Hyperhidrosis, fiction by Cassie Adams

The day I found out that grand­ma Dol­ly was a pros­ti­tute, I real­ized that I’d nev­er giv­en much thought to the sex indus­try. But now that I was think­ing about it, it was every­where, from the obvi­ous stuff (pros­ti­tu­tion, strip clubs, porn, back alley blowjobs, and so on), to the mar­gin­al­ly less obvi­ous stuff (most of the film and tele­vi­sion indus­tries, near­ly all of adver­tis­ing, every­thing in women’s mag­a­zines, a good por­tion of the stuff in men’s magazine’s, Tiny Tots in Tiaras (oth­er­wise known as The Apoc­a­lypse is Upon Us: a real­i­ty TV show for those who hate them­selves, and those who should).

Lis­ten, I’m not a ter­ri­ble look­ing per­son. There are those who refer to me as ‘cute.’ Some­times even ‘adorable” or ‘attrac­tive’ or maybe even ‘beau­ti­ful’ (though this is usu­al­ly by men whose eyes say “I’m imag­in­ing bend­ing you over the near­est hip-heighth object rather than focus­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion in which this com­pli­ment is sup­pos­ed­ly tak­ing place” (you’d be amazed how spe­cif­ic (and often explic­it) some peo­ple can get with their eyes)).

Any­way so my point is that I – look – I real­ly don’t want peo­ple to be attract­ed to me. It’s weird, you know, I want to be attrac­tive… but I don’t want peo­ple to react to it. When I said as much, GJ (a.k.a. Gina John­son LCSW, my ther­a­pist) raised her left eye­brow unpro­fes­sion­al­ly high, if you ask me.

Right, but my point is that it’s… I can’t real­ly avoid being on the receiv­ing end of an assort­ment perks from oth­er people’s sex­u­al fan­tasies about me. And I know you think that sounds vain, but it’s just the real­i­ty I live in – it would be dif­fi­cult not to notice it hap­pen­ing. Late to work? It’s fine, you look like you got some much-need­ed rest (read: I’m just glad you final­ly did your laun­dry and start­ed wear­ing a prop­er bra again, because those 32 triple D’s real­ly weren’t han­dling the two-week-sports-bra thing you had going too well). Any­way I can’t pre­vent it, is my point. I gen­uine­ly fight against it, I do – but I can’t do any­thing about it, most of the time. So why not cap­i­tal­ize on it? Wouldn’t it be eas­i­er just to bring the trans­ac­tion to the surface?

A week after find­ing out about the whole pros­ti­tute thing, I co-host­ed a par­ty with my sister’s new boyfriend Dane. You know, for like, group cohe­sion and cama­raderie and so forth. It was a pret­ty dis­mal affair, in the end, because Dane had over­es­ti­mat­ed the num­ber of roman­to­sex­u­al­ly avail­able female friends I had, which had, as it turned out, been kind of the point of ask­ing me to cohost to begin with (some­thing I’d nor­mal­ly pick up on long before the actu­al event). Any­way the only per­son who actu­al­ly got laid that night was a frat boy also invit­ed by me, who took advan­tage of my clin­i­cal­ly lone­ly (as well as unbe­liev­ably out-of-her-mind-drunk) best friend from grade school. Any­way, at one point I end­ed up at a dif­fer­ent house in a room with 8 col­lege boys between the ages of eigh­teen and nine­teen (by this time I was already twen­ty-one, which you would think wouldn’t make a big dif­fer­ence, but I’m telling you – it does), and a bong (nat­u­ral­ly).

Now, there were a vari­ety of prob­lems, from my per­spec­tive, with this sit­u­a­tion. The first was that I was the only female in a room filled with a brood of males who were (a) horny, (b) unat­trac­tive, © lack­ing in the self-aware­ness to know how unat­trac­tive they were, and (d) ver­bal­ly and eth­i­cal­ly under­de­vel­oped, mean­ing that they were nei­ther (d.1) polite enough to care whether I was aware that they were all simul­ta­ne­ous­ly focused to an inap­pro­pri­ate extent on my appar­ent repro­duc­tive health, nor (d.2) capa­ble of main­tain­ing a con­ver­sa­tion which did not make it painful­ly obvi­ous that I (as an off­shoot of my appar­ent repro­duc­tive health) was the cen­ter of atten­tion in the room.

