Friday, August 23, 2013

how to handle sweat

It's impossible for me to hide the fact that I sweat. While a typical Korean (and possibly a typical American) might associate sweat with fatness, I'd argue that sweatiness has more to do with a genetic propensity: some people are born with water-barfing pores. I was sweaty back when I was a 180-pound high schooler. At this past orientation, I saw skinny dudes who were sweating as much as I was. No: sweatiness is not a necessary function of fatness.

Unfortunately, I sweat from everywhere. This means that even my ass is sweaty; that fatal valley becomes a steaming jungle after too much exposure to heat, humidity, and effort. And my sweaty ass will not be stopped—not by underwear, and not by underwear-plus-pants. When my ass sweats, the world knows. The world always knows.

In this infernal weather, I sweat all the goddamn time. It pours out of me from everywhere; I could water an African village with my sweat. It fountains out of my scalp, runs into my eyes, and drips nastily from my hair. It pours out from the skin covering my trapezius and shoulder blades, running in rivulets down the center of my back and right into my ass crack. It erupts from behind my knees and trickles down my calves. It oozes from my neck and armpits, and from under my man-boobs. It comes forth in such great quantities that any clothes I am wearing become, ineluctably, soaked and sticky. And once the clothes stick to my skin, my skin interprets that as a blockage and sweats some more.

Sitting down on any chair, when I'm sweaty, is never a good idea. I leave enormous ass-prints from my enormous ass. My forearms become so sweaty that the sweat runs down along radius and ulna and onto my fingertips, making the use of a smartphone dicey at best. Haptic interfaces, which work through the interrupting of the flow of electricity, weren't meant to handle biblical amounts of moisture.

Is it any wonder that my idea of a perfect day is one that is cool, windy, and mostly sunny but partly cloudy? Is it any wonder that I despise the summer climate of the Daegu area but love the summer climate of landlocked, humidity-free Switzerland? What I wouldn't do to stop sweating this much. What I wouldn't give to undergo surgery that would, at the very least, seal all the pores in my ass.

Next week, I start teaching. My walk to campus is a merciless trudge of fifteen minutes along a gentle uphill path and through a warm, gelatinous wall of humidity.* Every time I've made the walk thus far, I've ended up looking as if I've been avidly licked by a dinosaur. There's simply no fighting that fact. The question, then, is what I can do to appear (and to smell) dry to my students by the time class begins.

It all comes down to two things: timing and my go-bag. Timing, in my case, means arriving an hour early to campus to give myself some cool-down time—say, thirty minutes. The next step, after that cool-down period, is to reach into my go-bag, pull out my supplies, and change from my sweaty clothes to my teaching clothes. I may have to spend a few minutes just standing there, naked, while the last of the sweat evaporates from my huge form, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. (I'll likely use a gym towel to speed the drying. In fact, I'll probably use a different gym towel every day, given how stinky the towels will become.)

Many of my friends seem to have some version of the Jack Bauer go-bag, uncharitably referred to as a "man-purse." Reminiscent of Indiana Jones's saddle bag, the Jack Bauer go-bag hangs just a tad below hip level and is an omnibus trove of survival tools. My own go-bag, a full-sized carry-on piece with enough zippers and pockets to scare a dominatrix, promises to be much larger than any of my friends' man-purses, and much more versatile, too. Its contents will reflect the level of my prep: I'll have clothes, a necktie, a tie pin, towels, shoes, an ass pillow, a jacket, an umbrella, aspirin, allergy meds, bandages, a contact-lens case, contact-lens solution, and whatever teaching resources I deem fit, including my laptop. A go-bag in full, then.

So that's my plan for handling sweatiness: walk to campus with my go-bag, arrive an hour early, cool down for thirty minutes, towel off and air myself out, change into my teaching clothes (travel-wrinkled, but shigata-ga nai), and face the day. One other weapon in the fight against sweat: a fan. I bought a second fan today for only W35,000; that fan will go into my office and fire a constant beam of air straight into my cubicle.

As Huey Lewis sang, Cool is the rule.

*I once quoted from Tom Robbins's incredible novel Jitterbug Perfume. One chapter begins with a pungent description of the sultry September in Louisiana. Robbins could just as well have been describing the Daegu region. He writes:

Louisiana in September is like an obscene phone call from nature. The air -- moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh -- felt as if it were being exhaled into one's face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time.


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