July 26, 2010

on my first spa experience...

A little over a week ago, my friend Andrea introduced me to the highly aggressive Korean body scrub experience. I'm actually not exactly sure what I was expecting. Maybe something soothing? A tiny woman softly exfoliating my shoulders and legs with soothing hands? Tiny rock fountains? Enya? (I tend to build very specific situations in my head.)

Now, here's the thing: I've never actually been to a spa. If it isn't already apparent, I'm kind of thrifty and spending money on things like massages and facials have never been a priority. However, there is this fantastic invention called Groupon, which made it possible for me to get $65 worth of services at a holistic spa for only $30. That, my friends, deserves a happy dance that lasts for a good part of the afternoon, am I right?

So, I bought it. Andrea, Ali and I scheduled our appointments, and I didn't put too much more thought into it until the day arrived.

After driving around for no less than 45 minutes looking for a parking spot (Santa Monica gives me hives) I arrived at the spa. Andrea was already there, so as Ali and I were given a quick tour led into the changing room, we peeked inside the area where the showers, bath and sauna were. My eyes were immediately drawn to a woman sitting completely naked in the hot tub/green tea bath, among several other people who were wearing bikinis. Ali and I looked at each other and died a little inside when we realized we didn't bring bathing suits. We quickly closed the door and had a conversation that probably went something like this:

"WHAT."
"I KNOW."
"BUT..."
"I KNOW."
"HOW..."
"I KNOW."

Apparently we didn't pay enough attention to the email Andrea had sent us in preparation for this experience, and had arrived without bathing suits. So, quite frankly, nudity was our only option. Well, nudity, or these tiny dryer sheets fashioned into a one-size-fits-all disposable thong that one employee offered to us with a smile. I took it from her, put it on, then quickly realized that it was doing nothing to cover my "situation" and was basically see-through anyway. I mean, really? What the heck.

In any case, I realized that modesty cannot exist in a spa. So, I could either be shy and awkward, or embrace the experience and attempt to act normal as normal can be when you're naked in front of two good friends and a handful of strangers.

As Ali was whisked away by a seriously intense woman who seemed intent on giving her a shower (apparently things like this are normal in a spa), I basically told Andrea (who was quite comfortable in her adorable bathing suit) that I was only going to be naked if she was. (I'm such a good friend.) Luckily, she is a gem and didn't make me be the only one of us to soak in the green tea bath with nothing but a face of anguish.

Now, if I can be completely honest, once I was out there and took off my towel, I didn't even mind being naked. To put it simply, it was freeing. As odd as it may sound, I feel more self conscious in a bathing suit at that beach as opposed to being naked in a hot tub at a spa. It was a rather odd revelation. Nobody cared about their jiggly bits, or about whether or not they were fluffy here and there, or any of that. An experience like that somehow manages to wipe away those feelings of insecurity. I know, it doesn't make sense at all, but that's how it is.

It was nice. Nobody was staring and judging or comparing. I went into an experience sure that it would be the most awkward thing in my entire life and surprised myself by being completely content. It was surprising, to say the least. And it actually did wonders for my body image, putting myself out there without any shame or embarrassment. Kind of amazing.

So, I soaked in the green tea bath for a good 45 minutes before it was time for my scrub. The other girls were done with theirs by the time I was called in for mine. Ali came out and said, "Okay, let's just say you have no idea what you're in for."

Let's just say that her statement was extremely accurate.

I was lucky enough to get a private room, and quickly followed the girl that was going to give me my scrub. The room was dim and had calming music playing. She told me to take off my towel, get on the table and she'd be back in a minute to begin. So, I did. I flung my naked body onto a wet table and put my face into that awkward circle thing. I tried to act natural with my arms, but that wasn't happening, so I kind of let them dangle off the sides.

Pretty sure I looked like a corpse at that point.

Anyway, when the girl came back in I had to fight so hard to not make jokes and sarcastic comments. Because, as I've said before, that is how I rescue myself from awkward situations. In my head, I kept repeating, "ACT NORMAL. ACT LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. ACT CASUAL. DON'T BE STUPID."

