Written by: Danielle C
“I don’t sweat.”
That was me, at least until a few weeks ago.
Having just moved to the BVI in April of this year, my husband and I are spending our first full hurricane season, which includes the dreaded month of September, in the Caribbean.
We hail from the Southeastern U.S. – a place known for its hot, sticky summers. But with the exception of two weeks in late August every year (when the humidity and temperature both hit peak oppressiveness), I rarely sweated. Working out, sitting in the sun, doing yard work – nothing caused me to form more than a slight bead of perspiration across my forehead.
Then September in the Caribbean hit me. The first sign of the coming heat-induced cruelty was the diminishing winds. We live at the top of a hill, where nice breezes help counter the fact that our place is only air-conditioned in the bedrooms (and we only run the A/C at night because electricity is crazy-expensive on our rock). When we first moved, I boasted to our friends back home how pleasant and comfortable the breezes make it feel. But when the breezes abruptly died down at the end of August, our place turned into a sauna – a concrete and tile sauna, on the top floor of a three-story building on top of a hill (and yes – heat definitely rises). The upside is that there’s no need to visit a gym or a spa for the steam room – just take a shower with the bathroom windows closed and voila – your own personal sauna, not a pore left unopened!
Hidden benefits aside, September’s signature sweat is a force to be reckoned with. As I’ve come to terms with my new life as a woman who sweats, I decided to put together a handy survival sheet for all you fellow island women dealing with the uncomfortable byproduct of hurricane season in the Caribbean:
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What Not to Wear
With the increased temperatures and diminished breezes, the debate over what to wear has changed. My husband and I haven’t resorted to nudism – yet. We still wear clothes, but a lot less of them.
The first things to go were sleeves. There’s just no reason to wear one more inch of fabric where sweat can collect than necessary. The next thing to go, for me, was the bra. In its place now are bathing suit tops because A) they’re better at absorbing boob sweat (sorry guys, but the ladies will understand), and B) if someone comes by or if you have to venture outdoors and risk seeing someone, it’s socially acceptable to be in a bathing suit top, whereas it’s not acceptable to be seen wearing just your bra. (I know, I don’t get it either, but I comply so as not to offend anyone.)
Moving on to the lower half of the body… There’s an ongoing discussion in our house about underwear and whether they’re essential or expendable in this heat. Let’s just say that my husband and I are on opposing sides of this argument, and I’ll leave it at that. One thing we agree on, however, is that shorts should not make contact with your knees when it’s this hot. For the same reason that sleeves were abandoned, I no longer wear full-length pants, capris, or even hiking shorts that touch the backs of my knees. Have you ever noticed how much the backs of your knees sweat? Neither had I, but I can now tell you from experience, it’s a lot.
And jeans – forget about it. No. Damn. Way. So many of the locals wear jeans – and skinny jeans at that – and I just don’t know how they do it. Skinny jeans are hard enough to put on in the comfort of a climate-controlled environment with silky smooth skin. How the hell do you put those things on when you’re sticky-sweaty and all puffed up from drinking gallons of water a day? And I can’t even imagine how hard they are to take off after a few hours in this humidity. I makes me sweat just thinking about it.
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Hair and Makeup
Despite my attempts to straighten it with chemicals, heat, and brute force, my hair’s natural texture is frizzy. Blow-drying helps to tame the wavy, frizzy mess, at least for the first hour or so after it’s finished. But with the onset of September’s increased heat and humidity, I gave up. The final straw came when attempts at blow-drying started to be undermined by the shear amount of sweat that was coming from my head and my neck. My husband doesn’t have this problem. His hairstyle is basically a crew-cut, so he has built-in cooling from the top of his noggin. If I make it through hurricane season without accompanying him to the barber for a GI Jane cut, it will be a miracle of vanity-induced willpower.
Speaking of vanity, my makeup routine has gone the way of the hairdryer. I knew before we moved down here that applying the full pallet of cosmetics I used back in the States would be a rare occurrence in life on the rock. But my routine has recently gone from a few, basic products in neutral colors to, What are the chances I’ll see another human being today? And when I do go out in public, simply putting on mascara and lipstick feels glamorous compared to the bare-skinned complexion I now sport 90 percent of the time.
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Most appliances generate heat and, therefore, have been put into hibernation for the months of September and October. First to go was the stove, and the oven soon followed. If it can’t be cooked in the microwave or on the grill outside, we don’t eat it. And who wants to eat hot food in this heat anyway?! The next appliance to go was the clothes dryer. With the cost of electricity here, few people (myself included) use the dryer on a regular basis in the first place. But in these conditions, clothes dry faster on a line than they do in the dryer, so it’s both a time and money-saver.
One appliance, however, will become your new best friend in your quest to minimize sweat: the fan. We’re lucky that our place is designed to maximize breezes coming from all directions, but when there’s no breeze at all, our location at the top of the hill just amplifies that fact that we’re that much closer to the sun. So we’ve invested a small fortune in fans. Floor-level, adjustable-height, oscillating, stationary – you name it, we have every style of fan you can imagine. And each one is strategically placed to maximize its effect. Although, to be honest, blowing around the warm, ambient air only takes the sweat down a mere notch and doesn’t provide real relief from the heat. I think it’s mostly for our psyches – at least it feels like we have some control over the situation.
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According to our expat friends, come December and January, we’ll be so acclimated to the heat that we’ll be reaching for sweatshirts and blankets, whining about the cold, when the temperature dips below 75 degrees. At this point in the game, it’s hard to imagine it ever being cold here, let alone complaining about it. Once the sweating stops, you won’t hear a peep from me.
How do you manage all the excess sweating during this extra humid season? Any insider tips to share for this new island girl?