Why Every Woman Should Experience a Korean Spa

I recently had my first Korean Spa experience. For an entry fee of $20, I had an unlimited amount of time to enjoy a hot whirlpool, a rejuvenating cold pool, a healing tea pool, a sauna, a steam room, an infrared room, a Himalayan sea salt room, and an invaluable lesson on stereotypes and sisterhood.

To explain a Korean Spa is to simply say that the above amenities are enjoyed naked. I don’t mean naked under a sarong, or naked under a towel. I mean naked like you entered the world four seconds ago. This is how you walk around. All day. The herbal tea station offers nothing to “take off the edge” either, unless chamomile makes you a fearless rock star. But that’s okay. This is a feat to face sober. Sharing a day with naked female strangers is a wonderfully sobering experience that lends clarity to the bond that women hold but rarely recognize – our beautiful selves.

When you’re forced to get naked, the view isn’t always pretty. I’m talking about the psychological view. I am not proud to admit the following, but in the spirit of nakedness, I will confess that my first inclination was to scope out all of the women I looked better than. Please don’t think I’m an asshole for this, as my second and immediate inclination was to call myself an asshole for doing that. It was an insecurity defense that I must’ve learned from magazines? movies? society? in grade school? No matter. I take full responsibility for my initial reaction, which truly isn’t how I conduct myself in day-to-day life. It’s interesting (and embarrassing) where the mind goes when it’s scared.

Once the fear, the judgement, and the chastising for judgement passed, I was able to relax. After all, I was at a spa.

So I threw back a shot of chamomile tea (it was hot – that wasn’t smart) and proceeded into the pool area like a fearless (naked) rock star. And do you know what happened next? Nothing. No one pointed. No one commented. No one broke into song (although I kind of wished they did – I love musicals and totally accept people breaking into song as a plausible occurrence). Every woman in the room simply continued to…be a woman. And they were lovely. As a group, the women were truly lovely. It’s an observation I had not made in a really long time.

All kinds of women were present – toned and dimply, taut and loose, tucked and sagging, large and small, dark and light, tall and short, hairy and smooth, disabled and able, scarred and unscarred, opinionated and indifferent, introverted and extroverted, and the list continues. Other than gender, the loud bonding factor we shared was the trepid expression followed by relief as we entered the facility filled with other women.

This observation struck a sad nerve with me, and it occurred to me that maybe as a society, we’ve been conditioned to believe that women, especially in groups, are judgmental, psycho competitive, and mean. Sure, we can all say yeah, but I know this one woman who…, but that’s one woman. Or maybe we all know a few women who…, but again, that’s a selected minority of individuals who have chosen to be crazy (this word is associated with women way too often). When did this one woman or a few women become all women? How did this trend catch so much fire?

All men aren’t cheaters. All cops aren’t racists. All homeless aren’t drug addicts. All overweight people aren’t lazy. All (pick your race) aren’t (pick your stereotype). These irresponsible lists are endless and they’ve become dangerous in its perpetuation. The danger lies in how quickly these statements turn into belief systems, and I’m just as guilty as anyone for entering this danger zone of belief —  I walked into a room full of women and waited to be attacked. Ummm, so I walked into a room of my own kind and waited to be attacked? And to make it worse, I put up a rude defense in anticipation of an attack that never happened. That’s terrible, especially since I’ve always been surrounded by fantastic women and I forever cherish my female friendships. While I strongly feel that the media and entertainment industries have been most irresponsible in carrying out these stereotypes, it is our individual responsibility to not blow air on these fires of misguided thought.

What an injustice it is to approach others (and ourselves) in any other way than with a blank slate. My day at the spa was rejuvenating to my body and to my body of beliefs, some of which had gotten a little more off track than I care to admit.

Maybe I didn’t have to get naked to realize all of this. Or maybe I did. Either way, I’m glad I was reminded of the special privilege it is to be a woman. This isn’t to say that women are better than men (I would never say that…publicly…smiley emoticon anyone?). It’s a privilege to simply be alive and what an enjoyable honor it is to share the ties that bind me with an incredible gender of sisters.

(I feel like I should cue a Beyonce song or something right about now.)

A Tale of Two Memorial Days

There are two ways in which I have honored and will continue to honor Memorial Day: before my brother went to war and after my brother went to war.

