the main room.

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