Having just come out from a long winter, I almost forgot about this unbecoming aspect of my corporeal being, along with the degree to which I detest it. But I was brutally reminded a few days ago when rushing to the book launch of a friend.
I left work at a moment that unintentionally coincided with a brief, but torrential rain. Cussing my timing and freshly-drenched hair, I ducked into a Starbucks to dry off and freshen up.
I came out of the Starbucks into an utterly different climactic zone from the one I was in upon entering. The clouds had dispersed, the sun was shining and it’s veritably hot outside. Odd, I think. It didn’t take me that long to freshen up.
I have three blocks to walk to the bookstore where the launch is being held. I want to get there on time because I have to bow out early, so pick up my pace. I arrive only a few minutes after the event begins.
I see my friend, and another woman I’m friendly with, who also has a short piece in the book, a collection of essays titled I Feel Great about My Hands: And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging.
Before the formalities begin, I go up to my friend to congratulate her and have a short chat. It’s lovely to see her and we’re chatting away when I realize my forehead is completely covered in sweat, as is my upper lip and the back of my neck. My sweater is sticking to me.
As I mentioned, I don’t glow. I sweat. Therefore, the beads of perspiration from my forehead and upper lip are succumbing to the forces of gravity. They are traveling downward. I now have sweat in my eyes and my lips are wet, not moist, wet.
I’m aware that my friend’s too polite to say what she must be thinking. It has to be, “Wow. Linda, you’re really sweating. Your face is soaking wet (poor thing).”
Instead, we carry on an enjoyable conversation and pretend nothing’s happening. For awhile.
I’m boiling, embarrassed and utterly uncomfortable. I can’t stand it anymore. I say excuse me, then reach into my purse in search of a handkerchief. I never leave home without one, for reasons such as this.
I take my red print Marc Jacob 1950’s cowboy handkerchief out (memo to self: buy white ones next time), and wipe –not pat – my forehead like a truck driver who just finished a long haul to New Orleans. I do the same to my upper lip, cheeks, then chin.
I’m now thinking my friend must be saying to herself, “Wow, you really needed that handkerchief, Linda. I’ve never seen anyone sweat like you.” But she doesn’t of course. And maybe, just maybe, she isn’t even aware of my “condition.”
It’s time for the editor of the book, Shari Graydon, to introduce the authors who will be reading short excerpts from pieces they have in the book.
I take a seat, continue to wipe my brow, and quickly down a cool glass of Chardonnay, still mildly embarrassed about my encounter of the sweaty kind.
Shari shares with us the genesis of the book she created, a humourous and positive response, by women of a certain age, to Nora Ephron’s lament about aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck.
Shari then talks about one of the book’s contributors who couldn’t be with us that evening. It’s one of my favourite Canadian humourists, Newfoundland’s proud daughter, Mary Walsh.
Mary’s been play-acting older woman for years in her comedy routines, or as she puts it, “I played an endless series of big, loud, opinionated old bags…” and now freely admits, “I’ve become one.”
Well, I’m glad she has, because in the book, Mary hits a home run on a subject near and dear to my heart. Mary tackled the subject of...body temperature.
Describing the physical state she now finds herself in, Mary says, “My volume- control button had drifted up on “deafen” there a few years ago, and my internal thermostat got permanently stuck on cremate.”
Oh my God, Mary. Bingo. Cremate! My internal thermostat’s stuck on it, for God’s sake. Why hadn’t anyone told me that sooner? That’s why I want to dive into a cool cave every summer and not come out until it’s time for the bears to crawl in.
While I live in a state of continual and embarrassing discomfort because of my thermostatic malfunction, Mary, of course, puts a positive spin to it. “I’m hot and loud now. More like a Caribbean carnival than an actual human being.”
Why can’t I be more like Mary? It’s good to be like a Caribbean carnival, no?
I will work hard to achieve the apparent resolve Mary has achieved. I have to. According to my doctors, there is no help for me, other than – get this – Botox injections. Seems that the cosmetic treatment for wrinkles, otherwise known as a forehead freezer, also stops excessive sweating. I’m not going there.
Clearly, I’ll have to live with my sweat problem. I know, I know, it could be worse. But you non-sweat-ers have to try to empathize. Picture yourself in a room where everyone else looks cucumber cool, and you, yes, only you, are actually wet. You can't even ask anyone, "Is it hot in here, or is it me?" because you already know the answer.
My condition makes me dread summer, and that’s not a good thing. As many of you who have read my previous blogs know, I already don't like winter. There's not much left.
So I’m going to really work at this Mary Walsh thing. The next time I’m in a conversation, and beads of sweet are dripping downward on my face, you’ll hear me saying something along these lines:
“You probably think I’m just a hot, unattractive, post-menopausal woman with sweat sliding down her face. Well you’re wrong. I’m a …hot and steamy Caribbean carnival.” Great, eh?
And while I’m working on my personality revamp, I recommend you read I Feel Great About My Hands, a charming, delightful book by forty-one women over fifty, reveling in the benefits of maturity. And that includes sweat. Sorta.
I Feel Great about My Hands, Douglas&McIntyre, $22.95
Great Mother’s Day gift!