• Jess D

Storytime: Embracing Nudity at the Korean Spa

Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic: NUDITY! On this occasion, how many of you can say that your body is your first love above everyone and anything else? Or, how many of you spend your time in the mirror wishing your body looked like that Instagram model you follow?

People have different relationships with their body. Some people prance around naked any opportunity they can. They have no problem disrobing in front of friends or at the gym. Others shower with their clothes on, for the thought of seeing their own naked body makes them disgusted (sad but true). Compared to the Europeans I've met, who don't sexualize being naked, I feel that the Americans I know don't feel as comfortable being naked around other people. Everyone has their own reasons but truly appreciating your body seems quite hard for some people.

Growing up, I've always been shy about even looking at myself in the mirror naked, let alone be naked around other people. I even perfected a way of changing clothes without anyone seeing any inch of my naked body in the locker room. Even after swim practice, my team mates and I wouldn't dare make eye contact as we got out of our swimsuits, and would promptly ran out of the locker room and continued the conversations we had started on the pool deck.

If you told my high school self from then that years later she would voluntarily be naked in a place around other naked women, she would probably tell you you're out of your f-ing mind (high school Jess had a potty mouth just like grown-up Jess and she wouldn't care that you were an adult either...[maybe she would a little]).

Blast from the past of high school Jess

Here's the story about how being exposed helped me on the road to loving my body better:

So out of the blue and with the desire to go get a massage without paying 15 billion dollars for it (or me being cheap because massages aren't that expensive in Shanghai), I decided to check out the Korean spa that people in Shanghai are always talking about.

70 RMB (a bit over 10 dollars) which is usually 100 RMB (just under 20 dollars, but who knows, the rate is always changing), they took my shoes and led me down a dim-lighted stairway and pointed me towards to women's locker room. As I entered the locker room, my eyes met ASS. Just straight ass and titties and naked people

NO ONE told me that you would be naked inside the rooms. NO ONE. At least 5 people told me that Korean spas are awesome and that I should try it sometime. In hindsight, I could have done research myself, but I heard the words 'Korean' and 'spa' together so I figured it would be great skin care and relaxation. I almost backed out and was willing to waste the money I spent just to enter (again mind you only about 10 dollars for 24 hours of relaxation but well.)

I found myself a locker and put my bag inside first realizing that the inevitable was about to happen...I would also have to be naked and around other people.

I started to disrobe, cherishing every layer I had on and finally placing my underwear onto my pile of clothes. I tried covering myself with a little hand towel provided, but I probably looked sillier trying to cover myself with a little piece of fabric. I just didn’t want anyone seeing my scars.

I tried walking into the pool area with the fabric shield but ended up fighting with a spa attendant (ayi) I came to grips with just being naked around other people. There was no where to hide, nothing to hide behind, and just me, my scars, and my naked body in front of the whole world.

My thoughts were going haywire: Everyone is staring at me, they’re judging me, they’re looking at my body and thinking it’s ugly. Of course, these thoughts stem from what my brain has formed as what the societal norm of a body in combination with being stared at in China. I’ve traveled to quite a few Asia countries and no one stares at you like they do in China. Yes, I’ve learned that it’s more so inquisitive than judgmental but there is something about the stares plus the whispers in a language people think you don’t understand that makes it quite daunting.

But, when you are naked, at your most vulnerable, all of your logical thinking goes out the window.

As my brain was going nuts, I noticed the woman around me where just minding their own business. As the only black person in the room, of course I would stand out. But, no one was fixated on me. I probably looked weird trying to jump into a pool quickly instead of just walking around calmly… like you’re suppose to do in day spa.

What I also noticed is how comfortable the other women were about being naked. I didn’t get the same sense of panic from the other women around me. Obviously there were many more Chinese/Asian women but there also some other (what I can assume as European) women as well. I noticed their sense of comfort and ease just talking to one another and enjoying the relaxing environment.

I think it was at that moment that something clicked in me and I just realized that my body is my body and I have to love it the way it is. Yes, sometimes I would like to see more of my abs and sometimes I'm not comfortable showing my scars, but my body is mine and it's unique.

After this, being there actually became a relaxing experience. I wouldn't say I was prancing around in all my naked glory, but I did enjoy all the amenities with ease: I got a massage, facial, and scrub, which was also an experience because all the massage ladies' uniforms were a black bra and underwear (or no bra which I guess was an option, I don't know). There were all kinds of options like cucumber, milk, and egg masks and massages, and loud chatter between the workers as the lady beat into my back.

After all the soaking, scrubbing and nakedness, I walked around in the facility in these pajama like robes and enjoyed cold rooms, hot rooms with TVs, SUPER hot rooms, napping holes, and food. It was really an eye-opening day of self discovery and relaxation.

Do I suggest going to a Korean spa? Hell yes. Not just to relax yourself within 24 hours but also to shock yourself into body positivity.

Do you see yourself going to a Korean spa? Have you already been? What was your favorite part?