On Being A Woman Who Sweats Buckets


Summer can be awesome: No more heavy coats and bulky boots. The sun shines, the plants are green and the sky is blue. But if you’re like me, it’s hard to enjoy it while you’re mopping your dripping brow with your forearm and ruining yet another blouse with copious amounts of sweat. Then: Hello heat wave.

My mom barely sweats. If she works out really hard, she will exclaim, in an excited and shocked voice, “I’m perspiring!” But water oozes from my pores all the damn time. Doing dishes with hot water: Sweat. Walking up a flight of stairs: Sweat. I sweat in my sleep; when I wake up, the collar of my pajama top is damp. In the winter, my feet get cold, so I put on thick socks and boots, and then my feet sweat and everything gets cold and damp and I get scared I’m gonna get trench foot.

The worst part of it all? I am haunted by the concept that it’s just not ladylike. I know, I know. Who cares? Well I care. I want to look composed, dammit, not like I’ve just completed a triathlon (unless, I have, in fact, completed a triathlon). I’m always trying to figure out what kinds of fabrics I should be wearing. The ones that don’t breathe are the worst, obviously, but sometimes the ones that do breathe — thin cotton T-shirts, let’s say — are also awful, because every single steaming droplet of moisture shows up. I do not want to walk into the office with huge sticky wet spots on my back and under my bra. My sister is similarly afflicted, and refuses to wear tops that are snug around the arm due to the pit-stain factor. Sometimes I will wear a cardigan over a tank top even though that’s hotter just because I know a cardigan can hide unsightly, soaking-wet patches of sweat on my back.

I might have hyperhidrosis. I’m not sure. But when I read about it, it doesn’t seem like a correct diagnosis. I do not have “unexplained sweating.” I sweat at appropriate times — when it’s a bit humid or when i exert myself ever so slightly. It’s just that I sweat a lot. Dry, desert heat is not so bad. But humidity. Christ. It’s like every single pore of my skin shuts down, freaks out, and begins expelling fluids as fast as it can. Rivulets of sweat run from my head, alongside my temples, down my back and in my cleavage. My hair clings to the back of my neck and pools form under my eyes. It is, in a word, gross. I try to calm my mind and think cool, zen thoughts. A penguin meditates on an ice floe. A polar bear eats a Klondike bar in an igloo. I imagine a world that is still and cold and quiet. And then the subway comes and I get on and swab myself with a handkerchief. Pretty.

Dudes who sweat a lot may have similar issues, but the “sweaty man” is a familiar trope. They’re everywhere — Gatorade commercials, middle school dances, particularly grueling boardroom meetings. But women are not supposed to sweat. Women are supposed to glow, or glisten, and possibly fan themselves with an open palm (or a ladylike fan) in a gentle mockery of the heat. Plus, if you have things under control, if you’re competent and professional, you say things like “no sweat.” Yet here I am, a woman who sweats big splashy puddles. Gah. It sucks. And whatever you do, don’t hug me in sympathy. I’m sticky and disgusting.

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