A Cold Conspiracy

17 Jan

I have many theories about the ways in which women (all over the world) are manipulated into submission. I have a particular theory about how women in this town are trapped in their houses as soon as they have their first child. It’s due to this belief that cold (or, in my perception, slightly chilly) weather makes babies sick. Not germs. It surely has nothing to do with all those germy hands people like to put on my child’s hand which she then puts directly in her mouth. Nor could it be related to the fact that people’s sick kids come up and kiss and hug Lucia or play with her toys, without the parents doing or saying anything. No, no. Couldn’t be that. It’s the weather, and I’ve failed to protect her from it by leaving the house (and sometimes just my bedroom) after dusk.
I also dress my daughter all wrong for the weather (in addition to often dressing her all wrong for her gender). People here put babies in about 15 layers of clothing, and then still put a blanket over them (including over their head) when they leave the house. Even in like 85 degree weather (real temperature; not an exaggeration), you can bet that babies in Juquila are wearing a warm hat, among other things. Mothers here see Lucia and freak out that she will probably drop dead from the cold any second now. I see babies here and freak out that they will die of overheating any second. It’s a mutual disapproval, although it’s an entire town against little ole me.
This weather-illness situation is also the only thing about my mother in law that I’m violently opposed to. Luckily, we get along great on most fronts, and I respect and like her loads. But I can’t stand the way she does this grandmother-knows-best thing about these beliefs. For example, if I bathe Lucia at night, she’ll say something like “Do you need anything from the kitchen before you give her a bath? You know you can’t bring her up to the cold air in the kitchen after you give her a bath.” (Our kitchen is a room made of wooden boards, so it is airier and chillier than the rest of the house downstairs, but it is by no means the ice house it’s made out to be.) And I want to (but don’t) tell her, “No, I don’t know that, and I don’t believe that. And I refuse to be trapped in my own bedroom, unable to even go to the kitchen in my own home, because of what I believe is an irrational fear about my daughter’s health.”
So sometimes I hide out and brood in our bedroom, dreaming of the day when I don’t feel like a prisoner in the place where I live. Slowly, stealthily, but surely I break the rules, too. Sometimes I appear in the kitchen anyway, and when someone says something to me, I say something like, “Oh, I think she’s okay.” Or I head out the door with Lucia already in the wrap, saying bye instead of explaining in detail that I’m going out.
Granted, I don’t actually believe that my mother in law is out to limit my liberty. In fact, she is most certainly on team feminist. But these weather-related beliefs are too ingrained. Conan reminds me that these rules and beliefs were invented for a reason- that people surely observed babies getting sick after being in the cold. While I’m a big fan of empirical evidence, I remind him that correlation doesn’t equal causation. There are more babies born in areas where storks live, too, but that doesn’t mean that storks really bring babies (it’s because storks live in rural areas, where birthrates are higher- thank you, Dr. Newman and Intro to Sociology).
These assertions about illness and weather also make me crazy because I have so many logical, reasonable responses to disprove them, but I don’t like to tell people (especially my awesome mother in law) that I think their (deeply ingrained cultural) beliefs are wrong. But really, obviously people here have not been to Ireland, for example, where there is nearly constant cold and rain and wind. Irish babies would no longer exist if these assertions about cold and sickness were true. And I can think of much colder places where I would also bet that they don’t try to keep moms and babies inside through their entire infancy. Plus let’s talk about all the really hot places, where it’s never really cold and nasty, and yet people still get sick there. Explain that, people of Juquila! Ah. There. Now I feel a little better.
Of course, the other reason I don’t bother with all these opinions and theories of mine is that someone would surely tell me that babies get sick from the evil eye, which is a whole other belief system I’m not prepared to argue against. “Le hicieron ojo”- they put the evil eye on him or her- is something I’ve heard from folks of all ages and education levels around here. And I’ve even seen with my own eyes someone suddenly (after walking by someone who dislikes him a lot) get blurred vision and other weird symptoms, which were then just as suddenly cured by some cool ritualistic-looking rubbing with an egg, and prayer, and I don’t know what else. So I reserve judgment about the evil eye, although I’m still putting my money on Lucia having gotten a cold from being passed around at a party and someone there sharing their germs. Alas, nobody asks me; they only tell me their theories (which they do not call theories, but rather fact).
Don’t get me wrong; I believe in the power of energy, I believe in the effectiveness of traditional healing and folk medicine, and I believe in the wisdom of people beyond and before “modern” medicine. But I do not buy into all those things blindly and purely, by any stretch. When I get sick, I am much more likely to take certain herbs and eat certain foods than I am to take “modern medicine”. But you’ll never convince me that staying in my room is more effective than thorough hand washing in preventing illness. Likewise, until I see fathers staying inside with the baby to “prevent illness” while mothers are free to go out whenever they want, I’ll continue to believe that these ideas about the cold are part of a larger conspiracy against women that is designed to keep us in the home, and to put the blame on us when something is wrong with our children. I refuse to take the blame, and I refuse to buy in. Even though nobody asked me.

5 Responses to “A Cold Conspiracy”

  1. Anne O'Donnell Morris January 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Love your observations. There is a reason for their beliefs but I think both sexes are involved. Maybe it’s the only break these women get. (I know, a ridiculous statement…. just for the sake of argument)

    • exiletomexico January 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      hmmm. I’ll have to think about that. What about in Jamaica?? Beliefs on temperature/weather and illness?

      • Anne O'Donnell Morris January 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

        I guess I just “went along” if it wasn’t too outrageous to my sensibilities. (I guess that’s another way of saying I didn’t pay too much attention. I was already the stranger. Anything I chose to do was weird. They would talk about me no matter what I did. I guess I used my otherness to my advantage and pretty much did what i wanted to do).

  2. Karen January 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Julia, I was brought up with the same believes about cold weather and bathing then going out in the cold because your pores are still open. My mother still believes all of this but I know that it is germs that gets any one sick, then again I do tell your dad not to go out for awhile in the cold if he has just taken a shower. Just tell everyone since she is up against you then she is getting your body warmth that will protect her from the cold 🙂

    • exiletomexico January 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      Yeah, I remember being told not to go out in the cold with wet hair. I did it a ton, though, and don’t think I ever got sick from that, but my hair froze a little once! So I don’t really recommend it, especially as cold as it gets there! Luckily Lucia still doesn’t have much hair, nor does it freeze here, haha!

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