So, here’s what hap­pened. I want­ed to get stoned, so I couldn’t leave. The room’s air con­di­tion­ing was bro­ken, though, so I began to sweat. A lot. This wasn’t ter­ri­bly unusu­al, since I’d suf­fered from a pret­ty con­spic­u­ous case of hyper­hidro­sis since an eighth grade dance par­ty dur­ing which I tried to hide my sweat stains by danc­ing with my arms pinned to my sides, and all the boys in the class start­ed doing “the pen­guin” in imi­ta­tion, result­ing (obvi­ous­ly) in endur­ing psy­cho­so­mat­ic dam­age. This, it would seem, pro­duced some sort of pheromone which just made things worse – although it could also have had some­thing to do with the fact that I’d fore­gone under­wear that day. And also pissed my pants just the tini­est bit ear­li­er in the evening as a result of being too ner­vous about nav­i­gat­ing the crowd­ed hall­way to face the restroom in time.

Right. So we passed the bong around our enor­mous, ridicu­lous, cir­cle, and they all watched me when it was my turn because who isn’t turned on by watch­ing some­one anti-fel­late a porce­lain object? And ye who are with­out sin, and all that jazz.

Okay but so then I had like a tiny self-con­tained pan­ic attack, which they all noticed, of course, because they were notic­ing every sin­gle fuck­ing thing that I did. And so then, because I’m stoned now and I’d start­ing read­ing An Invi­ta­tion to Soci­ol­o­gy that week (you know, to try and under­stand why most social sit­u­a­tions made almost zero sense, and what­not), I tried to explain some­thing about how I’m not talk­ing because I’m dis­tract­ed with think­ing about how group dynam­ics work, or some shit, I don’t even know what I said, and they all nod­ded like it made sense which made my heart sink all the way down to my ever-so-cap­ti­vat­ing genitals.

The guy sit­ting next to me was actu­al­ly a real­ly nice guy who I’d hung out with before in less hor­ri­fy­ing set­tings – the sort of per­son who goes out of his way to com­pli­ment a stranger’s shoes. His name was Daman, and he was orig­i­nal­ly from India. I’d been hold­ing out hope that he would be my con­ver­sa­tion­al escape, but when the group non­con­ver­sa­tion inevitably died, Daman turned to me and told me that he knows how to read palms, and I said what does that mean, because I’m think­ing of the palms they burn on ash Wednes­day. And he took my hand, and said he want­ed to read it – and of course I didn’t want him (or any­one) to touch the pooled sweat on my stu­pid hand, but now he already had so I don’t real­ly have a rea­son to say no, so I let him continue.

Then, slow­ly, – ten­der­ly – he wiped the sweat from my palm.

Let me say that again: He wiped. The sweat. From my palm.

I was exact­ly as unnerved as I would’ve been had some­one offered to q‑tip my ear wax out for me, and then actu­al­ly did it. But so he went on pre­tend­ing to read my hand for a while in the key of gib­ber­ish. I looked at the oth­er boys in the room (some of whom had left the sad show at this point), try­ing to find Dane, who looked com­fort­ably uncomfortable.

Does this even make sense? Is he even say­ing things?”

Dane just shook his head with a lit­tle frown of some­thing like embarrassment.

Then Daman looked at me again (if he’d even stopped) and he said,

No, I’m telling you the truth, you’re going to choose a path and it will fol­low the line from your thumb to your…”

I pulled my hand away. And he sat up so straight, like his spine was a string hang­ing per­pen­dic­u­lar to the ground from a point high above the earth. He put his hands on his knees so calm­ly, and looked me in the eye – bored into them — and he said,

Sta­cy, you don’t have to be in so much pain. You’re beau­ti­ful. Do you understand?”

I looked at the floor, feel­ing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly moved and vio­lat­ed. His words were touch­ing – but they were the kind of touch you want, in a vague sense, but with­out want­i­ng to be touched that way like this.  Like when my sixth grade math teacher gave me a shoul­der rub while I was vis­i­bly strug­gling with mul­ti­pli­ca­tion tables.

He was right, though. I was in pain. But I couldn’t just choose not to be because he point­ed it out. I mean, I sort of under­stood: yes, I was drip­ping from most of my ori­fices, and yes, I was a lit­tle self-con­scious about it. But he was mis­at­tribut­ing, as far as I could tell, my intense anx­i­ety to that fac­tor alone, when in fact the mat­ter was grotesque­ly com­pli­cat­ed, and my anx­i­ety wasn’t just a scar or a bur­den, it was the glue that kept the puz­zle that was “Sta­cy Brooke Wade” together.

