I've historically considered myself pretty comfortable with being nude. Especially as I have gotten older, I have learned to not be ashamed of the stretch marks, the cellulite and all the other things that us women are taught are distasteful and unattractive. But it wasn't until a recent trip to a Korean Spa that I realized I was still clinging to some major hang ups around being nude and that I was not as comfortable in my own skin as I thought I was.
When my girlfriend invited me to go to a Korean Spa for her birthday celebration, I was excited. I packed up my swimsuit and a change of clothes (so we could go out to eat afterwards) and was ready for a day of self care. Images of myself in a hot tub with my girls sipping on champagne, I was prepared for a day of bonding and relaxation. Little did I know, that the bathing suit I packed would not only be not needed, it would not be allowed.
Upon checking in to the spa, the sweet Korean woman gave us a tour. She showed us our lockers and as my friend started to bring out her bathing suit, the woman very kindly but firmly stated that bathing suits are not allowed. We all looked at each other a little shocked. Ummmm... Trying to seem cool with being totally nude in front of my friends and a bunch of strangers, I put on a brave face. I showered (as instructed) and then slid into a nice hot tub fully nude and surrounded by a plethora of nude strangers.
Next, I was called for my massage and was surprised to see that the massage table was out in the open in a common area and that the table had plastic all over it. How strange, I thought. Why plastic? I soon found out. Before I knew it, I was totally naked, face down on an oily plastic table being scrubbed down with oil and a loofah so hard I almost couldn't tolerate it. Clumps of skin fell to the side of me. Oh man. I reminded myself that I would be so shiny and smooth afterwards, so I hung in there and gritted through the discomfort. The rough scrubbing turned into a comfortable and vigorous scrub as I became more accustomed to the feeling. Meanwhile, my body was being flipped around and moved like a wet rag. My legs were spread eagle for the world to see as the woman scrubbed my inner thigh. My breasts were scrubbed and massaged in a way I had never experienced before. Soon a big tub of warm water was poured over me and I was clean and refreshed.
But there was more. Now the massage began as I continued to be put into awkward positions. No body part was left unattended. The masseuse came close to touching my genitals, but never did. I felt conflicted by a sense of relaxation and anxiety as I knew that all the female strangers around me could see parts of my body that only my husband has seen. I felt like a new born baby scrubbed and cared for my this woman. I slowly began to submit to the experience and let go of the anxiety and fear in my head. I was fully aware that I could stop the massage at any time. I knew I was in control, but I made a conscious decision to relax and let go of any embarrassment, shame or anxiety I felt around what my body looked like to others. I allowed her to flop my body around and massage me as she saw fit.
When the experience was over I felt clean, refreshed and my body was shiny like a brand new car. I felt good. I felt relaxed. And I was also surprised and amused. Why was I so anxious and uncomfortable? I thought I had worked through issues of body shame years ago. I realized at the spa that women's bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. That my body is mine and I love it for how it is- with all its so-called imperfections. I know my body is strong. My body has given birth to three children. It has the strength to ride equestrian horses. It has the ability to give me pleasure and it also has the ability to communicate to me when I am in physical or emotional pain. I am thankful for the Korean spa experience. It pointed out to me that my body is not just a sexual object. It serves so many functions. And I feel proud of myself for moving one step closer to accepting and loving my body as is.