first I was like, No way! Forget it! I’m not taking off my clothes in
front of all those old ladies. And I meant it too. Finally Mom got fed up
and left me in the changing room, and eventually I got undressed and
followed her in, holding the stupid little cloth towel in front of me
and wanting to die. I just remember keeping my eyes on my feet and feeling my face turn
bright red when I caught sight of somebody’s nipple by mistake.”
Well let me tell you, today, I’ve gone through all those emotions and more. Today, I went with two friends to SpaWorld. It’s not a “spa” like a fancy 5-star hotel spa, but rather a spa like a bath-house, no frills, no shame, check your vanity at the door Korean style bathhouse! For $40 (or cheaper with a Groupon) you get a 12 hour access to this 24-7-365 establishment. There’s a pool area where nudity is required and then there’s the poultice area where you are clothed in these awful yellow-orange prison-like suits in which nobody looks good. Did I mention the nudity requirement? Gratefully, that area is single-sex. But still! When my friend told me this I had to remind her that I did not go to boarding school in Ghana. Standing around naked talking to my friends is not my thing. Furthermore, while I do have three sisters, walking around the home naked is not me either. In fact, I remember in my early days of living alone, I would tie a wrapper over my naked body if I had to go from one room to another. It’s that serious.
We arrive and I’m totally freaking out yet trying hard not to think about my impending trauma. We check in and are given a locker bracelet. This key unlocks a small shoe locker in the lobby which you can’t unlock until after you settle your bills. It also unlocks a bigger locker in the dressing room where you disrobe. Unlike Nao in the book, I didn’t have a “stupid little cloth towel” to hold in front of me to “hide my sex”. I just got butt-naked with the exception of my locker bracelet and walked into the pool area. Yes of course I was very self-conscious but you know I’m blind without my glasses and I had decided not to wear my contacts for fear of infection of my precious eyes. It’s enough that I have to walk around barefoot!
So this is the way to bathe. You walk in, butt-naked remember, take a shower to clean off any dirt and shampoo your hair. Then you have your choice of the big bade pool, wet/dry saunas, and smaller hot/cold pools. I admit, in less than a minute I was comfortable with the nudity. It helped that I was blind too! The bade pool has water-blasting massage stations that spray high-pressure water onto various body parts. And when I say various, I mean there is a jet that blows up from below into your hou-haa/vajayjay area (ok fine, perineum) and you are just like “Oooh!” I only lasted in the cold pool maybe a couple minutes and I was out but the hot pools were fun. We signed up for a body scrub and massage and it is recommended that you soak in the hot tubs at least 30 minutes prior to soften things up.
Since we had 3-4 hours to kill before our scrub-down, we showered, put on our prison outfits and went to the poultice area. I had a mango boba tea that was made out of powder, ie. not fresh, and was not worth the $6 I paid for it. I spent much of the time there just napping, but I did check out the Red Clay Ball Sauna room which was nice and came out with a small red clay ball lodged in my right ear. Great! Luckily, it’s not that small so it didn’t travel up my ear canal. That would not have been pleasant. I didn’t like this part as much. It wasn’t totally quiet such that I would be able to really get into a book, nor was it comfortable to nap. Worse, on the TV screen was splayed the breaking news of the day which just dampened my soul – the officers involved in the murder of Tamir Rice will not be indicted. Heavy heart because black boys in America don’t get the benefit of the doubt of being children let alone innocent children. But I digress. I will not be making this a social commentary post.
By this time, I’ve gotten over my initial trauma of being naked in front of other naked women. Ha! But there’s more! Ha! I was about to be man-handled, tossed & pruned by an agima, a little Korean woman in black lingerie. I’m talking about my body scrub and massage. So the massage area is back in the pool area and is open for all to see. I’m back to being butt-naked and I’m told to lay down on the bench. She places a towel over my eyes, and I think to myself, Great! I’ll just zone out here, and you do you thing. In total darkness, I wait for the assault to begin. It begins with a pan of hot water thrown over my body. Nice actually! Then she starts to scrub. Rough! I feel like I’m being scraped with the coarsest of sandpapers. I’m thinking, what the hell scrub is she using? Himalayan rock? As I try to zen off, she starts to laugh, says something in Korean to another attendant, then lifts the towel off my face and reaches for my hand to make me feel the mounds of dead skin she’s scrubbing off me in the process saying to me “Pretty Face, Dirty Skin!” and laughing some more. Dirty skin?! Now, hold up! I am not dirty! I just don’t attack my skin with such abrasiveness on a regular basis. And besides, I have dry skin. It’s to be expected! Furthermore, I had been in hot water for hours. I am properly pruned! Seriously, if I were lighter in colour, I’m sure I would have been as red as Rudolph’s nose with all the scrubbing she was doing. She was scrubbing me to death, flipping me over to my side, to my back, splaying my legs apart, my arms to the side, getting into all crevices! Then she sent me off to shower and steam in the dry sauna. Did my skin feel smooth? Yes! But really? I had to double check that I was still brown and not red, you know making sure I had not been exfoliated down to muscle. Goodness! The only thing lacking was a dental cleaning, colonics, and a douche then I would have been squeaky clean inside and out. Bottom-line is if mounds of dead skin gross you out, then maybe a Korean scrub-down is not for you, but if you want your skin to feel like that of a baby then suffer the torture!
Next was the massage. Pretty much with the same vigor and lack of regard to any modesty. I felt like I was getting tenderized and marinated to be put in the oven like a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. She didn’t knead me. She pounded me. She got on my back on all fours and used her elbows to work my shoulders and her knees to work my butt-cheeks. I was afraid she was going to ride me like a horse! May I remind you she is in black lingerie and I’m naked. No boundaries here! Again she flipped me back to front and back again, arranging me like a rag doll so she could get to where she wanted to get to, I was splayed I tell you! At times, I felt she was frightfully close to my lady-bits. She may as well have put powder in my nether-regions and put a diaper on me like I was a baby!
As a bathe myself
I pray with all beings
that we can purify body and mind
and clean ourselves inside and out
– Jiko, A Tale for the Time Being