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©July 2003

Carol Jane Remsburg




Perspiration VS Sweating






My grandmother used to delicately put it that she was perspiring rather than use the vulgar term sweating.  A rose by any other name doesn't do justice to the term.  The funny part is how folks apply the terminology for some people do perspire, others of us just plain sweat.


As a cool wet and dreary spring inched into summer the masses felt that it would never arrive at all.  Then the sizzling heat came on with a vengeance leaving us unprepared.  So far we have no drought because the rains have been heavy and often yet our first real break into sustained sunshine and heat as been over this last five days encompassing the 4th of July which is nearly always hot, humid, and energy sapping. 


Over the last three days I feel as though I'm a sponge.  Every bit of liquid I've taken in I've sweated out.  I must have purged every drop of water from my system and I cannot get enough water.


Between the yard work, the laundry duty at the clothesline, and small gardening tasks, I've sweated—most definitely NOT perspired.  Multiple showers do help as does the inviting coolness of air conditioning inside the house but it doesn't stop the sweat machine once it takes control; both yesterday and today before I could even race to the shower I plunged my head in the kitchen sink and doused my head with cold water.  Only after those immediate measures can I then hit the showers—after another water break of glass after glass of ice water.  (Bless the man/woman who invented ice cubes).


As I mentioned before, my grandmother used the term perspire which brings to mind the light dappling of moisture either on the upper lip or brow while sedately sitting on an old-fashioned screened porch with rockers nodding slowly with fans made of palms softly swishing amid the low whisper of gossip.  Outside in the brilliant light and heat there is the hum of the bees and the drone of mowers along with the occasional strident song of the cicadas.  Those days bring such wonderful memories to me. 


Somewhere in my genes, including dear old grandma's, is a real switch that turns ON the minute any physical effort is made in temperatures over 80o degrees Fahrenheit.  That switch turns on and my pours open up at the top of my head and water simply runs.  Many folks 'perspire' beneath their arms and that's how a huge commercial force for anti-perspirants and deodorants make money.  It's as though someone DID turn on a faucet and drench me with it for EVERY pore opens up and gets busy.


Thus when temperatures hit 90o degrees Fahrenheit and above I turn into a sieve.  There is NO stopping it.  That sweat switch abides by no decorum devised by either ancient or modern society.  I literally begin to melt and if there wasn't water readily available I'm very sure I'd leech all the moisture out of my body and become brittle and then crumble into dust within hours. 


I see other people who 'sweat' or 'perspire' but never in such copious amounts.  Bless her heart, Grandmom did, as did her son, my dad, and me.  My mother didn't sweat like this nor either of my sisters.


The only saving grace my dad reminded me of when I was younger and he was still around was a story he told me about a man he served with in the Navy.  They had been stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines.  The man arrived and had to be airlifted out the same day.  The man couldn't sweat and the heat in the Philippines is intense.  Had the man not been removed immediately, he would have died.


Now to my way of thinking, if I had a decent water & salt supply, not to mention food, then I'm already geared to survive DEATH VALLEY.  It's quite unladylike to sweat in the fashion I do, but still, after that little homily of my dad's I think it's better to bear the shame of being wet and uncomfortable rather than the alternative.


Are you a sweater or a perspirer?  The next time you find yourself caught outdoors in the blazing sun, the heat and humidity, look around.  You might see a few of the more primitive among us literally dripping and wishing we were anywhere else.  Just remember, that sweating is a primordial function designed to keep us from overheating.  I can't help it if my body doesn't realize that within an hour or two I'll be back in the cool comfort of the A/C or beneath the chilling spray of an icy-cold shower.  It's just like photosynthesis—it happens.


Does this mean I'm supposed to be closer to nature?  Don't answer that!


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