“Aren’t you hot in that jacket?” my student asked me today.
“I’m really quite comfortable, thank you,” I replied. I knew where this discussion was going and my words were clipped, but this guy didn’t get my nuanced tone.
“You should take off your jacket. You have to be hot,” he said.
“I feel fine, thank you,” I said.
Sometimes, when people say thank you, what they really mean is shut the hell up and leave me alone. That’s what I meant those two times I said thank you.
“You have to be so hot. Aren’t you hot?”
“So, what have you done with this problem. Are you finished with it yet?”
He hadn’t started. While he worked, I took a deep breath. I had to remind myself that he was a child. He had no filter, nothing stopping him from saying whatever bubbled into his mind. He had not completed his work on social etiquette. On top of that, he was probably used to being mothered by a lovely woman who was genuinely concerned for his well-being. I knew how it could be with kids. Sometimes they had no idea they were freezing or overheated until it was too late to avoid trouble. I, on the other hand, was fully aware of my level of comfort regarding my body temperature.
If it were just this one boy, I wouldn’t be sitting here ruminating on commentary about the heat. It happened almost a year ago.
Last August, I arrived late at my book club. The whole tenor of the club has changed since I now have to work late and always miss the first half hour. That night, it was eighty-two degrees out, perfectly comfortable for me in my jacket, especially since my boss had cranked down the air conditioner to refrigerator levels and I hadn’t warmed up yet. I sat down with my bag and opened up my book.
“Aren’t you hot in that jacket,” Jane said. It wasn’t a question. Jane had recently retired from middle management but hadn’t lost the commanding tone.
“I’m comfortable,” I replied.
“You’re making me hot,” she said.
“My boss had the air conditioner cranked, so I—”
“It’s eighty-five degrees in here. Take that jacket off.”
“But I’m really very comfortable, thank you.” I enunciated each word.
“I can’t stand looking at you. Take it off.”
Instead of telling her not to look at me then or just getting up and walking out the door, I took off my jacket and sat there fuming and chilled. After a year, I still remember how she treated me even though I have no idea what book we were reading. After a year, I still get mad whenever anyone suggests that I might be hot in my clothes. If she were a fish, would she require me to breathe under water?
This morning, though he was supposed to be working, my student looked up from his untouched math problem and said, “But aren’t you hot?”
Thank you for listening, jules