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Au naturale

March 24, 2013

Yesterday, I finally made out to the local, traditional Korean spa/bathhouse that is renowned in this area.  With stressor upon stressor entering into my life these past few months, it was just what the doctor ordered.  It was about four hours of total relaxation, ending with a complete scrub down and massage, mini-facial, and hair treatment.  I went home with an empty mind and a body without muscle tension. What more do you need.

But this experience was also an encounter with America’s complex on nudity.  One of the reasons it to me so long to get to the spa is that I had taken a few pauses reading some of of the sensationalistic online reviews.   Review after review discussing how awkward and shocking some of the nakedness is or in some cases criticizes other approaches of the spa’s services.   A few months ago, I found a few good friends who needed relaxation as much as I did and who were free of “naked issues” and we planned our day.

In reality, the place was anything but shocking.  There were only a few parts of the spa (all separated by gender) where everyone were required to be completely nude.  And then you are around women of all shapes and sizes and it becomes crystal clear how much mass has altered the image of what a real woman is.  They have turned us in to something akin to the Stepford Wives, images in media often portraying a one shape fits all woman.  We were one of many groups of friends communing and relaxing.   The most endearing moments were the ones where I saw two old ladies together — friends for a lifetimes — catching up on the latest news, taking turns washing each others backs, taking care of each other.   Or the grandmas with their little granddaughters sleeping on their shoulders.  The policy wonk in me has to believe that this is protective, helping little girls learn early that they should be comfortable with their own bodies and that develop bonds with women is healthy.

My own opinion is that Americans have sexualized nudity; we think we should be completely alone in our nudeness or engaged in a sexual act with somebody.  We are more accepting of the notion that someone would have a gun harnessed to our waists than to be comfortable with our own humanness.   Don’t get me wrong, I am appalled at the pervasiveness of pornography, but we have to separate those images from our just being and even real sexuality.

A day after — I feel the heat in my head and eyes from my serious sauna action.  I’ve peed like every two hours as the toxins are flushed from my body.   Lots of water with lemon and honey and green tea for me today.   But my friends and I are also busy plotting a regular quarterly trip to the spa.  Because — as I said before, this is not an unorthodox experience.  If anything, it’s conventional and essential for our health.

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