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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Campbell

Don't Sweat It (Unless, of course, it's really hot)

Sweat. Glisten. Perspire. Glow.

We have many names for the body’s way of cooling itself when it overheats. I grew up with some “proper” southern ladies who glistened or glowed in the late summer heat, don’t ya know. Personally, I don’t have a problem with just coming right out and saying I sweat. Cuz I do. A lot.

Growing up in the south, air conditioning was something I enjoyed in stores and a few more well-off friend’s homes. Summer nights sleeping on the second floor with the windows open in the hopes a breeze would come, I’d lay in my bed sweating, too hot to sleep, certain it was the hottest I’d ever be.

The hardest work comes in the hottest weather on a farm. We didn’t have a hay baler so in the peak of the hottest days of the year, after the bush hog cut it all down, the whole family walked the field beside Dad’s old dump truck, tossing rakefuls of cut grasses into the back. But then we had to transfer that dump truck load into the barn loft. Thanks to being coated in a thick sheen of sweat, we all trudged to the house exhausted, littered with itty bits of orchard grass, Timothy, and clover. I thought I’d never sweat so much doing anything else in my life.

I thought I sweat a lot during high school band camp in the middle of June, out there in the hot sun with no shade in sight, marching for hours upon hours. But then we had our first game, on one of the hottest nights of August, wrapped up in our wool uniforms with leatherette boots up to our knees and plumed hats that came down to our ears. Out there with close to 500 other sweaty kids, slinging a 6-foot pole with a flag on the end in perfect sync with my fellows, I didn’t think I could possibly sweat more.

Over the last couple of years, it’s been hot flashes – my own personal summer which comes on any time of day, during any activity. Hell, I can be perfectly still, in front of the air conditioning, sipping a cold drink and a wave of heat comes on. No rhyme or reason at all. Thank you, hormones.

But y’all, I gotta tell ya. There’s no hot like bakery hot. No AC system in the world can keep up with multiple ovens cranked up to 400 degrees and the tilt-skillet is full of boiling water for the bagels, while you carry 50lb bags of flour and sugar. Or hustle around bearing scorching trays laden with freshly baked goodies. Or stand for hours in that steamy hot air shaping stiff dough, or whip and scoop 20lbs of cream cheese, or scrub pan after pan in scalding soapy water. I’m telling you, nothing I’ve experienced in my life comes even close to this sweltering kitchen heat. Rivulets of sweat down my face, in my mouth and stinging my eyes. Sweatband drenched. Sweat trickles down my back, sides, and front. Legs and arms slippery with my body’s desperate need to cool down. Then step into the walk-in cooler and all that sweat wants to freeze solid at once. Bliss! Sort of. You still have to walk back out there with your glasses fogging up and start sweating all over again.

As much as I hate being hot, I still love that bakery job. And I try to put my sweating into perspective. I have no doubt there are any number of hotter jobs out there. Just ask any soldier, or welder, get the picture. And I know I’m fortunate to get to come home to a cool shower and a kick ass air conditioning unit. With plentiful clean cold water for me to rehydrate. So as much as I hate to be hot, I don’t sweat my sweating. Experience has proven I could definitely sweat more. Instead of railing against the heat I can thank my body for functioning so well and appreciate cool rooms and drinks and cold air when I have them. And toss or recycle or upcycle those t-shirts with their blackened arm pits. There’s plenty more at the thrift store, so I don’t sweat that either.

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