I can barely type this without giggling, but here we go. I’ve been super migraine-y this week, so yesterday a new friend decided to swoop me off to a spa for some enforced relaxation. Two hours of decadent pampering on a random Wednesday afternoon? Yes ma’am! Now, obviously when I think of “spa,” I think decadent body treatments, pitchers of ice water spiked with cucumbers and strawberries, plush, Frette-esque robes, flickering Diptyque candles…massage therapists who’s sweet smiles contradict their knot-pummeling strength. But before he picked me up, I was warned that this wasn’t a 5 star situation. It was Korean-style, family-friendly “utilitarian” spa/restaurant/mall. What did that even mean? And it was in Flushing, Queens! Adventure. I’m there.
We pull up, and I’m awed by the sheer size. Five stories of red brick — it looks more like TJ Maxx than Bliss. You pay an entry fee, go through a turn-style, and then the men and women are funneled into separate, massive “locker rooms” where I was told most of the spa action happens (on other floors, you get food courts, nail salons, pool action, kid-friendly activities…a spa-musement park!). Weirdly nervous, I entered the locker room and looked around. The lockers were the left, and to the right was a massive space with warrens of saunas and jacuzzi after bubbling jacuzzi (each one had a name, like chilled bath, hot bath, shiatsu bath, event bath, etc). You could book a massage or scrub, but treatments seem to be beside the point — everyone was hanging out in the baths and steam rooms. And everyone was naked. Naked, naked, naked.
I ran over to the lady at the desk, and before I could say anything she thrust a locker key and a neon pink-and-orange polyester uniform in my direction.
Me: What is this uniform even for? Everyone’s naked!
Lady: It’s for if you go on the other floors. While you’re in here, no clothes.
Me: No robe?
Me: I mean…is this really mandatory? I’m never naked.
Lady: If you want to enjoy the spa services, you will be naked. Here’s a towel for the baths.
“Towel” was an exaggeration. It was a pea green hand-towel, and it was laughing at me.
Eyes downcast, I beat a tunnel though all the nakedness (there were naked children running around, too!), stripped off my clothes and tossed them in the locker. I quickly figured out that if I hunched over, the itty bitty green towel could cover me from nips to Little Flower. My ass was on it’s own. Only then, Quasimodo-style, I managed to quick-shuffle over to something called the “event bath” and jump in, losing that mean towel at the very last second. Mortifying. But the bath felt amaaaazing. I relaxed a little.
Phase one of public nudity is mortification. Phase two is voyeurism. Suddenly all I wanted to do was stare at all the naked bodies — and obviously you have to pretend that you’re not doing it, because it’s so uncool to address nudity when everyone’s nude (don’t meet the eyes, don’t meet the eyes…). It was every type of woman — mostly Korean, but some white, some black, some really old. Every shape, not model-y at all. Manicured pubes, full Brazilians, Seventies bush-tastic. And no one cared! If they were self-conscious, it didn’t show. One gorgeous, zaftig middle-aged woman was laid on a bench in the sauna with her legs spread. Fascinating.
Twenty minutes later, I learned that Phase 3 of public nudity is exhibitionism. Suddenly, I was swanning around the place, making friends, answering questions about my Prince tattoos, chatting up the (also naked) masseuse about Korean vs. Turkish massage techniques. I was seconds from performing a solo Pasa Doble! And then it was all over. I was on deadline, so my fab new friend had to take me home. But before I left, I took the mandatory shower and slathered myself in my favorite bath & body products du jour:
Pacifica Shimmer & Glow Body Beautiful Set ($24) is a near-perfect collection of pampering stuff with my favorite benefits: the products are moisturizing, skin-illuminating, paraben-free, and smell wildly delish. The adorably portable kit comes with a Kona Coffee & Sugar Detox Body Scrub, Coconut Pearls Luminizing Lip Quench and Coconut Crushed Pearl Bronzing Butter (just enough shimmer to give skin a summery sheen, no discoball effect). A radiance-boosting end to two hours of confidence-boosting nudity!