As New Zealanders, it's essential we prove our toughness daily. Sometimes we do it by hiding tears when brave Kiwis win medals at the Olympics. Sometimes we show our strength by carrying all the groceries in from the car in one go.
I'm from Otago, and Southerners show their mettle by wearing hardly any clothes in winter. If it's zero degrees out and you're off to the dairy in a pair of league shorts and jandals, you earn respect. If you attend the Bluff Oyster Festival in a singlet and cut-off jeans, you're the best.
Swim nude at St Clair Beach in July, and you're a God. In the 90s, I dared to wear a scarf while walking to class in Dunedin. My good mate Bubbles told me to $%#* off back to Auckland. It was 1C at the time, and I'd never been to Auckland in my life.
Later that morning, Bubbles slipped on black ice and cracked his head open. Still, he was right. Why wear more clothes when you can show some skin and harden up instead.
On Tuesday last week, heavy rain pelted central Auckland. An unlucky local found himself stranded in his spa pool five metres from his lounge. The temperature had plummeted to 12.3C, making it far too cold for the man to run inside.
The hot tub bubbled at a comfortable 41C, but the man wasn't safe there. Chilly raindrops caused havoc on the tippy top of his head. A catch-22 situation. He couldn't stay in the spa, and he couldn't be bothered running to the house. Heat pump sanctuary just a 10-second dash away - it might as well have been on the other side of the world.
That soft, pathetic Aucklander was me. A once-proud Southern man. Nowadays, I whine like a baby if it drops below 15C. Like many ex-South Islanders, I am a victim of Northern Acclimatisation. We have moved to a warmer climate but can't enjoy the bonus degrees because we're used to them.
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Temperatures that made us sweat as children make us shiver as adults. It's rough. There is no support group for people like us. Our Southern brothers and sisters disown us for wearing gloves when we visit home. Aucklanders will never fully accept us because we burn easily and dress scruffily.
Last week I decided to do something about cold shaming. Turning to social media for help, I posted a photo stranded in my spa pool with the caption "in a tight spot peeps, too cold to run inside, too wet to stay in the spa, any suggestions?". I was looking for support. I received the bitter southerly of abuse.
"I've got some advice, harden up", "hand in your South Island passport Heath", "You've gone soft Auckland boy", "no cheese rolls for you sell out", "Is it bullying to say you're pathetic?", "I hope you cook like a lobster", "looking hot babes, slide into my DMs we should hook up", and - harshest of all - a sarcastic "thoughts and prayers petal".
Why do Southerners care how you deal with low temperatures? Why do we hate people who wear clothes? Do we feel insulted by extra layers because they suggest our towns have horrible weather? Is all this cold shaming using offence as a defence? By hassling someone's scarf, we are actually saying, "it's not cold here mate, you're just a soft, loser wimp".
Unfortunately, it's an uphill battle trying to make Aucklanders feel bad about their subtropical climate. Given a choice, most people choose somewhere warm to live. Wearing a speedo when it's 3C is impressive but not nearly as fun as it is at 25C.
New Zealanders are a rugged people. We prove our strength on the Olympic stage and every time we go outside south of Levin. As a South Islander living in the North, I'll show how tough I am by moving the spa across the deck so it's closer to my French doors and the heated bathroom floor.