The afternoon sun doesn’t merely beat in through the rear windows of my home. On hot days, it pummels, it pulsates, it knocks me flat. There were too many of those days this summer.
In the evenings, we’d fling the windows open, trying to catch a cooling breeze. First thing in the mornings, we’d slam the windows shut and circle the rooms, closing drapes and blinds to keep the cool air trapped inside. Even so, by 4:00 there was no cool air left, only surrender.
Cooking? Forget about it. I have a list of no-cook meals for days like these, but I didn’t use it much this summer. Who wants to get off the couch to make gazpacho when they are literally evaporating?
Add to this the indignity of menopause, a stage of life when merely sipping a glass of wine makes my skin burn and my body pour sweat. After any sort of exertion, my face flushes red, then purple, and I need to retreat to the cool interiors of cars and grocery stores to reset my personal thermostat.
For a decade, I was proud of bearing up during the scorching days. There weren’t very many of them, and I extolled the wonders of the Bay Area’s cool nights. We were the chosen ones—we, who made our homes in this Eden, a place at one with our bodies and our temperaments.
Our Mediterranean climate supports not only our lifestyle, but also the grapes and olives that beget great wines and oils. We grow lemons and persimmons and rosemary in our yards, and we pride ourselves on distributing our homegrown tomatoes, squash and plums amongst our neighbors. Would you like a little squeeze of Meyer lemon in your cocktail? Here, let me pick one from my tree.
We are the lucky ones who can play tennis outdoors year round. We hike, bike, and barbecue whenever the mood strikes. We are superior beings, treading lightly on this earth, with our solar panels, our natural gas fireplaces, and our drip irrigation.
But today, I am one of the fallen, for I have done the unthinkable. At considerable cost to my wallet and my pride, I have installed central air conditioning. There are people who will cheer this announcement without also wincing. These include my in-laws, my children, and any overnight guests who visit in September. I hope they also include my wonderful friends and neighbors, who are hereby invited over during the next heat wave. Truly, I am almost giddy with relief that we have bitten the bullet and done this crazy thing.
But if you happen to live on the Peninsula, especially the part north of Highway 92, I know you’re judging me. I’m not a “real” Northern Californian, you’ll say, just a spoiled, entitled interloper with too much money to fling around. I know you’re thinking about the good in the world I could have bought with my air conditioning dollars. Perhaps you even think I’m despoiling the neighborhood.
I apologize. I really do. I understand if you want to glare at me over the picket fence or disparage me to your friends. For once in my life, I’m chill with that.