I recently soaked myself in a giant swirling bath of mugworts tea with three Korean women and a 70-year-old granny. Does that sound weird? It was supposed to be cleansing. It made me a little dizzy, though I’m not sure if it was my toxins being released or the shame I felt trying not to stare at everyone’s privates. I closed my eyes but that only raised the volume of my interior narrator: Oh grow up, everyone’s nude, what’s the big deal, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re all the same, basically. No one has pubic hair though, so strange, do they wax or are they just hairless, maybe because they are Asian? or Californian? Maybe it’s the mugworts. Oh! I popped my eyes open and focused immediately on a woman across the room squatting openly (yes I said openly) like a Chinese farmer in a paddy field. Ok, time to get out! I raised myself from the bath and tried to walk up the stairs, clenching and sucking in. I almost fell forward reaching for my robe that was on the hook 5 feet away.
“Giselle?” I don’t know why I turned my head, they obviously weren’t talking to me, but I looked and was glad to see it wasn’t, you know, the real Giselle, but instead a 45-year-old with a tatooed arrow pointing down right above her ass-crack. Say no more. Over by the steam room there was a row of tables where women lay face down getting massages and scrubs, their bodies shellacked and glistening with oils. I suddenly felt like I was in a Texas whorehouse. In a good way. The masseuses (masseurs?) wore stylish black 2-piece bathing-suits and worked efficiently and silently. I watched Giselle shyly follow her girl to the tables with her head bowed and her hands clasped in front of her. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, my girl, Michelle, smiled and beckoned me with her finger. Since I was getting a facial, we had to go in another room that was through the café and upstairs. I held my robe closed tightly and followed. I have been to this spa a few times and it always struck me as a little odd that they serve Korean food only a few yards away from the steam rooms and well, vaginas but I’m getting more used to it. Upstairs I got dizzy again from the calming smell of eucalyptus and lavender and jasmine and chamomile; I felt relaxed just from breathing. I loved Michelle, I loved myself, I loved everyone.
Take off your robe, Michelle said. For a facial? I thought, but she patted the table that had 3 quilts folded back and it looked so enticing I did as I was told. Then Hannah came in with a big jar of almond butter, which might have been alarming except that I knew she was going to be using it for the foot massage. Yes I got the foot massage/facial combo, how amazing, and though I hadn’t realized they were going to do it at the same time I was back in love. Ahhhhhhhh. At that moment I became a dog; I had no thoughts except the present: smells good, mmmm, rubbing, patting, drumming fingers. In my head someone did stick their head in through a door to whisper, “you should do this every day”, but then they closed it back quietly.
All was going great until Michelle started up with the extractions, which is the sterilized term for squeezing the blackheads on your nose and chin. Jesus, Michelle, come on! I tried to concentrate on my feet but it was really difficult with Michelle thoroughly going at the little area between my nostrils with what felt like a mini pair of pliers. I felt like I was getting a blumpkin. Tears were pouring down the side of my face and I almost sat up and hugged her when she stopped. She put a cool and aromatic mask on my face and then massaged my head to the point where I began to hallucinate pinwheel stars falling out of the sky.
Finally it was over. I sat up and adjusted my eyes to the light and looked at my skin in the mirror, it was glowing. My face was completely relaxed and rosy and hydrated. I instantly had the thought that everyone, every man, woman and child, should have this experience once a month. It should be obligatory, like seatbelts, because the second thought I had as I looked at myself was: she looks great, I wish that was me.