I’ve always been jealous of my dogs and most of my cool friends because they don’t sweat. I do – a lot, and it’s always been a source of humiliation and embarrassment for me because nearly everyone I know seems to look like they constantly have a small, chic fan blowing gently in their direction, keeping them comfortable and fresh at all times. That’s definitely not the case with me, and during these dog days of summer, I simply want to estivate, which is a word I just learned last week. It is a reverse hibernation thing that is common for hedgehogs, snails, crocodiles. The precise dictionary definition explains that to estivate is to, “spend a hot or dry period in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.” However, since estivation is not an option for me most of the time, I simply sweat.
I am told it is normal and that we each produce almost one full liter of sweat per day. According to the people who have studied sweating, it helps to increase blood circulation, give us healthy skin, and keep us cool. And while it was a fad a couple of years ago to believe that sweating profusely helped to leach heavy metals and toxins out of the body, it’s my understanding that our kidneys and livers have to do the lion’s share of the work in that department. The purpose of perspiration is to regulate our body temperature and keep us from having a heat stroke, which is certainly a good thing. This must mean that those of us who perspire more tend to run at a higher temperature. It also means we are more often embarrassed by our bodies at work.
A few years ago, I read Carol Burnett’s memoir, and she mentions that as a performer, she often experienced something called “flop sweat,” which is defined as sudden, heavy perspiration experienced when confronted with anxiety or fear of embarrassment. Since Carol Burnett and her famous friends and I spent nearly every Saturday evening of my teenage years together laughing, playing dress up, creating characters and their lives, and celebrating creativity, this news of her glistening, sweaty humanity was epic for me. I wondered if designer Bob Mackie knew that she sometimes broke a sweat in those fabulous, sparkly dresses he created just for her? And learning that Carol Burnett got nervous and felt anxiety and fear of failure was a comfort to me, who runs the gamut of those emotions nearly every day.
Whenever I have to execute an event, show, or big production of any sort, I experience anxiety and of course, sweat. It happens every time I have to speak in front of a group, and even though I’ve done that hundreds of times, it still tests the efficacy of my deodorant each and every time I have to open my mouth publicly. It doesn’t have to be a big event or production either. Sometimes, I find that I break into that same flop sweat on my way to teach a class to students I’ve met with dozens of times. I experience anxiety so often that if it’s true that sweating helps create healthy, glowing skin, I should be a walking advertisement for damned-near illuminated dermis, right? And if sweating is such a good thing, why does it feel so embarrassing when it happens, and why am I so envious of those cool cucumbers who don’t sweat – ever, even in the Florida summer, which seems to clock in at approximately two degrees below the temperature of the fires of Hell?
Summertime seems to be the time when we all slow down just a little bit. Our schedules are a bit less frantic, our loads a bit lighter, and we give ourselves permission to take a few days off to rejuvenate, relax, or maybe even estivate a little bit. At least most of us slow down. Always a go little, busy “do-bee,” guilty ex-Catholic, and workaholic, in past summers, I’ve given myself a pet project or ambitious assignment to complete. A few years ago it was writing an entire book, some summers it’s been a physical challenge I undertook, and even when we’ve gone on vacations, I’ve spent time chronicling the moments – which sometimes felt like work when it came at the end of a long day of activity or sightseeing.
For this summer’s dog days, I’ve been trying to take a cue from my dogs, for whom estivating seems to be a career they have mastered. I read once that the dog days are the time of year when dogs and people tend to go mad from the heat, and maybe that’s true. For while I’m attempting to relax and enjoy having a To Do list without a lot of To Do items, my mind seems to have slipped effortlessly into creative overdrive, and the plans it is making for my future are beginning to take shape and have a distinct look to them. It’s an exciting and wholly unexpected time, and seeing these creative visions beginning to take shape in reality is amazing.
My dogs may not sweat as much as I, but they also seem to be having more dreams during this hot season. Their feet run in imaginary chases with rabbits or cats or mail delivery people, and their eyelids flutter as they lay at my feet and occasionally whimper or moan. They seem to be having fun in their dreams, and who am I to poo poo a good dream for the dogs or for myself?
And maybe if those dreams come true, and if my skin glows, and if sweat is a way of regulating my body temperature and unclogging my pores and mind, then I think I need to embrace sweating unapologetically as part of who I am and be grateful for the elevated body temperature and whatever it is that kicks my imagination into high gear and provides me the opportunity to be creative and dream. So if you bump into me and I’m glistening with sweat, just know that not only are my sweat glands hard at work, I’m also estivating, getting in touch with my own inner canine or Carol Burnett, and that my imagination is hard at work and with a sparkling sheen of sweat, too.
Wendy Dwyer is a woman of many hats. A full-time Associate Professor at Indian River State College, she serves as a creative consultant for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the area. She also writes regularly for Luminaries, STUART Magazine, and a variety of other publications.
The creative force behind a variety of unique and wildly successful fundraising programs locally, including the Jewelia Project, the “What’s in Your Bag?” Food Drive, and the Silver Bells Holiday Home Tour, Dwyer is an active volunteer in the community as well, serving as a founding board member of the Van Duzer Foundation, and assisting a variety of local charitable organizations including: Mustard Seed, HANDS/VIM, Southeast Florida Honor Flight, Creature Safe Place, the Inner Truth Project, Guardians for New Futures, Fort Pierce Jazz and Blues Society, the Sunrise Theatre Foundation, LifeBuilders of the Treasure Coast, Heathcote Botanical Gardens, United for Animals, and many others.
An award-winning writer, educator, and public relations professional, Dwyer is always willing to assist non-profit organizations and provide dynamic and engaging public relations trainings for Treasure Coast charities. Her book Asshats to Assets: How to Turn Crappy Jobs into Career Gold is available at www.amazon.com. When she is not working or volunteering, she enjoys writing, walking, and spending time with her husband Dan and a large variety of rescued animals at her rural home west of Fort Pierce.