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The crowds of women scamper past her as she keeps carefully hidden in the shade. They skip and twirl about, carelessly lifting their arms above their heads in a celebration they didn’t know they were having. A rainbowed assortment of t-shirts, tank tops, and cute collared blouses march past her, tauntingly.
The sweaty girl eyes them sadly and sits up straighter, keeping her arms in their dark-colored linen sleeves firmly at her sides. Sweaty Girl wasn’t like other girls, inasmuch as she was sweaty.
The near mindless routine of most everyone’s trip to their closets every morning after a shower was a recital of the upcoming day’s schedule for Sweaty Girl, down to the most minute detail; a calculated series of if-then statements that would counfound even the top computer scientists.
IF the weather was overcast, THEN a medium-fitting cool colored t-shirt would suffice, ELSE on a nice day, she could only wear a loose-fitting dark top.
Never a tank top, though, should the day require her to reach something off a high shelf, passers-by would recoil in disgust at her underarms’ inverted resemblance of a bald head belonging to an overweight man who was under some sort of nervous distress or who had just finished running a marathon. Wearing a parka.
The whole after-shower routine in fact was much different, too, for Sweaty Girl. While most people happily prance from the shower to their rooms to get dresses, Sweaty Girl must undergo the multifaceted ritual of applying the special antipersperant that takes forty minutes to dry, dousing herself liberally with baby powder, and cringing in pain while applying a medicated solution under her arms that Sweaty Girl is fairly certain is nothing more than a flesh-eating acid, perscribed by her dermatologist in an attempt to weaken her sweat glands by dissolving them through the scant inch and a half thick layer of skin.
Regular girls skip into department stores and yank countless trendy little numbers off the racks and prance into dressing rooms to try them on. Sweaty Girl has to lurk by a morbid selection if dark-colored clothing and run through a checklist, trying to appear merely indecicive of the brand or price.
Upon passing the rigorous testing phase (Could it stand on its own, or did it require an undershirt? Or WAS it an undershirt? Could it be worn to, say, walk around a shopping mall? What if the parking lot was sloped ever-so-slightly uphill?), she slinks into the dressing rooms, not to try it on, but to ‘test’ the fabrics.
‘Testing’ the fabric was never a fun experience. While she did have an endless reserve of moisture literally ‘at her fingertips’, palms, and all down the length of her arm continuing to her torso, Sweaty Girl opts for the only slightly less disgusting option of ‘testing’ and gives the shirt’s sleeves a good lick.
Hmm, nothing on the first try. That’s equivalent to a nice mid-morning stroll, but a few more licks compounded would simulate an unexpected run-in with an angry dog in the noon-day sun, or if, for some reason, she had to sprint from an angry cook down the grill line of a hot kitchen.
Licking the shirts was a tasty pasttime.
Success meant another addition to the measly selection of shirts that made the cut. Failure meant explaining to co-workers why, when she sneezed later that day, her tissue contained a colored assortment of threads and fuzz.
The braver of her co-workers think it helpful to sidle up to Sweaty Girl and mutter out of the corner of their mouths a helpful “Um…you might want to keep your arms down for a bit…
you’ve got a little –” and the click their tongues and gesture to their own underarms.
Sweaty Girl rolls her eyes and slinks away, defending herself with a hissed “Yes, I know,” and wondering why her aquaintences think that simply keeping her underarms down would do any good, as a longitudinal tell-tale oval of perspiration is ever-creeping outward blob-like from her underarms either way.
Other co-workers suggest she change her brand of deodorant, only to be met with Sweaty Girl’s almost daily recitation that Odor is not the problem — she never smells bad — it’s perspirtation, and while man can create a solution to cause 80-year-old men to have an active sex life, they can’t create an anti-persperant that works.
Helpful managers ask why she bothers to wear an undershirt — perhaps that’s what’s overheating her, and she should do without it!
With a hearty laugh and a swallowing of pride, she lifts up her outer shirt to reveal a dark, heavy-looking maroon under-t-shirt.
“This shirt is pink,” she says, and her managers come to understand the shirt’s service as a barrier; the trifling attempt at Hoover Daming the rushing Hudson River. The managers retreat meekly, hoping the customers won’t notice the creeping blob-like ovals, while Sweaty Girl hopes the managers won’t notice that all the surgical tape and cleaning cloths are missing from the first aid kit.
Yes, underneath the once-pink shirt lies yet another layer of failed protection, namely, absorbant cloths bound around her armpits by surgical tape that does little in the way of actual dampness protection, and yet plenty in the way of painful hair-removal at the end of the day when it’s taken off.
And not unsightly hair removal, either — cute, unoffending top-of-the-shoulder hairs who never deserved to be treated like their black-sheep brethren on the other side of the shoulder.
A mean-spirited friend even suggested with a snicker that Sweaty actually secure feminine protection to the undersides of her arm, be he got his one day when he playfully tried to tickle her.
Other friends question sometimes why, on a particularly hot day, Sweaty Girl is wearing a thick sweater or zippered pullover.
Sweaty Girl is tired of explaining that the sweater is put on AFTER the initial sweat-through of the primary shirt, and the sweater is there to prevent her friends from looking like the type of people who hand out with sweaty girls. The sweater is there for their protection.
Sweaty Girl even hates the word “sweater”, as it always strikes her as more of an imsult than an article of clothing.
So there Sweaty Girl sits under the tree, not so much for the cool, but more for the dark protection of the shade, watching normal girls cheerfully lift their arms playfully over the shoulder of a comrade or a boyfriend.
A bead of moisture gathers, but this time in the corner of her eyes as she hears the girls laughing the laugh of the truly carefree.
Suddenly, her eyes light up as a realization dawns on her.
The dampness of realization darkens a patch of understanding on the shirt of her conciousness.
A few days prior, a friend and co-worker with a poorly maintained set of teeth tried to get Sweaty to cope with her problem through laughter. He brought her problem to light and got her to laugh at it rather than be ashamed, since shame doesn’t help hide sweat.
He said, “What’s the difference between you and a football player? Football players wear protective pads on TOP of their shoulders.”
Without missing a beat, Sweaty Girl returned with “What’s the difference between you and the entire country of England? At least SOME people in England will eventually get braces.”
Yes, she may be sweaty, but at least she didn’t have a big ol’ mouth full on snaggle teeth.
But the realization was that, despite this fact, she was still friends with Snaggle Tooth. In fact, she wouldn’t mind getting sweaty with him a couple nights a week, if you catch my drift.
Yes, she was still friends with Snaggle Tooth, the Liar, Fatty, Smelly Stinkaroo, and the Irishman. She liked them all and sweating was just HER cross to bear.
It was as if God had said “Here you go, Sweaty Girl. You can have a great sense of humor, dashing girlish charm, and a posterior unmatched by most girls in the county, but you have to be sweaty. Sorry.
I could have given you a hump or a third leg, but I didn’t.
Count your blessings, Sweaty.”
And with that, Sweaty rose and made her way into the sunlight, with little beads of hope and prosperity collecting under her arms.