Dec 17, 2009

The Unified Theory on Irritable Sweating

...aka "The Sweaty Genitals Theory".

It's not really just genitals - that just happened to be the first phrase I used when first trying to elucidate this theory.

You see, it's been particularly hot 'round Brisbane way these past few weeks. We had an unseasonably summery November, which has continued into summer proper, and there hasn't been the usual late afternoon storms once or twice a week to cool things off a bit.

The thing about these particularly hot summers is that the heat becomes the only thing people can think about. It's difficult to escape, and I think that reason can be traced back to the Unified Theory of Irritable Sweating.

Humans sweat. Well, if you believe my ballet teacher Mrs Donaldson, ladies perspire, but that's by the by. We exude moisture as a cooling method. It's a great evolutionary device.

Only problem is, the sweat gets annoying. Sure, you can towel off your oozing forehead, splash some water on your face, or fan yourself with your own t-shirt, but what about those parts of the body that are not as easy to reach - nor as socially acceptable to carry out cooling action upon?

I'm talking about the join-y bits - the underarms, behind the knees, under the belt line and ... well yes, downstairs. On a hot day, these places can get sweaty. Let's face it, when it's cold, that's where you put your hands to warm them up - you fold them into your underarms, or sit on them, or pop them between your thighs. So it's only a natural step to assume that these naturally-heat-producing areas work overtime in the summer, giving a greater degree of irritation.

The only way to get relief is a swim, or a shower, or to lie butt-naked spreadeagled in front of the split-system air-conditioner. And let's face it, not all of those are practical when you have to get on with your day - work, exercising, shopping, cooking, cleaning, going out, etc etc. Generally one has to wear clothes doing these activities, and while the ladies may find some comfort in skirts or dresses, sweaty skin can still rub and be irritable. Fabrics can be problematic all over the body - there's a reason your mother told you to wear cotton. And as for pants - well! They can be very restrictive - particularly those skinny drainpipe ones all the emo kids are wearing. No wonder all the ones hanging around the Queen Street Mall look so miserable.

My father was always a keen wearing of sarongs around the house. He grew up in Vanuatu, in the tropical South Pacific, where it gets pretty darn hot and humid. A sarong was a way of allowing air flow while still retaining some modesty. Well, unless he sat down awkwardly. Maybe we should embrace sarongs more? Perhaps baggier shorts? Culottes?

I'm not exactly sure how we'd go about it, but we need to find ways to relieve the discomfort of sweating, particularly  in the join-y bits. It'll help people cope with the warmer weather better. They'll feel more positive, and maybe, just maybe, they can stop updating their Facebook and Twitter feeds with endless bloody whinging about how hot they are.


  1. I hear ya, GC. I get particularly amused by business suit-clad gents who persist with the charade of appearing cool, calm and collected while furiously mopping their fire-hydrant brow. Long sleeves and ties should be banned between October and April.

    In regards to cooling of those short n curly bits, what about freezer jocks? Light moisten a pair of fresh and very clean undergarments and place within freezer for half an hour or so. The cool relief as you slip them on is almost orgasmic.

  2. Ducted aircon FTW.

    Dunno how, but dammit, them sciencey research wonks need to be doing SOMETHING for all the tax dollars they piss up against a wall for their own egotistical purposes!

  3. Gentlemen, I think you missed the most important part of this post...

    ... Girl Clumsy did ballet!

    (Please tell us more Ms Clumsy)

  4. I took an extreme measure - I moved to Canberra. It still gets hot, but it's dry heat and the altitude means you rarely sweat unless you go somewhere enclosed with poor ventillation. I think the summer sweat related insanity is what makes Brisbane interesting and makes Canberra so much more dull.

  5. I was under the impression that it was pigs that sweat and men that perspire. I was also led to believe that women glow.

  6. Albion - freezer jocks, hmm? Maybe they could make some out of that stuff they use to make eye masks. That liquid squishy stuff. They could call them Soother Pants or something. Help reduce puffiness and bags. (?)

    Doc Yobbo - my parents have ducted now, and they live happily in their hermatically-sealed environment. I still think we should brave the heat occasionally...

    CCL - hey there! Long time, no see. Maybe I can do something about ballet at a later time. Didn't realise you didn't know that!

    Ysambart - I agree with you. Heat can make things interesting indeed. Why else would all the best spy novels etc be set in South-East Asia, and in Africa, and Latin America, or the Deep South - anywhere you can get around in a white linen suit, panama hat, drinking Mint Julips. And it's a good excuse for girls in bikinis, Bond-style. People may not get grumpy in the cold, but it would seem to me that people get a whole lot more sad.

    Dan - Bah. I get a red face and sweat after exercise or in the sun. That's hardly "glowing". Well, in the thermo-nuclear sense, maybe.

  7. Albion - my cousin the lawyer recently told of an email that went from the head of the chambers where he was temping. It went that "certain younger members of chambers had been seen", in cafe's and lunch venues around Brisbane "without their jackets. This practice will not continue". For some reason, possibly buried in the booze addled history of the Queensland bar, it simply won't do for a lawyer to appear in public without the full suit and tie.

  8. Damian - The vibe is called "the Northern Gothic". There has always been an aspect of it around in Qld. Hot clothes designed for a European climate being aped as part of cultural cringe. Suffering is good for the soul, doncha know.

  9. GC,

    You could get cool by washing yourself fully clothed, or don't use the dryer if you are intending to wear that article/s of clothing that least you could stay cool for a little while, and clothes do get dry quickly.

  10. Ysambart - sort of. It's the same reason in the country you wear a black suit to a funeral even if it's 42C in the shade. Part of it is to show respect, part of it is a kind of bravado, associated with the capacity for suffering as you note. It isn't about a cultural cringe as such, more about being "proper".

    Qld's small but extremely visible Goth subculture on the other hand, aren't interested in propriety, but do share the bravado and the enthusiastic showing off of the capacity to suffer the heat.

    The interesting thing about business suits is that if you are moving form one air conditioned environment to another, the wool can actually keep the cool in for brief forays on the street.

  11. See, I'm a firm believer in the summer=no pants rule. It needs to be socially acceptable to just not wear pants in Brisbane in the summer. Underwear makers get to sell a range of fashionable syles, and people genitals don't get steam cooked. Everybody wins.