I very vividly remember learning what Memorial Day was as a kid and feeling conflicted about “celebrating” it. There were groups of families who weren’t looking forward to this special Monday like I was. I didn’t know any of those families, of course. All of the families I knew were like mine with some variation on the day’s activities – barbecues, going down the shore (that’s how we tri-state people say going to the beach), park festivals, block buster movie-going, you name it. The three-day weekend was game for anything as it was the kickoff to summer. As for my family, we barbecued. Every year. And it was a blast!

Either my family drove across the Ben Franklin Bridge to Cherry Hill, NJ or my cousins drove across to West Chester, PA. Both drives led to a house with a smoking grill lined with hamburgers and a backyard set up for an annual badminton game (As a side note, I’d like to publicly state for the record that my cousin Ken and I are reigning champs, although this has been heavily disputed). My brother, my cousins, and I held play-to-the-death summer backyard badminton games for years…like, well into our twenties…like, our last game being in our thirties (where Ken and I reign as champs – just wanted to get that in again). We literally wore brown patches into what had been green grass on either side of the net because we played so hard. This thrilled our parents as home owners. Ah, but they didn’t really care. It was a great day for them too – a day off from work with good eats, good laughs, and a good life. Parents were happy, kids were happy, and summer vacation was a couple of weeks away – Memorial Day was a fantastic holiday!

That was before my brother went to war. Twice.

My brother served in the U.S. Army with deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Those years were the most horrible Memorial Days to date. How could I ignore the obvious wonderment of whether I would forever be a part of those “groups of families who weren’t looking forward to this special Monday” next year (and every year thereafter)? It was terrifying, and yet I knew it served zero purpose to live in that headspace, so I made efforts to not be the emotional basket case I felt like and attended a barbecue or joined in on the activity of the day like it’s just another fantastic holiday. Waves of emotion repeatedly washed over me throughout the day, and I wanted to stop the party and yell Hey! Why is everyone laughing and having a good time? This is a sad day. And, who knows, this could be one of my saddest days for a long time to come. But I didn’t do that. I fake laughed, fake smiled for pictures, and took a bathroom break when I needed to dry a subtle watering eye.

The most beautiful phone call I ever received was the one where I learned that my brother had landed safely on U.S. soil. He was home for good and with no plans for future deployments. I breathed…honestly, for the first time in years. I hadn’t realized that I was even holding my breath. He was going to be here next Memorial Day and for every Memorial Day after. We could barbecue, play badminton, go down the shore, or do anything we wanted like other complete families. All was great. But it wasn’t.

Now it’s after my brother went to war.

Memorial Days since haven’t felt like that old fun. My breathing still becomes tepid. Old familiar fears creep up and mix with tears of deep gratitude that I can’t properly put into words. And to be completely honest, I feel guilty. My answered prayer is someone else’s unanswered prayer. My greatest fear is someone else’s harshest reality. I feel guilty (but so grateful) that I got what I wanted and so many others didn’t.

While I don’t pretend for one second to associate with the grief of fallen soldiers’ families, my worst fear gave me a glimpse into their every day, and I sincerely don’t know how they deal with Memorial Day. How do they gather for a barbecue with an empty seat at the picnic table? How do they play badminton with a teammate gone? How do they breathe? No really. How do they breathe?

Sometimes I think it would be great to go back to those happy Memorial Days with barbecues and badminton games when it was a fantastic holiday (before). Now (after), I think Memorial Day is a fantastic day to offer up prayers for fallen soldiers and their families. It’s a fantastic day to reach out to veterans from any wartime era because they may be missing a comrade. Most of all, it’s a fantastic day to be grateful for life. So many lives were given for ours. That’s the trade-off. That’s how war and peace, which is to say evil vs. good, was designed. It always has been, and it always will be.

So I won’t wish you a happy Memorial Day because we wish each other happy birthday, and this is not a day in the same vein. I do, however, hope you have a fantastic Memorial Day, and how you make it fantastic is up to you.

memorial day

Can We Unite On This One, Sisters?

Am I the only one who views the videos for Anaconda and Booty as giant steps back for women?

Let me begin with a little about me: I am not a member of The Tea Party, a Bible beater, or Amish. I drink, wear lingerie, and think flirting is both fun and healthy. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton (C’mon, we know she’s running.) just because she’s a woman. I am not a mother, and I am still a ways off from forty. I am a woman though.

