My cousin’s husband Norman is the gold standard of Sweaty.
It drips from his ruddy forehead, pools at the edges of his beard, and (remember Roseanne Roseanneadana?) makes a good sized sweatball at the tip of his nose, so no matter which way he swings his head—that drop is gonna get you.
Unfortunately, I am not one to talk.
Sweat regularly frames my entire face, dampens my décolletage, and threatens to spray my pitying friends.
I apologize for my shvitzing on a regular basis—on a regular basis.
I’m shlepping speakers and a microphone bag—to the coifed Bar Mitzvah mom.
I’m playing my violin vigorously—to the horrified senior ladies after our concerts in their gated communities.
I’m making chulent/latkes/soup/tea—to my concerned congregants.
I’m circling the hot and steamy city for camp permits—to the surprisingly elegant workers at the Bureau of Child Care.
And, of course the easiest--I’m running after 4-year-old twins.
Still, I know my super-sized sweating has to do with weight, stress and a not-yet-settled life. (Same as Cousin Norman, frankly.)
But, as I sit—oy a mechaya!—in my AC’d bedroom at our “shul house,” I tell myself it’s because I am engaged with life.
I sweat not only the small stuff. I sweat it all.
Some people can deal with it—like 9-year-old Shoshi in KlezKanada who once, matter-of-factly said “oh, that’s how you always are” after hugging an apologetic me and barely letting go.
Some can’t—like the rich husband of a friend who pointedly looked at me while saying how much he loved his wife because she has barely any scent.
I happen to smell good—so there!—but I guess that wasn’t his point.
Lucky for me, Sruli sweats even more fiercely and I feel positively ladylike in comparison. And he always smells delicious.
I once saw Savion Glover live—tap dancing on a wooden platform while a Juilliard ensemble played for him. He was wearing this pale yellow shirt that billowed gloriously as he whirled like a tornado, but after a time clung to his torso and darkened in color.
At first I didn’t know what was going on—and then I realized. Jeez, that guy was sweating.
You could see the cloud of spray, too—we had good seats—surrounding him, following him like a comet’s tail, dangerously close to those (oy vey!) Juilliard instruments.
But there was something so raw and real that the audience held its breath—and when he finally stopped--panting and soaked—the people let out a loud and sweaty roar of approval.
If you can’t take the heat, baby…
One last story about my Cousin Norman—takke a very generous man who will perspire on anyone’s behalf:
Sruli and I were in Israel to play a gig and we stayed at my cousin’s apartment in Ramot. This was years ago.
Everyone was up late, yakking, and finally it was time to turn in.
I had just brushed my teeth and Sruli was waiting his turn when we saw Norman coming from the kitchen with a huge hunk of—wait for it—gefilte fish, mounded with horseradish, dripping with saucy, stinky yoych, a plastic fork protruding upwards—on a paper plate. A PAPER PLATE.
Sruli asked. Where are you going with that?
To bed, he said.
Sruli waited til Norman was gone, then he turned to me.
“THAT would be a dealbreaker.”
I cracked up.
Not yet did I know about the coming nightsweats of the 6-year hell and heartbreak of Sruli’s divorce.
Not yet did I know the years of hormonal torture I would endure to bear his children.
Not yet did I know about future job uncertainty, hastily sold businesses, moving 3 times or cranky board members of future shuls.
Not yet did I know about my current hot flashes that turn my head into one giant, flaming marshmallow.
“Ha,” I said. “No sweat.”