We need to talk about sweating. This may seem like the wrong season, but I promise you, it’s not. Sweating can strike anytime, anywhere.
We need to more understanding of the sweaters in this world. We need to turn down the heaters in February and also let people keep their coats on inside if they want to because of their sweat stains.
A few years ago, I had an important interview for a scholarship at 8:30 AM one Friday morning. The month before had been Christmas, and my parents had bought me an overcoat because I wanted to seem like a posh, mature adult, which meant I have a pea coat that goes to my knee. Actually I wanted an Old Navy pea coat, but my mom called it cheap and said she’d buy me a real one. So I ended up with this heavy, wool, charcoal coat. But boy, did it keep me warm. Too warm.
Since this interview was at 8:30 AM in January, it was 20 degrees outside. As I walk everywhere, I also walked to this interview. Most people would be afraid of getting cold, which I was, until about halfway there, I realize I am sweating. This coat is making me sweat. There is no other explanation. Why else would I be breaking out in bullets in subarctic temperatures with 10 mph winds?
I also had a backpack on. This is probably why I decided not to remove my coat. It would been a lot of effort – uncoiling my scarf, unbuttoning my coat (which also entailed taking off my gloves for a better grip), etc., etc. – so I trudged on, bearing humanity’s warm burden.
I reached my interview and realized how bad I was sweating. My back felt like Niagara. My underarms were tide pools. Shoot, I couldn’t go into this interview looking like this.
In a bathroom I wiped my brow with paper towels. I took off my coat and saw the stains. I could not let the interviewers see this. I decided I would keep my coat on. I would hide my stains.
The interviewer came out to get me.
“Did you just get here?” They indicated my coat.
“No,” cue fake chuckle, “I just haven’t taken off my coat.”
We’re now in the room.
“Do you want to take it off?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Are you sure?”
I have seated myself at the table in front of the four interviewers. I feel marbles of sweat returning to my forehead. I see them all not in coats, so casual, so cool, so temperate.
“Okay,” I concede. I gingerly remove my coat, trying to avoid my own skin touching the drenched parts of my shirt. The way I moved, the interviewers probably thought I was recovering from third degree burns. I also avoided turning around so the interviewers couldn’t see my back – the spread-eagled, dark splotch of my back that resembled a birthing table for a whale (I imagine). I stuffed the coat behind me.
I did the interview, but I remain distracted by my damp undershirt and the anxiety the interviewers would see me for the sweating beast I was. I wanted to cry, “I’m not that nervous. I just sweat a lot. Some people go through puberty; I went through menopause.”
I’ve come to accept I’m a sweater. That’s “sweat-er,” as in I sweat (if you haven’t been paying attention; I’m not an outer garment). I’m not proud to write that. I hate sweat. I find it disgusting. It’s associated with smelling and bad hygiene. Ebola is spread through sweat.
I have none of these conditions. I just walk fast. And my sweat glands get excited too easily. And, and, and I’m sorry. I’M SO EMBARRASSED.
One time I walked four miles in street clothes during the summer. Obviously I knew I would sweat. Ordinary people would sweat. I birthed a beluga. It’s not every day you see sweat stains come through corduroy. (Of course corduroy in the summer is not advisable either.)
The good thing is, I don’t smell. I use deodorant. I shower at least twice daily (four in the summer). I have great hygiene. But I feel like I have to explain why, in winter, I have sweat stains.
Because I took the stairs.
Or I walked here.
And I’m in long pants.
People already judge when I wear shorts in November. Imagine the guillotines they’ll build if I wore shorts in February. Plus, it is cold outside. But when I get inside, the sweat glands decide to squeegee.
This is why I wear tank tops all summer. I hate restaurants, especially restaurants with OUTDOOR SEATING, who don’t allow tank tops. I’m not trying to show off my banging bod. I’m trying to sweat less. I’m trying to spare us all.
I also don’t buy warm things in general. My mom once asked if I want fleece-lined UnderArmour for Christmas. “For the love of Gabriel, no! I do not want heat stroke. Normal Spandex will do, and only then in below-20 weather.”
Sweating is also why I don’t wear that wool coat anymore. I never got that scholarship.