As part of this year’s Birthday Week celebration, I decided to spend a fair portion of last Thursday afternoon naked in public.
I thought that might get your attention. However, before you go thinking me and my methods immoral, I’ll explain to you that said nudity was enjoyed within the confines of the women’s wet spa area of Jeju Sauna in Duluth, GA. The sauna itself is a fabulous and unique experience, and if you’re ever in the vicinity, I highly suggest you try it. A gemstone sauna (one of seven bespoke theme rooms in the main community area), heated floors, excellent Korean food, and a reflexology massage that made my husband swoon are only a few of the treats that await you for a very reasonable price.
One of Jeju’s featured attractions is an extensive, gender-divided wet spa area, a playground of plunge pools, steam and sauna rooms, and body treatment stations. For several reasons related to the spa and its offerings, this area is meant to be enjoyed nude (think rotating from the steam room to a whirlpool to a full body scrub on a plastic covered table).
Now I was the girl who never showered in public in high school gym class. Before you consider me in any way gross, please understand that I was also the girl who did not like to participate in high school gym class, and who therefore very rarely stirred up any level of perspiration. I’ve always been extremely modest about the generous curves with which God has built me, and sharing every square inch of my topography with anyone not myself or my spouse has never been high on my “happy times” list.
That said, the embarrassment has ebbed over time–I mean, let’s be real here, once you’ve had a baby and a mammogram, you get a little less precious about your body parts. Given that fact, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be too shy to enjoy the full Jeju experience. I expected I could take a deep breath, shed my spa-issue uniform, build a bridge, and get over it. I just didn’t expect that I would end up celebrating it.
My self-consciousness lasted all of thirty seconds. Truly. I was in my birthday suit, yes, but so was everyone else. No one was looking at me, sizing me up, evaluating my colors and curves. It was a field of radical acceptance and complete equality. We all just were. As we were.
And as a I began to walk around more freely, to literally grow more comfortable in my own skin, this experience began to shift from base to beautiful. All around me were bodies–tall, short, pale, dark, each with a completely unique shape. Each with a completely beautiful shape. You see, bodies tell stories, and we wear these stories on our skin, in our gait, in the way in which we move our very limbs. Each of these women was a novel of herself, the time and experience a coat of many colors to be donned proudly.
Two hours into my stay at the wet spa (and after my second of three trips to the herb-scented steam room, thank you very much), I was strolling around the place like I was at the mall–checking out the various treatment stations, hanging out in the whirlpool, even chit-chatting and joking around with the ladies next to me. Every ounce of embarrassment was as far gone as every cell of dry skin on my flesh (thank you, body shampoo). In fact, at one point, as a tall African-American woman passed in front of me, I noticed she had that telltale little lower abdominal pocket just below hip level that shapes itself around an old c-section incision. It’s a physiological “give,” if you will. And I thought to myself only this: “she and I are the same.”
I’ll go back to Jeju (as frequently as time and budget allow, most likely), and I’ll sit in that gemstone room and consider both my own uniqueness and the oneness that I’ve found in this community of women around me. And then I’ll go hang out with my sisters by the pool and in that steam room before I bliss out to an hour-long foot massage. I can only hope the same epiphany is happening over in the guys’ wet spa. I’ll ask the spouse as soon as he comes out of the Salt Room.