Now, when she started the scrub, let's just say that I almost couldn't handle it. I wanted to sit up in all my naked glory, look her in the eye and ask her to stop treating me like a Christmas ham. Do you realize how hard they scrub you? They put these abrasive mits on their hands, fill them with the scrub mixture, then pretty much go to town on nearly every part of your body. I tried to not be a sissy, but at one point she asked me how I was doing. I was all, "Um, a little softer, please?" and she was all, "Wow, you are sensitive." and I was all, "Well, for the record, I am not a block of wood that needs to be sanded. Also, do you mind checking to see if I have any skin left at all? Thanks."

(Okay, I didn't actually say that last sentence because I am a bit of a sissy.)

Once the scrub was done and she gave me a good rinse, I headed back to meet with the other girls. We couldn't help but laugh about the entire experience - and marvel at the fact that, quite obviously, our skin did feel like butter after all of that. Maybe Korean body scrubs are like childbirth. After you're done with the pain, you're left thinking that it may be something you'd like to do again someday.

We wandered around the rest of the spa for a while, trying out the other rooms - one slightly cool, one incredibly hot and filled with salt rocks, one so boiling hot that we didn't even try. I wore a sarong and felt fancy, despite looking like a hot mess from the neck up.

Is it odd how much I'm looking forward to going back someday? I absolutely adore new experiences and trying things that I never saw myself doing. It's kind of addictive, in a way. Now, I can't help but wonder: Have any of you had a similar spa experience? Anything I should splurge on, next time around? Hopefully something that doesn't involve the skin on my back being destroyed?

51 comments :

  1. It sounds amazing. I have never been to a spa. I haven't even had a massage!

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  2. OMG... reading this was amazing.

    I have never been to a spa (I am kind of thrifty in that regard), but I'd really like to go.

    Did I mention that in Germany, it's totally normal to shower with the other girls after workout and to go the spa/sauna butt-naked?
    Oh, and did I mention that the sauna is usually used by men and women TOGETHER? (Imagine the look on my husband's face when I revealed this to him :)).

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  3. I'm terrified of scrubs for that reason. I'm a very pasty white girl, scrubbing me means I will be red like a lobster for about three days afterwards.

    Honestly, I never know what to do about the bathing suit thing. There's something that seems normal about hanging naked at the spa and bathing suits almost seem out of place. Like in the middle of all that tranquil naturalness, there is this bright neon spot of a bikini. On the other hand though, naked booties all over the place kind of freak me out, from a hygiene perspective.

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  4. i have still not tried a korean spa yet, but want to so badly! :) just haven't made the time for it. :)

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  5. LOL. This was amazing. The only spa I went to was the one I worked at... which sucked because I knew all the workers so I couldn't just strut around naked... not that I am sure I WOULD, mind you. Massages feel sooooooooooo good, mind you. Facials don't really seem to do anything for me. Oh, and, I love you and adore and miss you. The end.

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  6. "Maybe Korean body scrubs are like childbirth. After you're done with the pain, you're left thinking that it may be something you'd like to do again someday."

    LOL! Ooorrr maybe they're like childbirth in that once or twice is more than enough, thanks.

    Anyway, I haven't tried anything as intense as that, but back in May I had my first spa experience too, and it was surprisingly lovely. I just got a "mini" massage (30 min) and a manicure, but I think next time I'd do a 60 min massage and a pedicure. That's about all I could justify paying for, I think, but MAN are those massages worth it. Particularly thanks to Groupon! ;)

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  7. I am a huge fan of spa's. The one I attend is a salon AND spa so it is an all in one type of place. The staff is very experienced and extremely lovely to deal with. My biggest "must have" at any spa (like clinics) is the cleanliness and atmosphere.

    The very first time I went to one it was not really cleaned and I didn't even use the gift card that had been given to me. After much searching though I found one that is just perfect.

    The way I feel about a spa/salon is very simple: money can't buy a good experience. I mean, I can buy a cute bikini at a discount store... but I can't get a bikini wax just anywhere. Same goes for a haircut. I can buy a shampoo anywhere, but a good cut.. now that might cost a bit. To me, some things are worth every penny.

