What Does a Midweek Fourth of July Say About God? and Other Questions

Today in the questions of summer: Dealing with face sweat; telling the truth about biking to work; the ethics of going shirtless; what does a middle-of-the-week Fourth of July tell us about God?; stealing from bars. 

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Last week we introduced you to our new column, Sweatiquette, in which I endeavor to answer your summer questions of ethics and etiquette ranging from how to cope with excessive sweat to day-to-night fashion selections for the office and home to your most pressing summer-share dilemmas, and more. (Peeing in the pool is never OK.) Today in questions of summer, we tackle biking to work, face sweat, the ethics of going shirtless, questions of God and the Fourth of July, and bar theft.

What's the rule for bike sweat?

Here's a BURNING (ha) question I have. I ride my bike to work. In the summer I wear shorts to the office to stay cool (and if you don't like it, you can kiss my fashionably shorted ass) but I still get sweaty on the commute. Is this something I have to explain to people? Should I apologize for any stench that might happen as a result? What's the rule for bike sweat? Brian Moylan

It was Julia Child, we believe, who said famously that a cook should never apologize for a bad meal because it puts the burden on the person eating the meal to have to make the cook feel better, which means that person has to either lie or simply play along with competent chef who wants compliments. We think that bike sweat may be much the same. Everyone who has eyes that see can see that you're sweaty, and that it's because you biked to work (presuming you bring your bike into the office, and if you don't, don't you worry about it out there tied up alone all day?). If you apologize, you force them to say something pointless and inane, like, "Oh, you're not that smelly," "You're so good, you bike to work!" or perhaps even to lie: "I'm thinking about doing that, too, what route do you take?"

Most offices, alas, don't have showers these days, so you're on your own to combat the sweat (see below). We suggest bringing along deodorant, and possibly a change of shirt (or bike shirtless—also below). One indisputable rule of summer: Take regular showers.

On face sweat and other environmental concerns:

Is it OK to wipe your face with bar napkins while you're waiting for your drink? Francesca Stabile

It may be OK, i.e., you won't get tossed from the bar, but it's not your best option. Instead, you should carry a small pack of face wipes, and use them to sop your sweaty brow outside of the bar before you even go in. The cool air then tingling against your slightly damp but freshened cheeks will feel ever so invigorating, and you can enjoy your cold beer without fear of those nubbly white napkin-turds clinging to your face.

If you're not the type to carry around packs of wipes (and frankly, who is?) you may alternatively use your cold drink to cool down, pressing it alluringly against your face between sips and sighing with great pleasure. This is a conversation starter! Or, in a pinch, wipe your face with your hand and then wipe the sweat on your tote bag, surreptitiously. Resist the urge to wipe on someone else's, even if they've gone to the bathroom and seem like kind of a jerk. Don't drink their drink, either.

Free the shirtless! One reader brings up a topic for which we can create our own associated questions. She writes:

This is directed at the mens: I do not care HOW hot you are (both from a temperature standpoint and a physical one) or how jacked you are, jogging with your shirt off is gross. So, for that matter, is playing tennis with your shirt off on public courts.  

Maybe it's acceptable to jog while at the beach, and on the beach, topless, but in the City please keep your shirt on. —Amy Hecht

A side note for the future, readers and etiquette puzzlers: Please ask your questions as questions. This is not a place for you to rant about your own personal beliefs. This is serious business. We'll make an exception for this week, as this question intrigues us. Related, is "mens" an approved term, or does it belittle men? Fodder for future debate!

But on to the shirtless dilemma. Actually, we think that people don't take their tops off enough in this lonely world. Why not stop hiding behind that cloth and thread we call a shirt altogether? Are we so hitched to the drab buggies of our Puritan ancestors that we must cover each little body part so protectively? (We draw the line at pants, however.) But in support of gender equality—going topless is legal for women in New York City, after all, even if not everyone knows that—we support the implementation of a nationwide shirtless law. And maybe shoes, too! Signs should say "Shirts, shoes: No business." Imagine the good this would do for society: Less need to wash clothes. Less status-based one-upsmanship and showing off of those brand name attire labels up top. Fewer decisions in the morning over what to wear! No more terrible surprises when you realize the object of your affection, when unclad, has a giant tattoo of the Tasmanian devil peeing on a tree on his or her stomach! This also will be very good for the sunscreen industry, because all of these pale naked torsos need some sort of protection from the UV rays, and it will eradicate the scourge of the "farmer's tan." We should all be more, not less, comfortable with our God-given anatomies, no? We say yes, jacked or not. And who does not adore a nice, sweaty naked-body embrace in a heat wave?

On religious holidays, or lack thereof:

If God put Fourth of July on a Wednesday, he either hates me or doesn't exist, right? —Anonymous

Who says God is a he? But, yes, it would be easy to jump to this conclusion. Keep in mind, however, that God did not make the calendar. That is a human creation, so while he or she may be laughing at our little mishap next week—which means, either, you have a random day off mid-week and will have to celebrate your Fourth on Tuesday night so that you're not too hungover on Thursday, or you will have to be hungover at work on Thursday, or you will be forced to lie and call in sick on Thursday, or you will have to take Thursday and Friday off to enjoy yourself over this important American holiday, or, maybe, your office gave you the whole week off anyway but imagine the loss of American productivity this will mean!?—(s)he did not actually have a hand in it. We can only blame ourselves and the Gregorian calendar for this mess, kids.

Is stealing from bars wrong? What if it was only two drinks and it was by accident and now my head really hurts?

Last night, I left my number for a cute bartender after he left the bar (his shift was over) but then got so drunk I think I forgot to pay my bill. I got a call from his manager, who clearly snooped and looked at my note, asking me to pay up. Do I have to? —Asking for a friend

Oh, God, this is mortifying. But one great thing about summer is you can pass your blush of embarrassment off for a sunburn. I suggest pretending this never happened, and never again leaving your number for a bartender. That's like hitting on the coat-check girl. On the plus side, go you! Free drinks are always a welcome summertime treat. And, yeah, people who work at bars should not look at notes left for other bartenders. Doctor-patient privilege.  Update: Call the place and pay up or they will hunt you down.

Next week I will be away, taking one of those summer vacations we all know and love (please don't ask me to where), but I will be accepting questions for the week after. Get in touch.

*These questions are sourced from email submissions and also, my own ethics-question-addled brain. This has been deemed ethical.

Inset photos by Shutterstock/Diego Cervo; Shutterstock/Publio Furbino; Shutterstock/Luna Piena.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.