I want to shake your hand, to high-five you, to sit by someone in class without diving from my perfume bottle every half an hour and polluting your nostrils. I want to be able to wear flip-flops in summer. But I can’t.
It’s called hyperhidrosis, a.k.a the ‘silent handicap’, a disease that plagues about 3% of the population. The symptoms? You sweat. A LOT. Literally about 150-200% more than the average individual. The good news is that winter is pretty chill (pun intended). The bad news? Summer is hell. Walking in flip-flops? Nope. Your feet slip into and out of them. Shaking hands? Extremely embarrassing, especially with strangers. Don’t even get me started on job interviews. My sweat glands perform an excellent rendition of Niagara Falls at those points.
And with sweating comes body odour, and that’s a whole ‘nother slice of agony.
I first became aware that I had a problem at the age of six, when my piano teacher asked me to bring a cloth with me to wipe the disgusting stains I’d left on the piano. It didn’t get better from there on.
It’s awful. It’s extremely painful, incurable and grossly underrated.
And it’s an issue in the social world, where everyone is judged on appearance, and smell. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen those perfume/deodorant commercials where the guy gets the girl (or vice versa) by switching to a certain expensive brand. This and more have conditioned people to believe quite strongly that everyone should smell amazing (as the products are readily available), and those that don’t have poor hygiene.
It bothers me to high heaven when I see anything shaming people who sweat excessively, but the stigma around us is that we simply don’t shower enough.
Wrong. If I could get a dollar for the number of showers I need, PER DAY, I’d be a rich lass.
I want to show you that it’s not the case. Because for people like me a “12 hour” deodorant fails in 2 hours. Hand cream usually makes things worse (my fingers swell to amazing proportions). And there’s little to nothing we can do.
Yet society’s little foibles are well ingrained and judging almost always occurs, whether blatant or latent. It does happen, it has happened to me, and I’m sure there are plenty of other people going through the same painful scrutiny. For example:
“Ugh, the guy next to me on the bus smelled like shit.”
“Eww, why is her hand so wet.”
“Those are HUGE sweat stains on her shirt.”
Perhaps the guy did smell like shit, perhaps he hadn’t taken a shower in a month. Or perhaps he’d taken one just that morning and simply couldn’t do anything about how his body chose to function. It’s things like this that keep me on my toes all the time. Because I’m part of a minority, and the majority is rarely willing to understand. I’m not asking for everyone to shake our profusely sweating hands while fighting disgust. That’s too big a leap for the average person to make. All I’m asking is for an open mind. Shaming only increases our self-consciousness. And nervousness only induces more sweating. The cycle isn’t breakable, but you can make it bearable.
And if I don’t shake your hand, it’s not you. It’s me