    I mean, it's important to treat yourself once in a while. I go every three months and usually alternate the type of services I use so that it is still a budget friendly experience.

    I'm glad you had a good time, even if it was a bit awkward in the beginning. :)

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  8. Oh man, that sounds heavenly. My skin tends to react well to a little rough treatment. And, heck, paired with a green tea bath a salt-rock sauna, I wouldn't mind if they marinated me in Agent Orange and gave me a sandpaper scrubdown. Sounds like fun!

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  9. Um wow. No thank you. You're a better woman than I, dear. Seriously impressive.

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  10. I absolutely love the way you described this experience! Also, your observations about the nakedness are really interesting. I'm probably also more self conscious in a swimsuit on a beach than I am naked in a situation like you described - either way, you're beautiful and I'm so pleased this was such a renewing experience for you! Glad you still have pretty skin left :)

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  11. I'd be too shy with the nakedness and as a paley, I would also go red. Red from scrub plus red from nakedness = I'd probably die.

    Good for you though!

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  12. Hehe. Such a great story! I haven't been to a spa, but I did get a message once , and it was a twee bit awkward!

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  13. And by message, I obviously meant massage.

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  14. I'm Korean and I was like "spa, what Korean spa?" and now I understand. What you experienced was very typical Korean bath house/sauna experience! I kinda grew up thinking it was normal (since most ppl still used to go the bath houses for their regular baths when I was younger) so I have no problem being naked. You're there to get clean, not show off. I love getting scrubbed! (I have my own little exfoliating towels that I use regularly in the shower because it feels good.) But yeah, those ladies are tough (but you'll get used to it if you keep going)! I remember they used to give milk/oil massages afterwards to moisturize after all that exfoliating.

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  15. Maybe because I know all three of you, I'm dying laughing at this situation, but there really is something lovely about it. When I went to massage school, I was so nervous, but after going for a bit, I felt so much more comfortable about my body. I mean, the thing is that bodies are just bodies and they really are sort of beautiful, no matter what size. It's a freeing feeling for sure.

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  16. I have never been to a spa! sounds amazing!!!

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  17. This post cracked me up and reminded me of the first (and only) time I went to a German spa. I've been to a number of spas around the world (and mostly at hotels, so they're familiar with Westerners), but my cousin dropped me off at a spa in Wiesbaden one morning and I ended up walking around naked (and sometimes covered in a towel), in this co-ed spa. There was one woman in a bathing suit (it was mostly men there, of course), and she did look a little bit strange. But I agree, it was totally freeing! Especially since I knew I'd never see any of those people again.

    I do love switching up the types of treatments I get depending on where I am. It can be quite the interesting experience. That's great that you got to go through it with friends - what a fun/funny memory!

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  18. I had an incredible experience at the spa (my first time too), as I bought a Couples Package at the local spa - I didn't realize the price was 'per person' instead of couples... since i mean hello it's a couple's pkg.. you'd think it'd be joined. Anyway in my reviews section on my website it's classified under disasters lol

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  19. this seriously made me laugh out loud. i mean, yay for spa experience... but i'd so be the same way if i was getting exfoliated to the bone. :)

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  20. I have had a salt rub at a spa, but not at a Korean spa- that sounded painful! Mine was nice and relaxing because the guy massaged me at the same time. I would highly recommend it!

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  21. What spa was this?

    Also, this is not a typical american spa experience. You need one of those next time! :-)

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  22. I don't know if I could've been as brave as you were!! Props to you for trying it out! Otherwise you would've never known what you would've missed out on!

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  23. I love the transition of feelings in this post - I started literally LOL-in at your description of your initial reactions and then ended up cheering you on due to your realization of your self-body image.

    what a powerful and freeing feeling!

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  24. Amazing! I had a similar experience when I got an Indian Ayruvedic massage. I was expecting how massages are in Canada with a table with sheets to cover you and stuff. But no, they strip you naked and help you get into this weird thong thing that you actually need help getting into because it ties in the back. Then you lay down on this plastic table and a tiny Indian woman gives you a massage. But the massage involves a lot of very lovely smelling oil. But it's so much oil that the table actually has a drain in it.

