Sweating It Out
Eureka! At last, a creation myth for my sweating syndrome. It is June 1990, the day of my friend Rachel's bat mitzvah. But for me, a gangly 13-year-old upholstered in Laura Ashley chintz, it is an outtake from Mean Girls—you know the deal, where you show up and none of the other girls will talk to you, and you have no idea why, but apparently a bunch of them are "mad" at you, and you're assigned to the end of one table with no one sitting across from you, and you flee the scene and spend the evening loitering around the guy they've hired to sketch caricatures of the guests. You tell this kind man that you like to swim, so he draws you diving into a goldfish bowl—which is apt, because this is the night when you are ordained to spend every social occasion of your adult life soaking wet.
Well, okay, I can't place all of the blame for my Nixonian flop-sweat disorder on one bat mitzvah. But it's a start. Granet reckons that a judicious course of beta-blockers (which can modulate the fight-or-flight response in stressful situations) paired with cognitive-behavioral therapy would help me reorganize my scrambled thought patterns, freeze my supply of trigger memories, and, as a result, dry me out.
Part of me (the lazy part, I suppose) is disappointed: I wanted an insta-solution inside a pill or a syringe. On the other hand, I'm impressed that the human brain has such a long, stubborn memory—that it's so committed to learning from past mistakes and keeping me safe from emotional harm, however ineptly. And I must admit, there are moments when I'm delighted by the spectacular Keystone Kops incompetence of my neurotransmitters, forever shouting "Fire!" in a crowded party space and setting off my sprinkler system. Just because it's happening to me doesn't mean it's not hilarious.
But maybe the joke's over. Maybe I should give the wilted wallflower that is my nervous system a makeover. It's been ordered around by a mortified 13-year-old long enough. And my party face could use some mascara.