How familiar are you with the Korean Spa system/process/universe?
It’s impossible to describe but here’s me trying in a piece I wrote about my first experience. The title is How The Naked Spa Changed My Clothed Life. Bold statement, and apparently easily reversed. Turns out body confidence fleets because I wrote the below post yesterday AM after my Wednesday night spa sesh.
So, once more, here are thoughts on the positive power of the Korean Spa body scrub. Will I write this post every year for the rest of my life? Maybe!
Los Angeles is Korean spa heaven (shockingly not the name of a Korean spa!). My friend Carley and I go frequently to a spot on 6th near Marisopa that I’m not willing to mention because it’s never crowded and I want it to stay that way. I’d rather tell you my secret parking spot in Santa Monica for beach access (Pico at Ocean opposite Cha Cha Chicken), which gives you a sense of how K spa’s rate in Los Angeles.
There are many things one can do at a K spa including but not limited to eat a giant, delicious Korean meal, get a manicure, write a screenplay (truly, they have quiet rooms with heated floors and lovely seating cushions), lay on a bed of pink salt in a 90 degree room, lay on a bed of clay balls in a 100 degree room, lay in a pool of your own sweat in a 115 degree room, eat a small meal of salted eggs hard-boiled in that 115 degree room.
And – and here’s where the women’s lib comes in – get your entire naked body scrubbed to a slick by a lovely Korean woman.
Medical reason: our bodies collect dead/dry skin that benefits from being scrubbed off at the regular. At the K spa you see women using a special type of rag/sponge/scrubber on themselves/each other to prevent the collection of said dead skin. I have several of these but always forget to use them in the shower, plus I’m not nearly as good at the process as the lovely Korean women who do it professionally. And I mean professionally. To get graphic: piles of dead skin come off your body in the form of grey/brown gunk. Don’t worry, there’s a towel over your eyes so you don’t ever see it – unless you’re like me and you look. I always forget to weigh myself after a K spa scrub. I’m certain I’m a lb. lighter.
But I’d argue there’s a why, psychologically speaking.
I went 29 years without having a stranger clean my naked body in a room full of other strangers cleaning other strangers’ naked bodies. Just didn’t seem like something I needed in my life. I, like 99.999999% of women (slash humans?), am self-conscious about my body. I think it’s weird in certain areas. I think it’s gross in others. I get the concept that the female form is beautiful but I’ve never had strong feelings of pride for mine. Except for maybe my ankles. They always end up looking like I want them to look in a shoe, which feels like a real win given how much I like shoes.
So most times when I get a “Korean-style body polish” (official terminology) I am nervous and uncomfortable. I just keep thinking what does this woman think about my thighs? My butt? My boobs? My stomach? My skin? I don’t have the best skin, ugh! She’s seeing that so so close!
And then there is the second layer self-consciousness about how I am performing at the task of lying there like I’m nervous and uncomfortable. Am I doing it like everyone else? Does she think I’m nervous? Am I nervous?? I am! She knows! I’m a feminist fraud!
My strategy was always to get in, shut up, endure thoughts, leave. Massages are for enjoyment. Scrubs are for losing a pound of dead skin and then running your fingers up and down your silky-smooth forearm all day for a week.
But I’m trying to see things through a more empowered lens these days. I think that whole you can’t find love until you love yourself theory might apply to the female body re: power and respect. Feels wrong to say respect my body! when I don’t respect my own body. It’s not a straight line but there’s a point A to point B, no?
So last night I approached my K spa scrub with new eyes. I didn’t wear a towel into the scrub room; I walked in naked. I didn’t avoid eye contact with the lovely Korean woman dressed in her uniform of silk lace underwear (a mystery of the K spa even greater than how really do you hard boil an egg in a sweat lodge?); I looked right at her and said, “hello, nice to meet you.” Then I looked at her body. It was so different than mine. It was so different than all the other bodies in the room. They all had beautiful parts and parts that aren’t quite perfect. They were all connected to heads with faces that said different things. One woman looked a lot like I probably used to look upon entering the K spa scrub room – eager to leave.
But the look on my K spa employees face was warm and inviting. She took me by the arm and said, “hello, Happy New Year. You good?” She helped me up onto the table and gently patted my back like you might pat the back of a baby while you’re swaying it to sleep. And then, with great care and precision and a smile on her face (I snuck some looks under the eye-towel) she scrubbed my entire body clean. This might be pushing it – she might be an expert actress with years of happy body scrubbing face under her belt – but I thought she looked proud, like she knew she was doing something healthy and wonderful for me. And so I turned all the noise in my head off. I decided to think about a new TV project I’m developing. I did drop into my body is gross! mode when she told me to turn onto my side and I realized my butt was directly in the face of the woman behind me. But then I laughed. Two naked butts in a room where we paid women in black lingerie to clean us! HA!
Long story short I think you should try a Korean spa scrub – if not for all the dead gross skin on your body then most certainly for all the dead wrong thoughts in your mind.
[Please know I fought that cheesy ending thought for a very long time but couldn’t come up with anything better. Good day.]