    It was a super fantastic and both my muscles and my skin felt amazing after but it did take a bit to get used to.

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  25. DYING reading this. AMAZING, accurate and perfect. Like you. You're accurate. And the bestest.

    Naaaaaaaked diaper thong love.

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  26. This post makes me miss you more than anything else you've ever written.

    "ACT NORMAL. ACT LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. ACT CASUAL. DON'T BE STUPID."

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  27. I will never forget my first Korean spa experience! Definitely a place where you have to get over whatever nudity issues you've got! When I was getting scrubbed down the lady did a little scalp massage that I thought was going to actually take my scalp off, and when I asked her to go a little easy she just laughed! Very different from the Burke Williams spa experience, but I enjoy it :)

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  28. I did a Korean scrub once and all I could think was "PLEASE DON'T GO NEAR THE NIPS!"

    I wrote about my experience here:
    http://iamkoream.com/scrub-a-dub/

    You're a brave woman. Let me know if you gals ever go again :)

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  29. Oh, wow. This was a fantastic spa recap. I've never been to one, but it sounds interesting! (Well, aside from that awful scrub. That sounds like torture.)

    I think I feel the same about nakedness v. bikinis. Although I'm never naked AROUND people while naked, I do feel like I'm more comfortable being naked than I am confined in a bathing suit. So I see your point with this. :)

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  30. Oh my gosh... What an experience! I probably would have gawked at having to do the experience naked, but that's awesome you felt content with it after getting over the hurdle. It sounds really rejuvenating in a way. I'm glad you liked it, and for what you got out of it, 30$ was a modest price to pay!

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  31. This sounds very much like the Morrocan bath we have here in Saudi Arabia. And I remember giving them the weirdest look when they gave me the disposable thong (Only your therapist sees u in that... and no naked walking around the spa here).. lol.. very interesting!

    Glad you had fun, and yes it is addictive, I go get one every couple of months now :)

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  32. The only story that I have that compares to this is the time I got a spray tan with my dad's girlfriend. We were unknowingly placed in the same room... naked... together. Talk about a bonding experience. Oh man.

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  33. Is it wrong that this totally makes me want to get a Korean body scrub? Maybe so, but it sounds awesome!

    Also, way to go on 'dropping the towel.' That is such an intimidating thing but I could only imagine how freeing it must have been. I've only been down to a robe at the spa.

    Did you get any cucumber or random fruit flavored water? That's always my favorite part about the pre-treatment spa experience.

    xo

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  34. The one time I did the day spa thing, I was alone and it was my first time..I had a gift card that only covered a hand/arm scrub. So that's what I went for...and I didn't know you were supposed to spend the whole day there relaxing either. I missed out on it all! But it's okay.

    I have had a couple of massages without the "day spa" part and I really love them! I just wish I could afford to do it more often :-)

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  35. i'm sort of bummed i didn't go, but i was just too much of a wuss, perhaps next time just to have a post like this to share, haha.

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  36. this is so hilarious, like SO HILARIOUS!
    I've never been to a spa before but have wanted to for so long! After reading this I seriously feel as if I were naked in the room with you girls LOL! How stinking brave were you?! Incredible.
    I have a massage booked for next week that I bought on Groupon and I am sooooo excited for it, SO EXCITED.

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  37. This was so funny I almost peed myself! I'm sorry, you went through that and to laugh is not nice, but your writing kills me! :) I've never been to a spa but I have had a full body Swedish massage---get one! I felt amazing after, needed a lot of water (she wasn't kidding) and got to my car to realize I wasn't sure if my hands/arms were working well enough to even drive! It was that amazing.

    As for the nakkie green tea bath--you are one brave woman. I couldn't. Just couldn't. Wish I could be so I could experience that freeing feeling you described, but it's not happening.

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  38. I am laughing so hard at this post right now... I don't mean to laugh AT you but you do portray it in a very humorous way! :)

    I have to say I have never had any kind of spa experience because 1. I always think its going to be a waste of money that I'd rather spend at Forever 21 or something and 2. I have sometimes heard that people get sick after massages. weird right? haha

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  39. It's not funny, but it's a little funny. I probably would have fled the scene if I had needed a bikini and didn't have one. I wonder if I could be that comfortable naked; I like to think I could be but maybe not! I just bought a groupon to a spa (for a mani/pedi, though) and I'm so pumped!

