Not Cool – The Saga of My (sort of) AC Free Childhood

Do you ever have times in your life when you feel like you’ve forsaken the profound teachings and dictates of your parents? It can be a very unsettling feeling. It’s almost like you’re cheating on your childhood. I recently had this experience when in early April I went against one my father’s most revered rituals and turned on my air conditioner.

You see I was brought up to believe that the air conditioner was not to be turned on until Memorial Day and this was in Texas. My dad stood firm in his belief that no matter the outside temperature or the inside swelter factor due to that temperature it was considered unseemly and downright wasteful if you clicked on your AC before the end of May.

I remember growing up and complaining about the heat and my dad’s quick quip would be to “turn on a ceiling fan.” This lead me to speculate that perhaps my dad erroneously thought the ceiling fans in our home had magically cooling properties because for me all they did was whip up the hot air.

As a got older my loathing of AC deprivation intensified. It’s one thing to sweat like a bear wearing a snowsuit on the surface of the sun when you’re little. It’s a whole other perspiration adventure when you’re a teenage girl attempting to groom. It got so hot in our house I would use my mom’s car as my personal make-up and hair salon. To dry my hair I would drive on the interstate with the windows down and I would park the car with the AC blasting to put on my make up.

Now, I don’t want anyone to think that my father was overly strict because he wasn’t the only parent who believed air conditioning was a luxury. In fact, most adults his age grew up in homes without AC and I attended a high school where only the library had air conditioning. Nothing says optimum learning environment like sweating so much in biology class you literally slid off your lab stool.

All this moisture resulted in some deep thoughts like how did the early settlers survive the heat especially the women with all their skirts, petticoats, corsets and assorted underpinnings? Plus they couldn’t just sit around and fan themselves they had to churn butter, cook over an open fire, and do a plethora of chores from sun up to sun down. Add in the fact that deodorant hadn’t even been invented yet and you have a very ripe situation.

It’s ruminations like these that make me joyous I live in an antiperspirant rich time. Perhaps that is what my father was going for – gratitude. What if instead of being what my siblings and I thought was a dad being ultra thrifty or intent on not making us soft he was teaching us about appreciating what we have?

Because based on my childhood my gratitude for AC is boundless, almost worshipful. It’s something I don’t take for granted and I think as parents there are always some things we use on teach our kids a long-term life lesson.

I know with my kids they had to drive/share an almost 20 year clunker and I’m talking clunker with a capital C. Today my son appreciates cars like I love air conditioning. I told him recently that I can only hope in my advancing years that he will take as good of care of me as he does his car. (He had no comment.)

So, I guess I will tamp down any residual feelings of guilt I have for blasting my AC in April and realize that every parent has somethings that they turn into a teachable moment and for my dad air conditioning was one of them.

4 thoughts on “Not Cool – The Saga of My (sort of) AC Free Childhood

  1. Rachel M. says:

    we had a window unit in the living room. Dad would turn it on after he came in from doing chores (country kids). Usually the living room would be an icy 55, but the lack of circulation would leave the upstairs bedrooms still hot and muggy. My parents didn’t get central air conditioning until just a few years ago.
    Also, here in the north we still have the heat on .

  2. Donna Webster says:

    My dad was even worse. He grew up in New England so he didn’t really “believe” in air conditioning. So when we moved to Houston – the most humid location on earth – he refused to turn on the ac until July 4th. When my parents got divorced my mom celebrated my keeping the ac on 67 pretty much all year long.

  3. eastcoastgal says:

    I don’t remember us having ac until I was in high school (think late 70’s) and then it wasn’t the best. To save money my father tried to fix it himself. The unit was in such bad shape, even duct tape wouldn’t fix it. And he refused to replace it. It wasn’t until I was living in a college dorm I knew what full on ac was. I try to wait until May before putting in our window units, but this year we couldn’t wait. We’ve had nights that were sauna hot in our bedroom. That’s not good when one of us (me) is having night sweats so bad we need to wring out the mattress every morning. I really hate menopause.

  4. Pam Considine says:

    I grew up in the 1950s-60s in Upstate NY. Summers were relatively short, but could be very hot & humid. No one had a/c in their homes, just fans. My parents let my brother & I sleep on the floor underneath the fan when it was really hot, and we thought that was a big treat. Our schools didn’t have a/c, nor did many stores or businesses. Movie theaters were the first to get air conditioning, and they advertised that heavily. My parents eventually got a couple of (mostly inefficient) window air conditioners. They didn’t get central air installed until about 1995.

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