(This story originally appeared in Gulfshore Life and is included in THE MAN WITH THE FISH ON HIS FOOT. And the above image, of a human sweat gland, is courtesy of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.)
This is the time of year that tests the mettle of those who live in Florida. We are in the throes of our never-ending summer and lots of us are wishing we were somewhere else.
My pal Wynn and his wife have decided to ditch Florida for a couple of weeks and take one of those cruises in Alaska.
“I want to go an entire day without sweating,” Wynn told me before the two of them traveled clear across the continent to sit on a slow boat with strangers, eat buffet food and gaze at glaciers. For this they are paying several thousand dollars—a major allocation to avoid perspiration. “We might not come back until fall.”
Thing is, a Florida fall, which is an absolute misnomer unless considered in the verb form to describe what one does when one faints (usually from a heat stroke), can be more miserable than a Florida summer. A Florida summer arrives in early April and by October, inconsiderate houseguest that it is, it has changed its name, but it’s still sitting there on the couch, hogging the remote control, refusing to change the channel. I have brothers-in-law with better manners.
Lacking the wherewithal to subsidize distant voyages to cooler climes, not to mention the temperment to withstand either prolonged doses of Dramamine or forced dinner seatings with aluminum siding salesmen from Des Moines, I will combat the prickly wet glove that passes for our Florida fall the only way I know how—by going outside and wallowing in it.
With all due respect to Descartes: Perspiro ergo sum. I sweat, therefore I am ... a Floridian.
Besides, it is time that someone defended sweat. And girding up for the battle I took it upon myself to research sweat, learning many interesting things that I am now prepared to share whether you like it or not. For instance, I learned that the average person has 2.6 million sweat glands that are located everywhere on the human body except the lips and two other places that I can’t mention because of the high-minded nature of this magazine. Take my word, these are not places where we need to sweat. These are places that, even if we could sweat there ... never mind.
Here is something else I learned, something that speaks directly to people who move down to Florida from places that are, uh, humidity-challenged: If you are not accustomed to a hot climate, the maximum amount of sweat you can produce is about one quart an hour. However, once you become acclimated you are transformed into a veritable artesian well of sweat, highly efficient at ridding the body of excess fluid and capable of producing as much as three quarts of sweat an hour. Which is all the justification I need for drinking more beer.
Another thing: Sweat does not stink. The smell mistakenly associated with sweat really comes from tiny organisms that live on our skin and produce an unpleasant odor when they feed on the proteins contained in sweat. Deodorant kills these tiny little organisms. Nothing against the kind souls in PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) but this is probably all the proof we need that they really are more aromatic than the rest of us.
Finally, although they probably don’t know it and would surely deny it even if they did, women find male sweat arousing. This was the finding of a recent scientific study in which a group of women actually volunteered to sit in a room for six hours and smell swaths of cloth containing the chemicals found in male sweat. The result—it relaxed them.
“This probably traces back to our busy hunter-gatherer days when the males were often away from home for long periods of time. The female reproductive system may have evolved to be ready for her man by shifting hormonal levels in response to his scent when he returned,” said the scientist who conducted the sweat study. “The scent relaxed her. And a relaxed woman is more likely to be responsive to a man.”
Which caused me to consider my pal Wynn sitting on the cruise ship in Alaska with the lovely Mrs. Wynn, gazing at glaciers and not sweating.
As for me, I think I’ll take a quick walk in the sexy Florida midday sun and then hurry back home to my wife.