Sweat Happens
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa (Apr 2010)

            As the complex rhythms wash over me through the open door of my favorite salsa dance club, I know that my fellow addicts – the DJ, the instructors, and several of the dancers – will know me by face, if not by name. Names are useless here anyway. Who can hear them? Besides, people here are more easily identified by persona. Let’s go around the room and look at some of my prospective dance partners, shall we? Remember Sesame Street’s “Who are the people in your neighborhood” song? Well, I will show you who are the people at the salsa club. At the salsa club. At the sal-sa-club, oh….

            The Eager Beginner. The signs of addiction are already clear. Never misses a lesson. Many guys quit because it is not easy to lead a whole song when you only know 2 combinations, yet with humility and determination, he shimmies along the path to mastery.

            Clearly Here To Hit On Women Guy. Totally different from The Eager Beginner, who actually wants to learn. This guy has smarmy written all over him. Poof, begone.

            I Was Never A Beginner Guy. Only deigns to dance with those he deems worthy of his now prodigious skills. A dance snob who has forgotten whence he cometh. Obviously compensating for his very small… car.

            Super-Fun Smiley Advanced Performer Guy. An extraordinary dancer who has a blast with anyone and everyone, and always makes his partner look better than she is. Dancing with him can make anyone’s night, but especially a beginner’s.

            BO Guy. Has no business at an event where people are forced to be in his arms for 3-minute blocks. That’s just inconsiderate.

            I Love This Song Guy. Every song is his favorite song and it shows on his face. It is impossible not to enjoy dancing with him.

            Narcissus. Makes no eye contact with dance partners because he is too busy watching himself in the mirror. When dancing with the female version, hilarity ensues as they miss important cues and crash into each other.

            The Tasmanian Devil. Dances with general disregard for anyone else on a crowded dancefloor. Known to wham partner into other couples. The distant, oblivious cousin of Narcissus.

            Chivalry Is Not Dead Guy. Personally escorts his partner to and from the dancefloor, and recognizes that it is the leader’s job to protect the follower from collisions. I love heem.

            Sunglasses Guy. Sunglasses + indoors + 11pm + poorly lit club = really? I always expect him to trip over something. At least he’s already wearing eye protection.

            The Sprinkler. Rivulets of sweat pour down his face and neck by the end of a song, and good for him for dancing with enthusiasm! However, he doesn’t dry off before asking the next lady to dance. By the following song, his pores are hundreds of little mouths projectile vomiting sweat onto to you, his lucky partner. Occasionally, he is so blind (probably with sweat) to his aqueous state that he does not hesitate to put the lady’s hand directly onto his slick, clammy neck or under his soaked armpit during a combination.

            Towel in Back Pocket Guy. This is a personal preference, but to me there is nothing hotter than a small, clean, folded towel spinning out behind a man as he dances. A fresh, conveniently absorbent T-shirt peeks out from his pressed button-down. In between songs, the towel is briefly put to use before being returned to its gluteal home for the evening. It all says, “Fear not, milady. I, too, detest The Sprinkler, and I am not he.” 

            TIBPG and I both fully accept that when people dance, people sweat. Anyone completely skeeved by this has no place on the dancefloor. But this does not excuse one from considering the comfort of one’s dance partner. If only for safety concerns, should we not make ourselves less slippery? Careening into a table because your arm is too sweaty to hold on to is usually not sexy. Neither is an audible “squish” from your shirt when a hand is pressed into your back.

            I spotted a friend during one typically humid Philadelphia summer night party on the pier. It could not have been clearer that there was no undershirt happening, and nary a towel to be found. Imagine dunking a sheet in a tub of water. Lift it out without wringing it. That is what the back of his shirt looked like from across the floor.

            Much later, a friend and I called it a night and stopped in the ladies room to wash our hands and dry off. The guy saw us heading from there to the exit and walked over. With his arm out. As if to hug me. Fresh, clean and dry me.

            Of course, it would be unspeakably impolite not to accept the arm of Poseidon reaching out to me in friendship despite the sweat cascading down his ears, dripping from his hair. OK, I can do this, I say to myself. I can put my clean, dry arm around Aquaman here. It will just be a second.

            He approached from my right, and squeezed me with his left arm. Squish. He then pulled me closer, saying, "Why are you leaving us?" I realized that this was not, in fact, a quick goodbye hug. My entire, bare right arm was now glued to his back.

            "Oh, ha ha, you know, we have work tomorrow!" Please let me go!

            He pulled me yet closer. "No, no!” he said, with a warm smile. “I've seen you at other clubs later than this!"

            "Heh heh. Not tonight, I guess." Help! HEEEELLLLP!

            "Aw, come on," he says, squeezing harder. My right shoulder is fusing with his armpit. I want to jump into the Delaware.

            Once I convince him that we truly must go and I manage to unstick myself from his torso, I make a straight shot back to the ladies room. While my friend marvels at my ability to rinse my entire arm off in a small sink, my thoughts turn to selling undershirts and little salsa towels with a custom logo: a lawn sprinkler with a red Ghostbusters circle/slash over it. Let’s see if it catches on.

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