Sweat is a very curious liquid. Chemically, the salty mix is composed of about a quarter of the periodic table, including sodium, zinc, copper, lead, magnesium, etc. The special privilege of sweating was passed down the evolutionary tree only among animals with sweat glands—that is to say, mammals. Sweat in humans is caused by a whole range of activities including: stress from an important presidential debate or from a exam you chose not to study for but instead decided to indulge in Monday night shooters at a bar called Balls; extremely hot environments like saunas (which is really just a form of self-induced sweating) and lava fields; moments of terror such as in the presence of your former pastor, whom you haven’t seen in 10 years because you stopped going to church, when you were, oh about 9; and workouts like hours of sex or that one time you thought you would run around the block as part of a new exercise regimen but barely made it to the neighbor’s door before you were drenched.
Sweat is important for keeping our bodies cool. Each pore is like a leaky air conditioning unit doing it’s best to keep us from overheating. It’s annoying. It stings your eyes. It creates huge decapitated O rings underneath your armpits on your favorite dress shirts. But, even weirder, can you imagine if we didn’t sweat?
Let’s take an example from our distant ancestors: frogs. Frogs actually breath through their skin so if they did sweat it would be as useful as window blinds in the red light district. The two sides of the wall have to communicate. So instead of sweating, let’s imagine all of our pores inhaled and exhaled in time with our noses and mouths. Smokers are immediately less attractive than they already are. I can see them performing the same tricks with smoke rings, except from a million pores in a way that balloons their clothing out into absurd, nicotine-filled fat suits.
The problem of skin halitosis would need to be solved in a jiffy. Whole wings of Old Spice laboratories would be devoted to developing ingestible deodorant tablets placed on the tongue that would release the perfume of persimmons and sage from our skin. The Old Spice labs would test their new deodorant tablets—Spring Gecko, President’s Day Parade and Bathhouse Wine—on our million-times removed cousins, the frogs, who, as a side note, were probably the first species of animal to make it onto land and in a sense are the first rulers of the land.
Hoards of frog activists would take offense to the research, of course, and would march to Proctor & Gamble headquarters, location of Old Spice laboratories, in downtown Cincinnati, OH. Hair rising with each exhalation, stray autumn leaves sticking to their skin with each inhalation, the smelly activists now numbering in the tens of thousands lock arms in front of the CEO’s second floor office window.
Bob McDonald, also chairman and president of Proctor & Gamble, looks on over his crossed arms, hairpiece settling while he holds his breath, the rest of his office completely still, buoyed down with added weight so it does not move in his exasperated huffs. He feels someone’s breaths behind him, on his neck, back, arms, legs, ankles. It is his assistant, Freddy Talcom, dressed in jean shorts and white tank top. The shorts and tank top are a relatively new trend, suggested by doctors to keep our pores open and breathing throughout the year. “Sir—“ he starts to say.
Outside, in the thumping mob, a man yells into a microphone “1…2…” The crowd inhales together. “3!” Everyone exhales as hard as they can, from every pore they can, breaking the second floor glass and several others. Bob has shielded his eyes just in time because of Talcom’s abbreviated warning, but glass is still raining on his head and a miasmic gas of halitosis captures him.
After the Cincinnati Riots, a new air of acceptance sweeps the nation. People are less appalled by natural body odor, and in fact find it to be as sweet a perfume as any rose or tulip. They move from cool place to cool place, complimenting each other’s unique aromas. They make sure not to stay in the sunlight for too long or exert themselves too much. For this, they would need at least 2 million sweat glands underneath their pores.
You may be asking yourself what qualifications I have to write this article. Wel,l a lightly used bachelors of science in biology for starters. Then there is my experience with a number of remote amphibian tribes. And of course my access to large amounts of secret Proctor & Gamble documents in which they discuss alternate realities. Need I more?
–It’s a Beautiful Day, I’m Simply Redolent