Monday, November 12, 2007


The biology room windows were wide open and a bee flew in, slowly circled the room and finding no flowers exited out a different window. The girls dodged and the boys swatted at the bee until the teacher asked everyone to calm down.

That particular day, so many years ago, wasn’t test day, just a normal class so there was no real reason for me to be nervous. All of a sudden something cold hit my side. I gasped just a little but I knew what it was. It hit again. And again. Perspiration. It dripped almost all the way to my waist. Then the left side dripped—it was a slow starter. I had on a white blouse—I almost always had to wear white because it wasn’t as likely to show perspiration. I kept my head ducked and was absolutely still. If I didn’t say anything, if I didn’t move, nobody would notice. I especially didn’t want the boy I had a crush on to know I had a defect.

This happened every day. Holly had the dreaded armpit symptom too. We were two cousins with a curse.

We tried every deodorant sold in drugstores. We powdered our underarms. I dissolved alum in water and applied it and got puckering pits. We wore dress shields. Dress shields were made of cloth on one side and plastic on the other and attached with thin, round elastic bands under the arm. I was miserable wearing them. I thought I was a freak.

I was in Jr. High when the problem started. I had to wear dress shields whenever I had on clothing that changed color when wet. I wore dress shield’s to my sister, Julie’s wedding reception because my dress was powder blue. I perspired so much that the cotton absorbed all the perspiration it could and then the blue dress turned a darker blue around the edges. I was mortified. I danced the polka with a boy my age--he was three inches shorter than I was. I don't know if he noticed the powder blue dress with the interesting darker spots. He didn't say anything but then again, boys that age don't say much to girls anyway. And why there was polka music at Julie's reception was beyond understanding. Some things simply cannot be explained.

This drippy situation went on for several years and then in high school Holly and I found Mitchem’s deodorant. Mitchen’s was our own private miracle. Our armpits stayed completely dry. We could wear any color we wanted. No more gym-class-white blouses. We weren’t the kind of girls to cavort and dance in the halls but if we had been, we would have done cartwheels and cheers:

“Mitchem’s, Mitchem’s, it’s the best.
Mitchem’s passes armpit tests.”

Well, perhaps Holly was the cavorting and cartwheeling type as she was a cheerleader. I simply walked around with a secret Mona Lisa-type smile, knowing God was good and he loved me and helped, somehow in the Mitchem’s miracle. Possibly other people doubt that God participates in such small miracles, but not me. In fact it may be the small miracles that make me aware of his involvement in my life more than the big ones.

Holly and I used Mitchem’s into college and into marriage and motherhood. Then our armpits calmed down and so did Mitchem’s. The formula changed. It wasn’t as good as it used to be. Perhaps the original formula was carcinogenic. Perhaps the FDA got involved. Perhaps the chemists in charge of the original formula cut costs, by using less of whatever the miracle ingredient was.

When my children—the ones who inherited the dreaded syndrome—tried Mitchem’s it barely fazed them. I hope they will grow out of it like I did, if not they can always try alum. Puckering pits are interesting and everyone ought to have varied experiences. When they are old they will have attention-grabbing subjects to tell their neighbors as they sit on the veranda of the rest home, rocking and nodding off occasionally. I can hear it now…”Did you know I had puckering armpits once in my life. Yes, sir-ee.” (I don’t know why old people say ‘yes, sir-ee’ but it seems they do. Unless they are saying “Yes Ma-am.”) Then they can have a stimulating discussion with some old codger who perhaps has an interesting experience of his own to share.

I think everyone should experience puckering armpits, just once. So if you are a non-sweating individual I’m sorry. You will just have to realize that you are missing out on one of life’s experiences and go forth and do something else interesting. Like roofing your own house, making your own cheese or living in a refrigerator box for a week with a cat, a sleeping bag and a box of books and a headlamp.

Do something interesting and then report back to me so I can be awed or amused or both. Try to make it an embarrassing, interesting experience so I won’t feel alone in my teen-age-freakness. Don’t wait until we are old and dithering, I probably won’t appreciate your interesting experiences then as I’ll be checking my three by five card with my Geritol schedule, my nap schedule and my appointment schedule to get my hair “blued”—at the in-house hair salon—and I won’t pay proper attention.

Hurry, I’m bored.


Ekim said...

How can anyone top that for an embarrassing story?
I woke up this morning with a headache but you made me for I had it. For a while anyway.
Yes, sir-ee.

Janet said...

I remember the dress shields, not a pretty sight and almost as uncomfortable as the "sanitary underwear" with the hooks for the pad. Yuck!!!

I am a perspirer of some note myself and perspire even more when I am chilled. My Doc explained my body is working hard to warm up, thus the, dare I say it?, sweat.

I've turned out pretty normal considering all the embarrassment from one defect or another over the years.


Amber said...

Kudos for your top-notch embarrassing story! In high school, I was a sweating FREAK. Seriously. I used to stuff things under my armpits to keep them from soaking through. My big grad party in my formal dress was a nightmare. Very sad when you're stuffing your armpits and not your bra. :-)

Anonymous said...

As I am an honest person, I have not experienced any embarassing moments in my adult life really.
I have written the truths as known to me, in my five books:
SMALL MIRACLES (Thirty true stories
of stunning and very interesting small miracles from my own life, in different countries)

Available at major internet bookshops.
Askin Ozcan