04 December 2008

The Cold: Opening

I know the weather has been growing colder; that is the way at this time of year. But I cannot ever recall feeling cold, so much of the time, as I have for the past few days.

For the past month or so, I've been spending practically all of my waking hours--and I've stayed a few nights--at the college. All summer, it was cold inside the main building, where I was working. It seems that the air conditioner has only one setting, and once it's turned on (some time in June), it can't be turned off until October. And, it seems, during the three winters that I've been there, it was usually too warm. Maybe it will overheat again. But for now, I wrap myself in a shawl as I work in my office, stand at the front of a classroom or navigate the hallways.

For a long time, I've noticed that women are more likely to complain that it's too cold, while it's usually the men who complain about the heat. I'd always suspected that it had to do with hormones, biochemistry or some other innate physical characterisitic.

Before I began to take hormones, I learned, from various accounts, that in time I could start to feel cold more often than I had previously. I first began to notice that, ironically enough, during my first spring on hormones. The first thaw used to feel like the first heat of summer. But in those April and even May days, I sometimes felt shivers and goosebumps inside the sweaters and jackets I wore. I never knew the hormones would work that quickly!

I guess estrogen is not an insulator. That makes sense, given what I've observed and reported so far. It seems that somehow or another, estrogen removes a layer of skin. I feel the cold; I feel almost everything more than I did as Nick. If that's true, I feel the cold more often for the same reason I can cry or giggle over--well, over no apparent cause. And why I'm also more sensitive to sound and light than I once was.

That also seems to be the reason why women cover themselves more. I rarely see a female coworker without a blazer, some other kind of jacket, a sweater or something else covering her blouse or shirt. It has to do with the cold, but I think it also has to do with being exposed, without a filter between one's self and surroundings.

Now I can actually feel it on my skin when someone's looking at me and I can't see him or her. Somehow I think men (some, anyway) know this and use it to make us crazy. Others terrorize us: They look at the bodies of women as if they're pieces of meat. Even my body.

That, I think is what cold really is: exposure, or at least our vulnerability to it. Along with it, though, comes other kinds of feelings, as I've discovered. That includes the joy that sometimes fills me and flows. It seems that when anyone is drawn to me, that is what they are responding to. People have told me as much. I wouldn't trade them for anything, including not feeling cold again.

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