In each installment of the four-part OVER & OUT series, graduated Octagon staffers will be saying their adieus to Octagon readers before they head to their respective colleges. Former print editor-in-chief Marigot Fackenthal is the first in the series.
I don’t remember exactly when it started – probably during puberty, because that’s when a lot of things go wrong – but at some point in my life, my hands started sweating a lot.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: “Marigot, that’s disgusting, T.M.I., why are you writing about this in your senior goodbye column?,” etc. I get it. It’s not like I’m unaware. But trust me – it’s a thousand times more disgusting and inconvenient for me than it is for you. Let me have my moment.
Those of you who are more medically inclined may have heard of this condition – it’s called palmar hyperhidrosis, and is considered by all of the world’s leading medical dermatology journals to be the number-one most negatively impacting dermatological condition. Why? How can a little extra sweat be so detrimental to one’s well-being?
For starters, having perpetually wet hands is pretty embarrassing in itself. No matter where I am – in class, at the store, in the middle of an interview – I’m constantly wringing my hands or swinging my arms in vain attempts to dry my palms in the created wind. (I’m sure my classmates have noticed me doing that.) At the very least, that motion offers a brief moment of cool relief before the heat rushes back into my fingertips. I’m also always grabbing at the sides of my shirt – again, in an attempt to dry my hands.
Obviously, to the unknowing observer (which is everyone, as this isn’t something I like to advertise), those coping mechanisms must seem like pretty bizarre habits. I know that, and it’s embarrassing, but the alternative of literally dripping hands is objectively worse. (Although, to be honest, those mechanisms work so poorly that I usually have to deal with the alternative anyway.)
That may not seem like a big deal, but it’ll become more and more of a problem as I graduate and work my way into the professional world. Whenever I anticipate having to shake hands with people, I try to discreetly wipe them dry on my clothes before going in for the grip, but, as I just mentioned, that usually isn’t enough. By the time my right hand leaves the safety of my shirt folds and reaches the hand of my employer (or whoever it may be), it’s already clammy again. Really awkward.
Aside from the cosmetic embarrassment, there’s a whole slew of practical inconveniences that come along with sweaty hands.
One that stressed me out a lot during high school was taking tests. All right, taking tests might stress you out too, but for me, they’re an absolute nightmare. There I am, scribbling furiously to solve some calculus problem like everyone else and – wait, pause, wipe hands. Scribbling some more but my fingers are getting so slippery I can’t grip my pencil – pause, wipe hands. Writing at top speed to finish an in-class essay on time – pause, wipe hands. Trying to write but my wet hands are bothering me so much that I can’t keep track of a train of thought – jeez, what was I writing? – pause, wipe hands. While most students worry the night before about knowing the material, I worry more about the temperature of the testing room.
Another major inconvenience is using a computer. Here are some conditions: 1. I’m an enormous germaphobe and despise getting my keyboard and mouse sticky. 2. Sweat is sticky. 3. I have sweaty hands.
See the problem?
Because of this, I have a really hard time focusing while trying to work at a computer. Take Octagon stories for instance – whenever I sit down to edit a story, I’ll usually get about two sentences in before my hands become so uncomfortable that I have to go to the bathroom to rinse and dry them. I come back, forget where I was, start over, and get a little farther before the same thing happens again. And again. And again. Just prior to starting this article, I was editing one of Nicole Wolkov’s, and I must have gotten up to wash my hands at least 12 times while reading through it.
Driving, too, can be difficult. And forget playing instruments. I quit the violin before this condition really broke out, but I know I’ll never be able to go back to it. Just thinking about holding a violin makes my hands sweaty. Familiar with the show “American Ninja Warrior”? I always thought it’d be really fun to train for that sort of thing, but regardless of how strong I become, even attempting those courses would be impossible because of my slippery grip. There are so many things I can’t do simply because of sweat.
“But, Marigot, if it’s that bad, why haven’t you done anything to stop it?” There are so many antiperspirants out there. “Have you talked to your doctor?” Yeah, of course I have. I’m aware of every solution available. I’ve tried them all except for the iontophoresis procedure (the process of shutting down sweat glands by shocking them with low electric current in water) and botox (which is extremely painful and grants only temporary results), both of which are very expensive and not always successful.
All that said, hyperhidrosis is probably one of those things that is very hard for people to truly understand without experiencing it first-hand. (Ha.) I can tell you my symptoms and some of the consequences, but I’ll never be able to relate how each and every thing I do – my entire life – is affected by this condition. For every choice I make, I have to take sweating into consideration. I hate it. If a genie gave me one wish, I’d wish for world peace, but I’d seriously consider wishing for peace on my palms before singlehandedly solving hunger and war.
So after making it through all of high school without being discovered, why am I publishing this article? A couple reasons. First, in the same way that it’s relieving to finally tell someone a guilty secret, revealing to everyone the reasons for my odd behavior makes me feel a little less insecure upon leaving the school. Also, once people know my story, it’ll become something I can laugh about with friends instead of hiding to myself in self-conscious misery. It just took me a while to come to terms with that.
The other reason is this: If you’re reading this column and have the same issue – first of all, I’m sorry. I won’t tell you to accept and feel comfortable in your unfortunate biological situation, because, as you’re already aware, hyperhidrosis is a condition that’s uncomfortable and socially unacceptable by nature. And, if you’re anything like me, bringing up an uncontrollable sweating condition with friends or a significant other probably isn’t your idea of a good time. However, by writing this column (and completely embarrassing myself), I hope that I’m normalizing this sort of conversation at least a little bit.
So, yeah, high school meant a lot to me, I’ll miss everyone, etc.
—By Marigot Fackenthal