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The Rorschach Test Meets Running: Joel Cohen Analyzes Sweat Stains

When it comes to running, I’m lacking in all the most obvious areas – speed, coordination, cardio and shorts that fit.  Instead of dwelling on those faults however, I instead choose to celebrate what I am good at – interpreting sweat.  That’s right, I can recognize images in sweat stains.  It’s an odd gift, sort of like anything bought from one of those magazines on airplanes, although unlike a self-swinging hammock or a garden gnome that’s also a bug zapper, my skill is completely useless. Here’s proof of that now:

Image 1

This one is easy and thus, a great place to start.  In this man’s sweat, I can clearly see a small dog (probably a poodle or a corgi with a bad haircut) running away from a raincloud.  Why was the dog out in the rain?  Has it started raining already?  Is the dog’s name “Mr. Waddles?” All great questions that future sweat scholars will debate for years to come.


Image 2

This one may seem more difficult, but when you’ve been in the sweat-analysis game as long as I have (2 months), it’s a breeze.  The demarcation is light, but still, I clearly see a root vegetable, but not a carrot.  If I was pressed to be more specific, or was called in to testify in court as a sweat expert, I’d guess it’s a turnip or maybe even ginger. Whatever it is, it would be delicious with some chicken.

Image 3

In this stain, I see the late, great Lucille Ball.  I don’t know why Lucy has chosen to present herself to me via this man’s soggy T-shirt, but after working in Hollywood for over 20 years, I also know better than to ever question a celebrity.

Image 4

Finally, in this small stain I see the Fiji islands.  If you’ve been to Fiji, or have access to a map or a computer, you may think these stains don’t look at all like Fiji, but zoom in and you’ll see the little town of Labasa.  Zoom in even more and you’ll see the little market where smart Labasa shoppers buy their goats.

I promised to prove my skill was useless and I think I delivered.  Still, it’s my calling.  So, the next time you finish a run, look at your sweaty shirt and remember, what’s laundry to you, is a masterpiece to me.

Joel Cohen

About the author:
Joel Cohen

Joel Cohen is both an Emmy-winning writer for the “Simpsons” and a slow, graceless runner. Between sweaty bouts of gasping for breath, he wrote the book “How to Lose a Marathon”---available everywhere on April 4, 2017. For more, check out Twitter @loseamathon or Instagram @howtoloseamarathon.