Everyone has a hang up that ranges back to when they were wee little ones playing dodge ball in the school yard. Michael Jackson’s nose issues were well documented. His siblings made fun of his big nose and that affected his adult life, leading to many surgeries. My Aunt told me when she was young and had braces, one of her friends got her braces off and her teeth were nasty and yellow. This scared her so much that she cleaned hers everyday so thoroughly, her dentist was shocked at how clean they were when the braces came off. Today her teeth are some of the whitest and brightest I have ever seen. Her smile glistens in the sun. One of my friends had an acne problem. To this day, it doesn’t matter if she is so drunk she can barely walk, when she goes to bed she is in there washing and scrubbing her face. Mine of course, is sweating. My friend Tomika said to me once, “sweat is your body crying.”
I have already explained how much I have hated exercise, but it is even deeper than that. I hate sweating. It brings shame and fear instantaneously to my soul. It started when I was little and I used to have a huge B.O. problem. My arm pits exude onion smell when I sweat. From the age of five, I was teased relentlessly about it. My nickname was onion. Not only that, but my feet stunk in a totally different way. I ruined many tennis shoes, and we didn’t really have the money to replace them. Not only that but when I sweated, I used to get horrible heat rashes behind my knees, that was painful when I sat down. I had to wear pants in the summer or people would know, and then the pants would stick to the rashes. Basically I was a mess in the summer. Oklahoma is a humid soupy mess. When you get out of the shower you start sweating. I was sweaty, red, stinky, and blotchy twenty-four seven for six months out of the year.
So like my friends I am super vigilant now. Around junior high time I discovered Mitchum. That deodorant is the only reason I have been able to be accepted into society. I picture myself never leaving the house to go into the sun, had I not found this heaven scent shellac for my arm pits. I powder my shoes and when my husband and I go anywhere outside we bring a hand held fan with ice water in the bottom so we can spray ourselves to cool us down. Even our friends know that we do not like the heat, we are only invited when there is air conditioning or some sort of water sport involved. Our home is referred to as a meat cooler, because we keep it so cold.
So now I am thirty six years old, vigilant about not sweating and trying to lose weight…yeah, that’s not going to work is it?
The reason all this is coming up is because Brad and I were swimming with friends: Gookie, Matt, and Fonda. We meet on Sundays, and Fonda asked me why swimming was my favorite exercise. I half giggles nervously and said I hate to sweat. Fonda is inquisitive in a nonjudgmental way, she asked why. I tried to explain the way I have here. Fonda looked at me kind of weird, with a WTF, I can’t believe what I am hearing kind of face. Fonda said, “I have never been around you when you smelled.”
On the one hand I was thinking, uh, yeah, cause I make sure I don’t smell, but on the other I thought hmmm, I guess that is true, I don’t smell that bad anymore. I have figured out a way to control it. All of my friends there were a little skeptical about my confession. Fonda kept saying, “Danielle, sweating is just your body’s way of cooling itself down.”
At this point, I had to admit sheepishly that it is illogical to have these hang ups, but I still did. I know many people who have this problem. Illogically when I sweat these feelings just rise up my spine, and I am reduced to eight years old. It isn’t something I think about. I don’t ruminate on it, it is instantaneous. So there in my impromptu counseling session I asked my friends, how do you stop that from happening? How do you change a “Pavlovian Response?” Gookie, being the brilliant man he is, said, “You need to create situations over and over in which you sweat in a positive way.” In other words I need to over and over sweat in a way that doesn’t cause all these things to happen, and instead is fun. I have already started doing this. At my health party we played badminton and volleyball and I sweated a rainstorm, but I was so distracted with having fun, I didn’t care.
To go even further, this week I have been thinking about the fact that, I have been allowing some bratty eight year olds shame me into never sweating. I sit outside in the heat, not even moving and I feel shame. So I am allowing eight year olds, to hurt my thirty six year old self. How ridiculous is that?
My thirty six year old self has a wonderful set of friends who love me and accept me, even if I stink to high heaven. Yeah, it is so nice. If you don’t have that, search it out and find it. I am so secure in my friendships now. Even my friends in the pool there stated it outright. They don’t care if I stink, it is just my body’s natural reaction to heat and exercise. It is all very logical. I need to let it go.
So in the coming weeks my goal is to overcome years of conditioning. When there is heat, I have already started with Fonda’s words in my head saying, “Sweat is just your body’s way of cooling itself down.”