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  40. haha, this totally reminded me of my first spa experience! I swear you have no idea what you're in for until you actually do it. But it is far and away one of my favorite ways to pamper myself!

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  41. I tried to comment on this the other day, but my internet was too slow. I said something about how normal it was that people insist I remove my bathing suit in order to hang out with them and how much fun I had with you that day and how proud I was of you for being such a trooper. Next time, though, read your emails!

    Let's really do more Groupon experiences together. :) Groupon has gotten me to try a LOT of new things!

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  42. I can't believe I'm about to admit this, but every time I go to have a massage done, it's all I can do to not be flatulent. I'm irrationally nervous about being touched, I suppose. So what is supposed to be relaxing, turns into me squeezing my glutes the entire time. Uhhhh, what was the question? Haha, by the way...I miss you! I was so thrilled to read a wishcake post!

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  43. Omgoodneess. You.crack.me.up. One of my favorite posts!
    At the beginning I was all, "ooh, i hope there are pictures of the inside of the spa" because I love pictures and because I've never been to a spa either. But then I read on about the nakedness and laughed cause I was hoping for pictures and well.. nevermind about pictures!

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  44. I'm so glad you blogged about this! Man, your tag is right on -- "What the frick" indeed! OMG I am so impressed by you! You are totally brave. If I would have forgotten my bathing suit I would have tried to buy one in a shop or something near by (sounds like going alllll the way home was totally out of the question). I love how you told Andrea that she had to be naked too. Too funny! Ouchie, that scrub sounds quite painful because I'm a big o baby! Sounds like quite an experience! Glad it turned out to be so freeing and relaxing! You totally rock. This was so hilarious. Love it.

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  45. Oh my gosh I totally know what you're talking about. My family and I went to Korea last summer (because my mom's Korean) and we went to a bath house. It was the scariest, most odd thing I've ever done because I was naked! I was too chicken to get a scrub done. But once I got past the naked part, it was pretty enjoyable.

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  46. OMG I'm definitely impressed because there's no way I would go nude AT ALL. But overall that sounds like a great first spa experience..I've never gone to the spa or even got a massage before. I should add that to my bucket list for real!

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  47. That was so fun to read. I have never been to a spa before either. And, like San, I am German, so here being nude in communal showers (at the gym, swimming pool etc) is normal, as is being nude in the (mixed) sauna. But despite this, I have never been to a sauna and I didn't grow up with nudity being completely normal, so for me it would also be a little awkward. I just used communal showers naked for the first time last year. I also find naked women talking to me about all sorts of stuff while they're naked in the changing room at the gym. Definitely something to get used to.

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  48. I've been to a spa a couple of times, and I think one of things that makes each experience so incredible is that it's so expensive, so you can only go once in a blue moon!

    My favorite treatment ever is a facial. I had no idea they were so relaxing. I would say that they are even more relaxing than a full body massage. I had a full body massage once, and because I'm so ticklish, I kept tensing up, so she massaged harder, and well, you can imagine how that went.

    Not that the massage wasn't nice, but it was a bit difficult to relax. But a facial? Heaven. Absolute heaven.

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  49. I don't go to spas much because although it feels good to pamper yourself.. I feel like I'm wasting time. There were times when I'm lying on the table for a massage or a scrub and I just feel like I can be doing something more productive with my time.

    I got a 2.5 full-body massage in Phuket last month in my hotel room and it DID feel good though... I fell asleep when she was roughly massaging my face. LOL.

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  50. Ohhh sounds like a awesome experience. There is a place here in NYC, spa castle, which a friend so suggested I go to with the warning: "you gotta get nekkid!!" Still getting up the courage to go.
    Went for a massage while on vaca in Mexico and had a guy as my therapist. Obviously I was under the sheets on the massage table but still had to wrap my head around a guy (who was not my husband!) touching me and try to relax. Pretty much near impossible.

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  51. Camille & I are rolling on the floor laughing!

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