I am a woman who watched Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video last month, and watched Jennifer Lopez/Iggy Azalea’s Booty video this month, and can’t help but wonder if I’m going to watch Taylor Swift’s literal asshole next month to honor the horrid trend of female artists pumping their naked ass for the entire duration of a music video. My bad – they aren’t naked – a sewing string drapes their crack while they bounce face down/ass up. Ahhh, to watch Angels dance…

You just know Gloria Steinem’s like Give me a metal pipe and thirty seconds in an unmonitored room with each of them. I would pay to hear Malala Yousafzai’s reaction to both videos. No, I don’t carry a roll of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins in my purse because I’m an avid devotee to the feminist’s agenda, but can we unite on this one, sisters?

I’m not against shock value. I actually dig it when shock leads to a good point, hence the value, but there is nothing valuable in these videos. Nothing. Actual nothingness holds more value than these videos. Every day women fight to not be seen as “just a piece of ass,” yet Minaj, Lopez, and Azalea, regard themselves as nothing more and encourage the same from their female fans.

And while we’re on it, can we put to bed songs about big butts already? Freddie Mercury and Sir Mix-a-Lot mastered it and they did it in a way that hailed large girls for owning their size. If this trend is truly to make women of a certain size feel welcome at the club along with “the skinny bitches” as poet Minaj so delicately writes it, then I want to start hearing songs about kankles. Ooooh, yeahhh, the girl be showin off phat kankles. She got a knee, but no ankle…It’s dope with the right beat. Anyhoo…

I’m sure in some twisted way, these women view their choice to strip and shake as empowering, but they’re confusing the elementary concept of dare-energy with empowerment. They are no more empowering than a streaker at a football game. And let’s be careful about the concept of “female empowerment.” A woman who has a rockin body but doesn’t feel the need to define herself by it is empowered, as is a woman who has gratitude for her functioning body which may not be rockin as society would define it.

Shaking your naked ass with a look/don’t look at me attitude only empowers women to be a cock-tease, which is just as cheap as being a piece of ass, which an empowered woman will so vehemently oppose. Treat your sex how you want the opposite sex to treat you. It’s only equal that way.

If nothing else, these videos are simply unoriginal. These women are supposed to be artists, so create and inspire. Don’t degrade with a pathetic clutch to gain attention. That’s as weak as using sympathy to make friends.

I was going to post the videos below, but decided you could just as easily shake your ass in the mirror the next time you get out of the shower. It’s the exact same thing (minus the perfect lighting, makeup, and angles of course).

Voting On Love. Really?

Defense Of Marriage Act?  More like the Defense Of Hatred Act.  Either way, good riddance! 

I thought love is one of those untouchable human privileges…like breathing.  People defend their right to write and speak hatred, but the moment someone defends his/her right to love, they are a simple-minded, unrealistic, God-less hippy.  Why is this?  Who’s afraid of what here?  Fear is the real issue, but for the life of me, I can’t understand what people who oppose same-sex marriage are afraid will happen.  Do they think this will lead to people marrying animals?  Everything will go to extremes, right?  Hey, if a moose can verbalize his love for a human and the two are consenting, then I’ll applaud their union as well.  I’ll think it’s odd, but who am I to stop two beings in their pursuit of happiness?  Pursuit of Happiness is still a thing, right?  I mean, we’re all still for it?  Or should we put it to a vote?

I find it embarrassing that it’s 2013 in America and the issue of who is allowed to marry who is an actual issue.  Is love really a topic worth a government vote?  This is a human privilege that we’ve placed in the hands of government.  Really?  Everyone’s cool with this?  And yes, I understand, the essence (as far as government is concerned) of DOMA has to do with money (the root of all evil, a-hem), but on the very real surface it has to do with people.  Sadly, people have become dispensable for political agenda.  Case in point: war.  Every single one of them.  Government should only be allowed to execute decisions on love if they can properly execute decisions on war.  Considering the stellar job they’ve done on war decision making, love would be back in the hands of individuals, where it never should have left.  While I’m proud of our maturing government for finally knocking down DOMA, can they grow up a little quicker and save much pain in regards to future human rights issues?  Perhaps listen to the brain chip which notifies them that all people everywhere want is acceptance and love?  Perhaps ignore the chip that plants inexistent fear that someone different will destroy their own search for love, thus deem them unacceptable?  Aw, fear, you make us think outlandish thoughts.

Simple equality (and it really is quite simple) is what I pray for at night.  If this makes me a simple-minded, unrealistic, God-less hippy, then I’ll happily ride the groovy train and yell peace, brother in my apparent ignorance.  If I must ride the train alone, so be it, but this country’s historic transition and our next generation’s hopeful oblivion to this mess gives me hope that I won’t be riding alone.

God made us ALL, and so I feel confident saying God bless us ALL…even you, Michelle Bachmann. 🙂

love is love