“What’s up? You look unnaturally happy,” my husband wonders. “Have you found another way to make us eat spinach and kale?”
“Yeah, I feel like a room without a roof.”
I hand him a gecko-green smoothie with a kick of ginger and watch his face contort and grimace as he gulps it down. Within minutes he holds his tummy and bolts for the bathroom.
“Why are you doing this to me?” he says. “Aren’t I nice to you? Don’t I pay your credit card bills without complaint? Don’t I clean your floors every week and vacuum your carpets and work like a dog to pay for all your extravagances?”
“Quit complaining, it’s good for your skin.”
He looks at me as if to say, “I’m fifty, bald and perpetually grumpy. What do I care about my skin?”
“You need to sweat. At our age, we both do. Goodness knows it’s hard to do that in this arid climate we live in. Your stratum corneum will thank me, even if you don’t,” I tell him as I chug down my green goodness and fan myself in anticipation of a little perspiration.
“It’s the passage of time, sweetie,” I say cheerfully. “Your skin needs the extra oomph. Of course, we could always move to Florida. We’d sweat plenty there without even trying and you wouldn’t have to drink my smoothies.”
“We moved from Florida,” he reminds me.
True. But that was back when I didn’t appreciate how the extreme humidity in that fine state was good for my epidermis.
So I explain to him that as we advance in years, gravity kicks in and when that happens on your face, it’s not a pretty sight. The rest of your body has a go-to in Spanx, (yep, they make a version for men too) but your aging face is flaky and dense. And as most of us who have had to deal with at least one flaky and dense thing/person knows, it doesn’t respond to coaxing and finesse. That’s because once you hit age 40 the stratum corneum has you cornered. Mostly composed of dead skin cells and some collagen, the stratum corneum is the top layer of your skin and very happy to host wrinkles, crow’s feet and sagging. It is unapologetic and crushingly honest, a final word that you’ve hit a milestone that you’d much rather not celebrate. For decades, scientists have spent hours and millions of dollars to figure out how to give aging skin a leg up. And while they were doing that, the aging population was spending hours and millions of dollars trying hide, camouflage and trick the eye into thinking that wrinkles and creases were a figment of the imagination and bright lighting. And now it turns out, all you have to do to look young is sweat.
I guess one way to sweat would be to exercise. Alternatively, you could move to Florida where you’d sweat without even moving a muscle.
“So why did you move from Florida?” Our daughter wonders.
I give her my go-to answer for everything. “Global warming. We were worried Florida would submerge in the ocean before your 18th birthday,” I tell her.
“So, what’s stopping us from sweating right here in Colorado? All we have to do is exercise,” my hubby says.
“Who sweats in Colorado? It’s atmospherically impossible to sweat at 6,000 feet above sea level, unless you are menopausal!”
So I called up a few friends who live in humid climes and asked if their skin was feeling the love.
“Are you kidding me?” one pal responded. “I have the thermostat at 62 degrees! It’s like 90 degrees outside. What’s it like where you are?”
“It’s hard to sweat here, even when it’s a 100 degrees in the shade,” I said.
“Well, it sucks to be you,” she retorted sourly. “So you called simply to brag?”
“The heat feels different out here—like you’re running a low grade fever all the time,” I said, feeling the need to empathize. “The most you feel is dampness, not the raging rivulets of sweat that you guys out there in the Sunshine State experience. Trust me, I’d much rather sweat buckets.”
But she wasn’t having any of it.
“It’s gotten worse lately,” she said. “Damn global warming!”
Another pal told me that she doesn’t really worry about going outside to sweat because nature has deemed it fit to make her sweat at all hours of day and night, even when she’s in the pool. But she too has heard good things about the power of sweat, so she’s decided to make these internal power surges work in her favor.
“Embrace the menopause,’ she advised. “Make the sweat count.”
Damn. I had no idea that hot flashes could count. “B-but, isn’t that the nutrient depleting kind?”
“Sweating is sweating,” she said matter-of-factly. “Make sure you hydrate, honey. Got to feed the machine.”
So here I am operating under some very misguided notions that I would have to spice up the smoothies or relocate to invigorate my skin when all the while I’ve had a personalized internal device that resets my body’s thermostat at will and can do great things for my skin.
My family accepts my rationalization with relief. We won’t be moving to Florida, after all. Mom will make peace with her power surges.
But what I lack is a support structure.
“I need you guys to rally around me when I’m having hot flashes,” I tell my family.
“How?” they wonder aloud.
“When I’m drenched in sweat and can only articulate my extreme discomfort by burning the scrambled eggs, eat it like I’ve just fixed you a gourmet meal. Understand that you’d be irritable too if you had sweat running a half marathon down your cleavage and pooling in your belly button.”
I bring their attention to a magnet on the refrigerator that says I’m still hot, it just comes in flashes now.
They all nod.
“And if anybody asks why your mother is so pissy of late, tell them—