Welcome to summer.
I could have written that a few weeks ago, but now it’s official. We’ve entered the crotch of hell, temperature-wise. It will be late September before the AC is turned off.
Summer heat brings with it some fashion considerations. Yes, there will be short sleeves, skirts, tank tops, and bathing suits—but you also need to consider the color of the fabric. Because we’re going to sweat. Dear God, are we going to sweat.
In early spring, I don light-colored shorts, but by May’s terminus, I regress to dark shorts to hide the sweat stains.
That’s right. Swamp butt is here.
I’ve known summer means increased perspiration, but this wasn’t a serious consideration until I was scarred two summers ago.
Ironically, I hate sweating, but I do a lot of it. This is probably a symptom of the fact I walk everywhere. And I walk fast. Daily, I hike three miles to my office (aka my graduate student desk)—and then hike home. I feel like I start sweating more once I enter the AC. It’s like I need to stop moving before my glands start overheating.
Earlier this year, I walked to work for a seminar. A friend asked if it was raining outside.
Me: “No, why?”
Friend: “Your back is soaked.”
It was 65 degrees outside.
Anyhow, there I was two summers ago. My friends and I had decided to go to the VMFA’s Friday happy hour. We even decided to stay inside (aka I threatened to leave if we did anything else).
Overheard: “Do you know how the witch died in Oz? Do you want that to happen to me? Do you??”
I wore teal shorts. $14.99 at H&M or something like that. I looked like preppy summer boy. The walk from my apartment to the VMFA was three blocks. I knew I would sweat. I always sweat. I sweated. But not that much. We got wine. We sat. I continued sweating. Why was I sweating? It wasn’t going to show. Oh, ignorant bliss.
After about 30 minutes of chatting in the AC, I remained sweating. I was baffled. I felt myself sticking to the chair. Obviously this included my butt. I had an inkling, a fear. I didn’t want to confirm it. I drank another glass of wine.
At some point, I looked down. I glanced between my legs. There was a stain.
I had a sweat stain right between my legs. My water had broken.
A friend asked if I wanted to get more wine.
Stricken: “No, I can’t get up.”
“I can’t get up.”
I was finally convinced it wasn’t that big of a deal. I asked the table to check out my butt. Someone commenting, “It’s not that noticeable” was enough.
“I’m going home to change,” I announced.
I walked the three blocks home, put on some navy-blue shorts, and returned. From that day, I swore to never put myself in such a vulnerable place.
Fast forward to three weekends ago in Boston. I discovered the European fast fashion store Primark—which makes you imagine the worst human abuses capitalism must be rendering—where I bought $9 shorts. Seriously. How does a store sell pants as low as $4 without violating human rights? Was this ethical to buy? I saw a pair of $18 shorts and thought, Are they out of their damned mind asking for that much??
I don’t know why I thought wearing the shorts the following day when it was 90 degrees would be okay. I think I thought, Oh, this is Boston. This isn’t Virginia humidity. Plus, I’ll walk slow.
I walked slowly. I also sweated slowly.
Again, I knew I was sweating. Duh. Everyone is sweating. But it’s not showing. Sure, my underwear is damp, but surely, it’s not coming through my pants.
I bought a ticket for a guided tour. The tour didn’t start for 30 minutes so I sat on a bench. As if déjà vu, I looked down. I saw I was preparing to deliver another child. A moan of nooooo escaped my lips. As much as I tried to delude myself, I had sweated right through my $9 shorts.
I felt both mortification and disgust. I could not put myself through a 90-minute tour with fellow humans and know they could see my sweaty butt. I’d rather skip the tour!
Thankfully, I knew several department stores were around the block. I passed over Primark. They had failed me already. I tried Gap Factory. I was looking for athletic shorts. That was the only material that would be able to endure 90 minutes outside for the tour plus the walk back to my Airbnb. I found a pair for $19. I couldn’t possibly afford that. I tried Old Navy next. $24? And I didn’t even like the way they looked? Heck no!
TJ Maxx was the final stop. I had 11 minutes. I grabbed three pairs off a rack and tried them on. Before I put them on, I examined the width of the sweat stain on the butt of my current pants. Let me just say, it was impressive.
I decided on a $12 pair of shorts. I figured I had spent no money on public transit, so $12 on shorts in order to walk farther sorta evened out.
I returned to the tour ready to rep the Adidas.
I’ve actually worn my new pair of athletic shorts several times since returning to Richmond. To mitigate sweat stains, I often walk to work in athletic clothes and then change into “regular” clothes in the private restroom of my office building’s lobby. On the hottest days, I pack both regular clothes and another pair of athletic clothes—to walk home in. Ain’t no one who wants to put on sweaty clothes eight hours later that are still sweaty.
So there I was last week, undressing in the private restroom, pulling my regular clothes out of my bag. I put them on the sink counter. Somehow, they slipped into the sink. The sink was automatic. Water flushed over them. I yanked them back, but it was too late. My shirt was soaked.
Well, I couldn’t wear a tank top for the day. I wrung the shirt out and put it on.
Upstairs, a friend saw my wet shirt and asked if it was hot outside. I was right back where I started.