Keeping Your Dignity at the Korean Spa

FROM THE DESK OF: Aiza

Let me start with a fact: I am not the type of person that freely walks around naked around other women. During middle and high school PE, I would try not to expose too much skin around my classmates. Even still today, I am shy changing clothes in front of my own sister. With that said, a Korean spa experience literally forces me to step out of my boundaries and free my inhibitions.

Trust me, I have looked for a nearby Korean spa that would allow me to use at least my bathing suit, but the local spas in Los Angeles emphasize true tradition. Further, it seems all other women in the whole place is super comfortable with their nakedness except me.

I thought after 2 visits to the Korean spa that I was finally ready for the body scrub treatment. I pictured myself relaxing in a warm tub of water filled with rose petals surrounded by candlelight and aromatherapy scents. Someone would then come in and use a soft loofah to scrape away layers of dead skin resulting in a baby soft glow.

I was so wrong.

When you pay the entrance fee to the Korean spa, you are given a towel, a lock and told to grab a pair of shorts and T-shirt to wear around the facility. The spa outfit is one of the most unflattering attires. It reminds me of my 7th grade gym class uniform and once I put it on, memories of my awkward pre-teen years instantly surface.

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Korean spa essentials: towel, locker key, and The Uniform.

Before going to the body scrub treatment, the spa staff asks that you sit in the Jacuzzi for 15 minutes. I build up my courage, leave my PE outfit in the locker, take my one body towel and wrap it around myself. I enter this large room with multiple Jacuzzis and showers. Everyone is naked so I am desperately trying to avoid all eye contact but also not compare the different body shapes and sizes around me.

As I said before, I am not a type that is at all comfortable with being naked so I try and find an empty Jacuzzi just for me. Of course, the Jacuzzi temperature is freakin’ hot. Since the temperature is so hot, I had to gradually walk my awkward self into the 3.5-foot pool of water. I linger on the first couple steps (naked) and eventually rush in because I’m so embarrassed to be standing in knee deep water full on naked in front of a room of other women. I actually never been in a pool naked before so I work hard to relax in the Jacuzzi and try to convince myself that I can “embrace the moment.”

Next thing I know, five other women of various ages decide to share MY jaccuzzi. There are three other empty Jacuzzis in this spa and for some reason I’m a magnet that everyone wants to just sit all naked with me in some hot water.

I try to act cool for the 7 minutes I’m in the Jacuzzi. However, because I’m so short, I am eye level with other women’s vaginas and breasts as they linger on the steps waiting to enter the tub. I decide I can’t take anymore of this torture, jump out, grab my body towel and dry myself off. I find what looks like a stack of towels on a shelf so I throw my soiled towel into a bin of other soiled and dirty towels.

I take the towel from the shelf and in horror realize the stacks of towels are only made up of small hand towels. Not body towels. I can’t find a body towel anywhere. So now, I am forced to use a hand towel to cover my entire body. I grab two hand towels attempting miserably to cover my breast and another to cover frontal private parts. While trying to maintain my dignity and cover myself, I am walking around the spa area with two small hand towels. My worst 7th grade naked nightmare came true.

Trying to still maintain whatever cool factor I have left, I find a seat and wait for my body scrub appointment. Since I only have two towels with me, I use one to cover a seat and the other over my lap. No choice but to just let my small breasts hang out in front of everyone. Torture.

My appointment time finally comes around and this Korean non-English speaking woman steps out of this back room wearing big ole’ grandma underwear and a bra. That’s it. That’s her uniform. Not a bathing suit but some cheap underwear and bra. All the workers are wearing a big ole’ underwear and bra.

She leads me through what feels like a gigantic shower stall filled of naked women each getting a scrub down and splashed with water. Water splashing everywhere! I am told to lay face down on what I can only describe as a massage bed made out of slip and slide material. I don’t think these “beds” are disinfected in any way so not sure what kind of left over bodily funk crawled up my body during my own body scrub.

The body scrub treatment is rough, shocking and unexpected. To rinse off, multiple buckets of water are thrown all over you so bodily dirt just constantly floats nearby. I just hope it was my own body dirt and not residue from the customer right before me. No conversation takes place about what to expect. No question asking if you are comfortable; just harsh scrubbing and buckets of water splashing you down.

The scrub finished pretty quickly and I’m left dazed and confused. I get up off the slip and slide bed and specifically ask for a towel (they don’t offer one!). With irritation (coupled with amusement?) I’m given two hand towels and forced to somehow cover myself as I embarrassingly walk back to the dressing room. At this point, I didn’t even care anymore because whatever dignity I had left was scrubbed and washed off me.

For the record: I did leave the Korean spa with baby soft skin.

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