Inside Lane

When I Was a Happy Manatee

A few years back, a friend invited me to a Korean spa.  At the time, I just didn’t have time.  Then I didn’t have the inclination.  Then, when a new spa (SPA CASTLE) opened up about ten minutes from my house, I started eyeing it with wary interest. After hearing good things from trusted acquaintances, I decided to give it a go.

The main draw for me was the fact that there are napping rooms at this spa.  You can go and just take a nap.  There is no down side to that.  In fact, the only down side to the whole concept of the Korean spa is the required nudity.  Yes.  Required nudity.

See, the spa is split into three parts:  Female only, male only, and errebody up in this place.  In the gendered areas, if you plan to get into the spa baths, you’re going in buck naked.  Part of this is cultural, part of this is practical, all of this takes some getting used to if you’re the kind of person who changes in the gym like a Mormon switching sacred underpants.  Like me.  I can count on one hand the number of people who have ever seen me stark naked.  Well, I could three hours ago.

If you want to use the shared baths, you wear a swimsuit.  If you want to use the shared saunas, lounges, restaurants, and have run of the coed section of the facility, you wear a spa issued uniform.  Boys get a blue Tshirt and baggy gray shorts, girls get pink and gray.

You might think that being naked was my main concern.  My main concern was that I would be issued a uniform that would make it look like I was trying to squeeze into my gym shorts from junior high.  Naked looks better than ill-fitted, and I am vain.  I would rather let it all hang out, than look like a sausage with rubber bands wrapped around it.

I am happy to report that the spa uniforms, though absolutely unattractive, fit fine.  They were also soft and smelled really nice.

What drove me to the Spa Castle today, was the realization that Molly Maids would be coming around 9 this morning, and the last two times I’ve had days off when they’ve come, I’ve spent an hour hiding in a bathroom, then hiding in the other bathroom after having made a huge nuisance of myself trying to help them do their work.  In order to avoid that same situation, and since Spa Castle is open 24 hours, I thought I would just go directly over after dropping Thor off at school.  I thought I could avoid chickening out of going by booking a spa treatment, so I scheduled myself a body scrub for 9am.

The website tells you to be there 30 minutes ahead of time, so you can soak in a hot tub before getting scrubbed down.  I got there an hour early because I figured it would take me that long to get used to the idea of being naked.

At first I was like…

It took like ten minutes.

And then I was like…

A big part of that was the fact that everyone was stripped down.  It isn’t like the gym where there is that one lady who prances around, kicks her foot up on the bench beside you, then bends over to touch the foot she left on the floor, daring you to make eye contact with her anus.  No.  It was just a bunch of naked people.  Fat people.  Skinny people.  Old people.  Young people.  Light people.  Dark people.  Hairy people.  Not-hairy people.  CLEAN people.

Clean is a big deal for me.

Normally, I avoid hot tubs because I don’t like the idea of sitting in a hot chowder of other people’s filth.  Human stew is not my idea of a good time.  If I can see gunk floating on the water, all I can think about is how it is surfing toward me, looking to dry dock on my shoulders and crawl up into my ears.  Gross.

Spa Castle was clean, clean, clean.  And they have showers everywhere.  You shower with soap before you get into a bath.  You shower like you mean it.  You shower like it’s Silkwood because that’s the only polite way you’ll be ready to get into a bath.

Then, when you are sparkling, you find a tub that suits you, and (if you are me) you wallow around like a happy manatee until it is time for your body scrub.  You might also go pool to pool pressing all the buttons to see what they do, and you might accidentally give yourself an enema if you aren’t careful.  I highly recommend pushing all buttons from a safe distance, so that when a jet opens with the force of a fire hydrant, you don’t find yourself blown across a hot tub by a blast of water that leaves your cheeks flapping.

