Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Sweat It

 Photo from

We're having a heat wave in the Boston area (it's affecting the entire eastern seaboard), and I am living the life of the anxious person in an anti-perspirant ad.

When I take the "T" I am afraid to lift my arms to hold the strap lest I reveal the spreading patches of wetness under my arms. I don't hug or kiss friends and family because I don't want them to have to towel themselves off after.  I am spending as much time as possible in the only room in my apartment that has air conditioning, the blinds drawn, and even post-cold shower and with the air blasting, I'm STILL sweating.

What makes my sweating differ from the run-of-the-mill sweating that anyone in 90+ degree heat would experience is the sheer volume of it. I begin sweating almost immediately after walking into a hot room, and in addition to the unsightly wet patches and the sheen of moisture I leave in my wake, my face turns as red as someone holding their breath until they pass out. A little color in the face is becoming, but I'm talking full-out, flushed face, like an incensed Elmer Fudd.

This has caused me more than a little embarrassment. It has also made me wary of engaging in activities that would otherwise be unequivocally positive: exercising, getting outdoors, leaving the bedroom more than twice a day to walk the dog (I've actually thought of going back to puppy pads, but that might confuse her and it took a year just to get her to stop peeing in the kitchen.) One particularly hot weekend in June I spent both days in my bedroom, entertaining myself with streaming Netflix on my iPad and ordering takeout which I also proceeded to eat while sitting on my bed.  Sadly, it was not as fun as it sounds.

I work from home now so I don't get the benefit of corporate central air. But I do get to type articles in my summer nightie--so there are tradeoffs. Still, I find myself having difficulty carrying on intelligent conversations with real, live humans because I spend so much time alone, holed up in my bedroom, which is currently littered with empty tubs of Whole Foods olives, dirty napkins, and scattered sesame seeds from my morning bagel. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, sure, but one needs some interaction with people, otherwise who are you going to talk to about that brilliant, DOMA-inspired New Yorker cover or even nonsensical stuff like what kind of mouth bling Amanda Bynes wants to get before she launches her "rap career?" This reminds me of one of my favorite online comic strips by an artist who is wiser than he may appear if you just judge him by his more crass cartoons.

This morning I went for a fitness walk that ended at the new Whole Foods location on Beacon Street near St. Mary's. I wore my Indiana Jones-like Tilley, shorts that were probably a little TOO short for a 40 year-old who has been spending an inordinate amount of time lying around trying not to sweat, and an old AMC t-shirt that misleads people who see me wearing it into thinking that I'm a crunchy, outdoorsy type (silly people!) 

It was good to get out because it meant I was leaving my comfort zone, even for an hour, all for the good cause of not turning into a Goth teenager. I was out and about among other people who had places to go and people to see. I stretched my dormant leg muscles. And I dared to sweat profusely in front of the Whole Foods barista, who thankfully refrained from burying her face in her arm at the sight of me as I ordered an iced latte.

Since probably the sixth grade, worrying about what other people think of me has kept me from doing a fair number of things--big and small--that I'd like to do.  My hope is that every time I come up against embarrassment I get a little more skilled at shrugging it off, like it's an extra layer of clothing on a very hot day.