He kept look­ing at me with those pry­ing eyes, and final­ly he said,

You’re beau­ti­ful and any man would be hap­py to have you – you don’t have to be so shy, why do you lock your­self up like this? Let your­self be free. Let your­self – you could have so much fun – you could, Sta­cy you could give… you could make mon­ey by giv­ing…” his hand formed a cir­cle around the air and bobbed up and down, up and down, up and down…

Daman,” Dane final­ly cuts in, the words fum­bling in his mouth like bite-sized hot-pota­toes, “you’re stoned. Daman, you need to stop. Leave poor Sta­cy alone. She doesn’t want you to read her palm, look at her, she’s scared!”

But that’s what I’m say­ing, is that she doesn’t have to be scared! Why should she be afraid when she’s beau­ti­ful, why should she not come to par­ties and have friends and do oth­er things that she would enjoy, and she could…”

Okay, okay Daman, you have to stop, don’t say that again – things are dif­fer­ent in India, do you under­stand? You don’t say things like that here. I don’t know what it’s like there, but you don’t say things like that here. Women don’t do that here. I mean they do, but it’s only some of them and you know who those ones are, but peo­ple like Sta­cy don’t just do that here.”

And then it dawned on me.

Did he just sug­gest that I should give hand­jobs for mon­ey? Is that what hap­pened?” I asked, and Dane’s face fell vis­i­bly by a quar­ter of an inch.

Um, I – Daman’s a real­ly good guy, I’m sor­ry Sta­cy, but I think that things are just a lit­tle dif­fer­ent in India, he doesn’t mean it that way, you just have to be more… you have to learn how to…”

Daman turned to me again, say­ing, “you could do it, Sta­cy, you could… I would… a lot of peo­ple would…”

And that’s what it came down to. A lot of peo­ple would pay for a hand­job from me. A lot of peo­ple would pay for a hand­job from any­one, but they would also pay for one from me. And my favorite grand­ma had done it. She’d been more of a cour­te­san, I imag­ined, but the idea was there: why not make sex your job? God knows it’s a skill that can be honed or buried. I’ve run the gamut, and if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that some dudes will wig­gle on top of you for a few min­utes and then come, and some will lick your ass­hole and find the spot and the angle and ride it so hard you for­get who they are, and if you’re real­ly lucky, you for­get who you are, too.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I fall in love with strangers every god­dam day. I’ve made out with, and made love to, a hand­ful of peo­ple who prob­a­bly didn’t deserve it. I have the abil­i­ty to see the good in peo­ple and to want the best for them, and to give freely of myself to peo­ple just because I believe they need to feel a con­nec­tion with some­one. Doesn’t every­one? And what’s so wrong about giv­ing phys­i­cal accep­tance to peo­ple who need it for mon­ey? What’s so wrong about giv­ing in to all this pres­sure from every side to be appeal­ing, to be polite, to be nice and gen­er­ous and evenhanded…

At least then I could talk about it. At least then I could just tell peo­ple the price and take it or leave it. At least then I could tell peo­ple whether or not they meet the stan­dards for an accept­able can­di­date for admis­sion into my clien­tele. I guess I just start­ed think­ing, you know, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But then I thought about Daman. Would I do it for him? Would I give him a hand­job for mon­ey? How much was a hand­job worth to me? It’s not like they’re pleas­ant, but they’re also min­i­mal­ly effort­ful, gen­er­al­ly. And it could all be pret­ty imper­son­al, real­ly. But would there be kiss­ing? Prob­a­bly. And how do you approach some­thing like that with the guy who just told you to sell hand­jobs because your hands are nat­u­ral­ly lubri­cat­ed with sweat?

I don’t know. I didn’t know. But I thought about it in my own lit­tle world for quite a while as the rest of them argued Daman down and awk­ward­ly dis­cussed what should hap­pen next. Even­tu­al­ly, I decid­ed to table the ques­tion and get the hell out of there. But, of course, I didn’t get the hell out of there before a slew of exit­ing-rit­u­als were car­ried out with a slew of peo­ple I real­ly didn’t feel all that com­fort­able per­form­ing exit­ing-rit­u­als with. But at least those lit­tle con­ces­sions to what’s polite and appro­pri­ate were rel­a­tive­ly pain­less. And at least this time I didn’t piss myself before I’d troughed through the oblig­a­tory social bar­ri­ers between myself and my destination.

cassieadamsCassie Adams is a recent grad­u­ate in psy­chol­o­gy and phi­los­o­phy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah. In her free time, Cassie enjoys get­ting some fresh air in South­ern Utah, and her inter­ests include cof­fee, sweaters, and bub­ble wrap.

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