Nobody thinks about it if they don’t have it. But I have it. So I can do nothing but think about it. My wardrobe, my mannerisms, my activities are restricted by it. What bothers me is my hyperhidrosis. Because you don’t have it, I’ll explain what it is. OK, Wikipedia will: Hyperhidrosis is the condition characterized by abnormally increased perspiration, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature.
It only afflicts nearly 3% of the population, so it’s rare to find someone else with it. But I have seen the signs. I have a radar for excessive sweating. I notice people who only wear black shirts or shoes that allow them to wear socks. I notice people with an aversion to shaking hands or giving high fives. As twisted as it sounds, it gives me a tiny bit of happy camaraderie, knowing I’m not alone.
I went to high school at a private K-12 school. As soon as the lunch bell rang, I would walk to the junior high bathroom, because the junior highers were still in class and that was the only bathroom with a hand dryer. I would aim the nozzle up at the pit stains on my shirt and stand there until the stains dried, or until someone walked in – whichever came first. It is humiliating – sweating for no particular reason except for that it’s what your body does.
Over a decade has passed since then and I still find my daily activities restricted by it. I might as well have a uniform with how often I wear gray pants and a black shirt to work. Black is the only color that the pit stains aren’t evident on. I don’t wear shoes that I can’t wear socks with. I wear boots with slacks or tennis shoes with shorts. I would love to wear this adorable pair of gladiator sandals I found, but my feet would slip right out of them.
I had to wear a dress twice in the last month. I like dresses and skirts, but I can’t wear them because they both go with sandals. I was a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding and she wanted to get pictures of us bridesmaids on the beach. The sand stuck to my sweaty feet and turned them a gritty gray. Five minutes before the ceremony, I was scrubbing my feet in a public bathroom. I teetered down the aisle, not only because my heels were high, but because I was afraid my sweat was going to slide me right out of my shoes and onto my face.
My hands also sweat. I used to do counted cross stitch (you know how much I enjoy old lady hobbies), but the canvas would turn brown as I neared the end. During piano lessons, I would wipe the puddled keys with the back of my hand, as if my piano teacher couldn’t tell what I had done to her precious ivory. I cringe looking at or thinking about carpet while my hands are sweating. If I ever go crazy, I will be in a padded room in a straight jacket muttering “fucking carpet” for my eternity.
After shaking hands before an interview, the interviewer excuses herself to wash her hands, then returns. I don’t dance at weddings because I’m uncomfortable without socks. I don’t wear vibrant colors because they would showcase my armpit stains. I hate being in houses where I have to take my shoes off. I wear sweaters when I’m not hot to cover up the stained shirt underneath it. I feel like I am living a slighter version of life: the self-conscious, uncomfortable, crossed arms version.
Even though it’s out of my control, it’s embarrassing to be writing this on my blog, where anyone can read it. Sweating disgusts people. I am a modern day leper, but not contagious. But writing it out here makes me feel a little better. In high school, there was a girl two grades above me who co-wrote the comic strip for our newspaper. She was named “clammy hands” in the comic, and I admired her for being honest about it, despite how embarrassing it was. There is something admirable about owning your faults, rather than hiding behind them. There is a way to live this life without it being a slighter version, I just have to let go of this dream of a stupid pair of sandals.