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I look like I’m not enjoying this. I look like I am in need of assistance. I look like a caricature, a stereotype, a cliché.

Yes, this is exactly what you would expect to see when a person of my somewhat fair complexion–a combination of Eastern European, middle European, and Scottish–begins eating spicy foods.

Forget more napkins, this man needs a beach towel and some milk. He is in trouble. He is not gonna make it. Why is he so wet? Did he just come in from the rain?

Whether it be Indian or Mexican. Thai or Chinese, Southern or Southwestern, the result is the same: I am sweating buckets.

But know this: I’m doing just fine.

I am afflicted with a very proactive body reflex. My normal hand-eye reflexes are fine, I would say slightly above average, but far from world class. But the nerves which trigger an axon reflex that begins to stimulate my sweat glands are the reigning, undefeated, undisputed champions of the world.

These glands are so good at what they do, I don’t even need to taste anything spicy.

All that’s needed for them to kick into high gear and start pumping out that semi-salty discharge all over my face and bald head is simply a little whiff.

One sniff is all it takes, sweat falling out of me, perspiration, I look like I’m in pain.

How did this happen to me? I quite enjoy spicy food. Hot sauces are delightful. A can gulp down horseradish by the teaspoon. Peppers, within reason, provide a fun little jolt. The kung-pow? Sometimes I need that!

Alright, this might not be entirely true. I am not a heat freak. I am far from a buccaneering foodie searching for real red hot chili peppers. I don’t know the Scoville scale. The image of the devil on a bottle of hot sauce scares the bejesus outta me. I don’t need all that. I enjoy the experience of tasting my spicy food, not swallowing a lit match.

Having said all that, I swear to you, writing the above paragraph made my head start to sweat.

This is a little concerning. Or do I just need to turn on the air conditioning?

And that head sweat presents a specific problem for me. In every other aspect of my life, the bare naked cranium is exceptionally beautiful and something all people find alluring. It is a blessing, for God only made so many perfect heads. The rest were covered with hair.

And my wonderfully exposed scalp shows off a lovely shaped head that I wouldn’t trade for any other. But in this instance, when confronted with spice, I am at a massive disadvantage. There is no disguising it. I’ve got a situation going on up there.

Ironically enough, this is much like a bad comb-over: When you’re spicy-sweating while bald, everyone sees it and wonders what in the hell is wrong with you.

So how do I address this problem? Diligence, dabbing, and determination.

But really this problem isn’t mine. It is yours. Will you be okay with me not looking okay but being okay?

All I ask is that you do not judge the big guy over at the next table who is dripping from his dome and on his third napkin after five bites by the way he looks. I really am enjoying my meal. Let me eat and perspire, and feel at ease.

This is my burden. This is my curse. But this is my life of spice.

Ben Krimmel

A Baltimore-born writer who has come to realize the best time to eat lunch is 12:37 p.m.

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