As a kid, I had a big issue with sweating. Officially, it was called hyperhidrosis, and for me it was characterized by hands and feet that were always dripping. “You were a very wet baby,” my mom recalled over the phone last week, insisting she hadn’t seen this as much of a challenge. “We just had to change your clothes when they were damp,” she said. “Summer in Georgia is humidity. If something’s wet, it’s not going to just dry.”
I would sweat all of the time, not just when I was nervous or hot. But those things made it much worse, so summer presented a particular challenge, and I don’t remember it fondly. Any sandals that weren’t waterproof would become soaked and terrible-feeling; dirt would stick to the wet sides of my feet. At camp, I didn’t high five and could not hold hands. On a scale of potential challenges posed by the body you’re born into, I’d call sweat a super minor one, but it was still not fun to deal with. I was uncomfortable a lot of the time. I wanted badly to be able to hide that discomfort, but couldn’t.
If there’s a theme that bridges this issue’s four divergent cover stars, it’s their desire to not be judged unfairly. Kacey Musgraves doesn’t want to be penalized for frowning when she’s unhappy, and Meek Mill doesn’t want America’s justice system to be so racist. Hudson Mohawke resists pressure to make music that sounds like his past successes, while Skepta uses confidence to make discrimination look pathetic. I prefer my summer music more woke than carefree, or at least with some balance of the two, and I commend their positions. Someone’s got to model what it’s like to feel free so the rest of us can get there.
When I was in college, my parents’ insurance company approved me for a semi-controversial procedure where a surgeon purposefully and irreversibly damaged a tiny, way-too-turnt-up branch of my sympathetic trunk, which runs along the spine. This is also an option for people who can't stop blushing, because the problem it solves isn't really about sweat at all, but about having a nervous system that's overly empathic. I just cared about things way too much.
The surgery made my palms stop sweating, which means I’ve been able to do previously unimaginable and important things, like shake someone’s hand in a job interview. It improved my life, but it wasn’t a miracle cure; my feet still drip, and I still buy only clothes that camouflage general dewiness (prints and dark colors are good). Even now, summer stresses me out. When I need to chill, I try to go somewhere where there is swimming. Back in my sweatiest years, I felt my best at the pool, where everyone was equally wet and clean at the same time, and I could successfully pretend I was normal. On a deep psychosomatic level, I’m relieved those days are behind me. But socially, I wish I hadn’t wanted so bad to fake being “Pageant Material,” as Kacey Musgraves calls it. So take it easy this summer, and start by remembering to stop being so judgy. You’ll never get any taller making someone else feel small.