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.)

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Women’s Wrinkles

I wish society would recognize women’s wrinkles for what they represent – life experience.

What if we appreciate the beginning of a thirty-year-old’s laugh lines because she is beginning to drop the baggage of her destructive twenties that she hid behind a smooth face which society celebrated?  What if we inquire, instead of criticize, about a seventy-year-old’s deep forehead fold?  Perhaps it’ll tell the story of an unthinkable hardship overcome or entertain us with tales from recent trips to Cabo with stories unmatched by any eighteen-year-old on spring break.  Either story, I’d like to hear.

What if we began to think of a wrinkle as knowledge or as an accomplishment?  Perhaps the deeper the crease, the wiser the woman or the bigger her feat.  Forgive my exclusion of men here, but society doesn’t shame men’s wrinkles.  Society looks at a wrinkled man and applauds his growth as he was once a naïve boy and is now a mature man.  We should applaud his journey since no one is excluded from the hard lessons of maturity.  But what about a woman’s journey?  Society sees a woman with wrinkles as…well, a woman with wrinkles, and she is discarded as simply that.  Her journey?  Well she was once younger and beautiful, and now she is older and has wrinkles.

I’m in my mid-thirties.  Do I use wrinkle cream?  Yup, sure do!  I’m trying to rid bad decisions I made in my youthful and naïve twenties when I baked in tanning beds…against the better judgement of appropriately wrinkled and wiser women I might add.  But the real reason I use wrinkle cream?  I don’t want to be discarded as she was once younger and beautiful, and now she is older and has wrinkles.  How hurt my older generation sisters must feel.  Granted, they’re wise and secure enough to discard the societal discard, but I imagine it still stings.

When I look at my face, I see small creases on my forehead and acknowledge a light-footed crow has waltzed near my eyes – I guess I’ve learned a few things and will learn a lot more.   I do have quite a few laugh lines.  Those I’m grateful for – how lucky am I to have such a happy life filled with so much laughter?  While the amount of time the lines stay on my face after I’m done laughing is mysteriously getting longer (Really?!  What’s with that?  Oh yeah, knowledge.), I remain grateful to have laughter in my life.  With the wrong life lottery ticket, I could have grimly smooth skin around my mouth like too many women do in our uncertain times.  So yeah, I’ll keep my laugh lines.

I do, however, have a bona fide deep wrinkle between my eyes and above my left brow.  It’s the wrinkle that got me thinking about wrinkles.  This wrinkle is deep, not going anywhere fast, and has a story.  Maybe someday I’ll share the story, but for now it’s a wrinkle in time that reminds me of hard times I proudly overcame in my difficult and baby-faced twenties.

Now, cellulite?  That’s disgusting.  KIDDING!!!  It’s a dimple (or many dimples), not a death sentence.  Get over it!

Smile, ladies, we’re beautiful!