The Mr Tall Summertime Sweat Scale

Although the weather so far this June has been quite temperate (for Hong Kong, that is), it's still pretty hot. The sweaty season is upon us. I was well aware of this the other day as I took a little lunchtime walk to a nearby shopping mall to investigate a new stroller for Toddler Tall.

As I walked -- the mall in question isn't in fact all that nearby, unfortunately -- I passed through a predictable descent, from a nicely-pressed young man into a sweaty mess. If, for whatever masochistic reason, you would like to accompany me on my sweat-slicked odyssey, read on!

Stage 1: Refrigerated immunity
I've noticed over my summers here that spending several hours in Hong Kong air-conditioning renders me briefly impervious to even the hottest day. By enduring all that combat-level aircon I earn a kind of grace period in which I can step smartly out, and walk at a brisk pace, without breaking a sweat at all. Typically, this lasts me about 10 minutes, which is often enough to get where I'm going, but if not, it's on to . . .

Stage 2: O! M'Lord! Your impertinence has discomfited me greatly!
At this stage, a rosy blush highlights my face, reminiscent of a heroine in a Victorian novel who's just received an improper suggestion from a rakish gentleman. There's just the lightest sheen of sweat, which is easily dabbed away with a menthol-scented tissue from one of Hong Kong's ubiquitous little packets. Unfortunately for me, I don't have a decade or so of delicate coquettishness to squander on this stage: it lasts about 30 seconds, after which I progress to . . .

Stage 3: The Dry-Shirt Dance
The next sets of sweat-glands to activate are those running along my spine. Now I have to start worrying about visible evidence of my sweat-fest: those embarrassing dark patches on my shirt. Sometimes you may spot me marching along with the posture of a Buckingham Palace guard, and then sitting down bolt upright, at least six inches from the back of my chair. This is not good breeding; it's simply a sign that I'm deep into Stage 3, the Dry Shirt Dance, which is a pathetic attempt to keep my still-pristine shirt from sticking to my sweaty torso. I may also be plucking at said garment, trying to puff it out and away from my skin. Just leave me alone while I'm doing this, would you? If I can sit quietly like this for several minutes once I'm back in air conditioning, then we need never know about all that sweat.

To avoid the Dance, some men take to wearing undershirts. I've resorted to this on occasion myself, in situations in which I really really really did not want to appear a sweaty wreck. But it's troublesome, and even hotter in the long run, of course, since you've got an extra layer of clothing, plus you need to wear a tie, as I can't quite countenance the practice of just letting your undershirt stick out there at your neckline for all to see.

Anyway, I don't very often let myself progress beyond Stage 3 (there are always taxis around) but when I do, watch out . . .

Stage 4: The all-out swamp
I'm going to spare you the details about which bits of me get the sweatiest, and what sticks to what. Suffice it to say that once I've broken a full sweat out on a summertime day in Hong Kong, I'm cooked, so to speak. I can't recover my equilibrium by standing still, or even by taking a few minutes' respite in an air-conditioned building. I need a good long stretch back indoors to regain my Stage 1 condition.

Finally, I wanted to mention a couple of 'special sweats' I've come to know (and loathe) here in Hong Kong:

The Swim-Skuller: You'd think swimming would be the one truly sweat-free form of exercise on offer in a Hong Kong summer, but no. Due perhaps to a combination of my own poor swimming form, the bathwater temperature of most Hong Kong swimming pools, and the toasty ambient air temperature, I find I break out into a uniquely awful, if highly localized, sweat on the back of my skull whenever I swim laps using the freestyle stroke. The solution? The breaststroke, or maybe I should rinse my head by learning to do those nifty somersault turns real swimmers use (not likely, that).

The Toddler Trundle: Before you're a parent, no one tells you how hot children are. Believe me: if you ever need to cradle a sleeping two-year-old on an unairconditioned Hong Kong bus in summertime, you'll know just what I mean, especially when you hear the sucking sound produced when you eventually peel her off you!