Last week, I spent an abnormal amount of time naked. It was my first time at a Korean Spa, endearingly referred to by my friends as “the naked spa.” I had known such places existed, but had never actually been to one. They are common in many cultures, but I imagine many Americans (particularly my family) might be shocked to know I went to such a place. So before you imagine something scandalous, let me tell you a bit what it is like.
When you walk into the naked spa (It has a name, but I don’t know what it is because it is written in Korean) smiling faces charge $15 to your debit card and hand you a locker key and your appropriately colored spa uniform– pink for women, grey for men. If you are female, you enter the female locker area and are promptly faced with more naked female bodies than you have ever seen in one place. At least this was my experience. You then go to your locker and disrobe. From the locker area you go to the spa area. You put your issued clothes into a little cubby, then proceed to a community shower area where you shower and then head to the area were there are several hot, medium, and cold pools and wet and dry saunas.
I did this with my friend Kim. While she is one of my closest friends, we had never exactly been around each other totally nude, much less carried on full heartfelt conversations! We went from pool to pool, soaking alongside grandmas and little girls, big ladies and tiny little ladies. We were the only non-Koreans there at that time, which we both acknowledged helped us with our self-consciousness. Honestly, after a few minutes, I think I may have forgotten I was naked!
As we mused about the experience while still in it, we observed how rare it is among many women in our culture to know what any other woman’s body looks like besides their own. It is sad to say, and even sadder to acknowledge that I had never even considered this until after my experience at the spa, that I, an actual real woman, thought women looked like what they look like when photographed for magazines. I never would have said that consciously, but I was only able to see it when I was surrounded by women who looked nothing like that, not one! I am amazed at this realization!
Female bodies come in so many different shapes and sizes, but none of them look like what the media portrays. I seriously did not see a single one. I feel awe, surprise, and relief. I am glad we wear clothes, but it was sure good for me to engage in a zero pieces project for a few hours.