In my nonblogging writing life, I’m writing an essay about being cold. Partly because I’m cold a lot. I won’t go into the details, but it’s through a combination of sheer will and clever dressing that I’ve spent a great deal of my life playing out in the snow.
The idea to write about what I am constantly teased about by warmer human beings occurred to me during a discussion in a graduate writing course last spring, when I explained, for reasons I no longer remember, what I have determined to be the three factors that contribute to “being cold.”
After my explanation, one of my classmates told me she’d love to read an essay on it, and I realized that I could probably pull one out of my frozen ass, but first I had to find out more about my frozen ass. I realized I had no idea if my theory had any basis in science, as my knowledge of physiology and brain chemistry have all been gleaned from The Human Body book that I read when I was twelve, Discover magazine, and The New Yorker, and so I went online to investigate.
It turns out there is an entire branch of science–along with its own worldwide symposium–dedicated to the field of thermal physiology and pharmacology. But before I say more, I’ll share (because I know you are dying to know), Betsy’s Trinity of Cold Determinants:
#1 Local pysiological phenomena resulting directly from a low environmental temperature. (Translation: The temperature of parts of me or all of me actually drop.)
#2 The sensory part of my brain seems to be very sensitive to #1. (Translation: If my hands are experiencing low blood circulation in a cold room, I feel it acutely.)
#3 The tolerance part of my brain seems to be intolerant of #2. (Translation: I hate being cold.)
I began perusing the literature (with an online dictionary at hand), and it seems that I’m basically right that feeling cold results from a combination of things happening in your body and brain. The details are quite fascinating. So I’m plodding through articles and will soon feel like I know enough to not be a complete idiot when I pick up the phone (or probably open my email) and contact a few of these thermal scientists to see if any of them will enlighten a writer who wants to explain to the world, in terms that do not involve using an online dictionary, just why the hell I’m cold, and why not to listen to the people who tell me, “It’s just because you’re skinny,” or are thinking, “But why? You’re so darned fat.” or exclaiming, “But you lived in Alaska for twenty years!” or saying with jocularity, “You’ll warm up in menopause!”
So wish me luck and lift a mug of hot chocolate to the two women in the study called “Subjective Perception of Cold Adaptation, Exertion, and Stress During a Two Woman Longitudinal Traverse of Antarctica.” Really really really glad it wasn’t me.