And I ended up like…

Spa Castle is 140,000 square feet of intimidating, so before going, I read up on Yelp reviews, asked a bunch of questions, and made my plans known to a select few.  I am glad I did because when I was called into my body scrub appointment, I was prepared for these truths:

  1. A Korean body scrub is an intimate and brutal thing.
  2. It is performed by a woman in her underwear. (In the lady section.  In the man section, I’m assuming you get a man in his knickers.)
  3. It involves such scrubbing as to leave balls of your dead skin everywhere.

You know that scene in Shogun, where Richard Chamberlain is shamed for being dirty?  That’s all I could think about as I watched little wads of my skin slough off onto the padded table where I’d been instructed to lie, while this lady in a sheer black bra and panties (so fancy!) put on the equivalent of sandpaper gloves and went to town.  I wanted to apologize.  I had no idea there was so much dead skin on me!  (And I actually have no idea if that scene exists.  Shogun came out when I was a child, and the parts I saw, I was hiding behind a chair to see.  I remember not seeing the excitement about Chamberlain, though.  He was no Richard Burton.)

When my friend told me the scrub would be intimate, she used the word “labia” and I am glad she did because otherwise, I would have–I don’t know what I would have done.  But I was prepared to be treated like a car going through a wash detail, and that’s about all it was.  First, all the dead skin was scrubbed from my body (oh my lord, the amount of it!), then I was sent to shower.  When I came back, I was lathered up from toes to chin, flipped, lathered, flipped again and lathered some more, then rinsed with a big bowl of water. After that, the lady shampooed and conditioned my hair, patted me on the back, and sent me on my way.

So, to recap that, I was pretty much scrubbed and bathed like a baby.  Everything you would do to wash a baby clean?  She did to me.  I feel like I should buy her dinner, or at least a Mother’s Day card.

The treatment left me feeling slick as a whistle, though.  If you can manage the shock of having someone sandpaper the hollow of your thigh, and take the first layer of epidermis from your sphincter, I recommend it.  If you’re uncomfortable having a stranger wipe your bottom, stay far away.  You will die of embarrassment.

After that, I went back to rolling in the hot tub like a manatee (an informed manatee, who knew which jets to avoid) and then hopped into my swimsuit to go try out the coed pools.

Those were fine.  The saunas were all fine.  There were two I couldn’t make myself go into because they looked way too much like the clay ovens used for making pita bread, and I don’t want to go sit in an oven, but the rest were pretty nifty.  My favorites were the salt sauna and the dry sauna.  I like a dry heat.

I ate lunch at the restaurant and the food was nice, and I padded around wearing my soft, nice-smelling uniform, looking for a good place to take a nap.  I never found one.  That was my one disappointment.  I couldn’t find a good place to go to sleep.  I tried in a couple of different spots, but a bird came to hang out next to me on the patio, and some dude came to hang out next to me in the sleeper pool area.  I could have taken a nap in the nap room in the ladies’ locker area, but it was too warm there.

All in all, I really enjoyed my visit.  When you arrive, they give you a pass key shaped like a wristwatch, and that’s what you use to store all your things in a locker.  That’s also your money pass.  When you buy something (like a service, or a bowl of ramen), you swipe your watch.  At check out, you pay for the total you’ve accrued.  I loved this because it meant I walked around empty-handed the whole time.  I didn’t even have my cell phone on me–because those aren’t allowed in the naked areas.

When I walked out, I called my husband and told him not to bother coming straight home tonight.  I told him to go there and hang out in the men’s side for a few hours.  I told him to get a body scrub–I kind of hope he does that before he reads this because that would be funny.

I found my time to be a great benefit.  I’m relaxed.  I feel good.  And all the weird aches I’ve had lately are all gone.  Scrubbed off, jetted away, and floated out to wherever those go.

Should you go? Depends.  What is your nudity threshold?  Butts are butts, and we all have them, so if you can look past the one taking a shower next to you, get on in there.  It’s $35 to use all the facilities, plus the cost of services, food, and drink.  And kids are welcome.  You’ll just want to have the butts are butts conversation with them before you go.

4.8 out of 5 stars from me.

-0.2 stars because of the enema jet

4 thoughts on “When I Was a Happy Manatee”

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