How this Queenslander came to terms with her fear of sweat | australian way of life


growed as a teenager in Gladstone, in the year 2000, three things were essential: a pair of wrap-around Oakley sunglasses, a school bag in the satchel style of Australian Olympians; and an arsenal of aerosol antiperspirants (Vanilla Kisses for girls, and the latest from Lynx for boys). Without this weaponry, especially thrusters, puberty in the tropical savannah promised to be painful and painless. Fear of sweat, and its aftermath, hung like fog above the school’s wooden harbor racks, punctuated at regular intervals by bursts of chemical cloud aimed at shirt sleeves at armpits in sweat.

Decades have passed since. I am now in my thirties, living in the subtropics of Brisbane, in a house built in the same decade and, oddly, in the same style, like my old high school. Like the school, my house is a two-story rectangle with an almost flat roof. There is no mechanized air conditioning either, except for a few hard-working fans, as was the case in my classrooms. Sweating is unavoidable, especially in summer. You are wet the moment you towel off after a shower; moist even when the deodorant continues. Head out the door for the ride, and the back of your shirt is already clinging to the streams of sweat snaking up your spine. This dampness and its promise of wet spots on work shirts was causing the same sweat-related stress that drove my obsession with body sprays in the schoolyard – stress that contributes thousands of dollars of my own money. to the multi-billion dollar deodorant industry.

But something happened. This summer, I gave up being afraid of sweat.

It started when I went looking for a new way to stay active during lockdowns, and subscribed to a YouTube channel for dance cardio workouts. The upbeat music mixed by a live DJ and choreographed by incredibly fun instructors had me hooked. But at first, I found the program’s promise to “make the sweat sexy” a bit odd. I had grown up thinking that sweat was anything but. Sweat was boring, sweat made you smell bad, sweat meant you probably wouldn’t have anyone to go out with at lunchtime; sweat was a problem. How could it be appealing?

But it didn’t take long before a very sweaty twerk felt like a very normal, very empowering and very sexy start to the day. Finally, I felt like I gave truth to Colin Hay’s observations of women shining in the Land Down Under. Given that so much of my teenage and adult life had been spent avoiding sweating at all costs, this was a pretty drastic departure from the norm. And it made me realize how much I had been influenced by decades of antiperspirant advertisingwhich connected sweat with smell and loneliness, and emphasized a woman’s need to stay fresh at all times.

Well, from now on, I’m over that. And I’m not alone.

Same before the pandemic hit sales, leading forces in the deodorant market were reporting slowdowns, particularly among young women, due to concerns about the effect of chemicals on the skin or the waste generated from plastic packaging. Cue a boost of products with an “eco” or “organic” benefit. A quick look at supermarket shelves today suggests refillable deodorants are becoming widespread, as well as a growing range of natural deodorants and antiperspirants it can be too plastic-free and fully compostable. All of this is in stark contrast to the millennial market, when propellant canisters rocketed to the forefront of the high school must-have list. Is this where today’s teenagers are headed? Back to natural water?

I hope a little.

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Hostile attitudes towards what is a natural bodily function can be brutal. Many beautiful postmenopausal girlfriends have told me of the onset of almost incessant sweating, regardless of activity or climate, and their difficulty in concealing it in unsympathetic workplaces. Some white-collar workers are so convinced that the sight of sweat has a negative impact on their careers that they pay for Botox injections under the armpits. What if we try to support, instead of suppressing or avoiding, a sweating body? A little sweat won’t guarantee you’ll stink up the office, despite what the industry wants you to think.

As I welcome relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of summer and prepare for the joyful respite of winter, I plan to stay sweaty. Or at the very least I plan on not worrying about you or anyone else seeing my sweat. I’ll take a shower and change if needed. I’ll check to make sure I’m not offending your olfactory system. And I’ll tell you next summer if me too embraced life without deodorantAnd if I still believe you can make sweat sexy.


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