Ode to Korean Spa

As I mentioned in the previous post, Kevin and I were able to visit the Korean Spa together last Saturday as part of our belated and continued wedding anniversary celebration.

We hadn’t been to one together for more than six years (I think).

We walked in and received our spa uniforms, a towel, and a toothbrush, all rolled up like a mini-sleeping bag for camp.  Or like soldiers’ supplies for battle.  After emerging from our respective locker rooms, we felt more “prepared” to relax.

Not just because we were at a spa where we didn’t have to beg our kids to please stop punching each other at Bronx Costco or please eat one more bite of food made directly by God before you can get you some Cheetos or please don’t touch brother’s nipple or Mommy’s Giovanna.

Lately, I’ve completely forgotten HOW to rest. I mostly blame the smartphone culture that I am part of, where info is always available at my fingertips. I do weird things to opt out but they aren’t long-lasting or even successful. It’s cool how Kevin doesn’t feel the same compulsion to check his phone.

Even when not working or with the kids, my mind is always running. Always one more thing to follow-up on.

Did I RSVP by the deadline (I don’t want to get scolded)?

Why must I triple-check my doc appointments since the staff keep switching things around on me?

When is the next Free Museum Day at ____________?

Is my mom working today or can she see the boys on Skype as they eat?

What are some family goals for the next month?

What else can we plan if all our summer Saturdays are accounted for?

Should I watch the Sandra Bland video though I fear I may not be able to cope?

Why do I have a vitamin D deficiency even during the summer?

Why does my left arm still tingle?

The Koreanness of our spa was what ended up easing us into relaxation mode.  Strangely, it felt like coming home though I was raised in Los Angeles and Kevin, various parts of the States, before ending up in the White town of Old Saybrook, CT.

I loved how it was homey, not fancy. It just felt like I was hanging out at a family friend’s house.

We swelled up with so much Korea Love that I had to keep Kevin from belting out “Dong Hae Mul Gwa” on his way to check out the Korean menu. He was practically skipping.

Oh how we needed this and oh how we had missed the Korean dramas they were playing on the walls. Many of our wintry, childless Saturdays were devoted to watching these sappy sagas, which we would actually rent from the video store(!) in Ktown Manhattan. The kitchen served Korean comfort food like ddukbokghee and baked eggs. Ajummas and ahjushees were just sprawled out in various stages of rest in the Jewelry Room or Salt Room or on the overstuffed leather couches.

Even when some ajummas got too loud, I had grace on them because they were my people.  I moved to another room but I wasn’t as annoyed.

I had overpacked by bringing four books when we only had four hours ‘til dinner but at least I had options.

The public bath portion upped the relaxation quotient even more. Of course public bath turned out to be epiphany time for me: I saw how I am truly middle-aged now, sandwiched between the flat-stomached, long-haired 20-something gals and the pahmah’d (permed), less firm 60-something grammas. Even this (Korean) nudity comforted me.  It was like looking at my body from years ago when I dared to think I was fat, to getting a sneak peak to Future Me.

The older ladies who did the body scrubs for spa patrons who paid for that additional service were donning their black bra and black panties, their daily uniform for climbing onto women’s backs to scrub away dead skin cells.

In between patrons, they would rest right aside the shower area, eating steamed corn and watching Korean TV. I admired them. Everyone talks about doing what you love. Find that passion, that calling. Find what gives you life. Don’t settle. I doubt that these older women dreamed about scrubbing down nekked women all day long but they were making the most of it and working hard. Respect.

And finally, what is a Korean spa experience without one of your fears coming true? I had told Kevin that I bet I would run into someone I knew while nekked. Don’t get it twisted – I love being nekked around old-time friends and strangers but not in front of familiar faces/acquaintances at small-talk level.

Immediately after I hoisted my more relaxed nekked body into the hot tub, a young girl and her gramma entered my tub. The little girl looked so familiar but I couldn’t place her. Then her FULLY CLOTHED mama ran in after her, demanding that she tie her hair before entering the tub. WHERE DO I KNOW THEM FROM!? I mentally scanned all the kiddie places I have frequented over the past five years and a-ha – I made a match.

They used to attend the same music class as one of the boys. We used to sit around in a circle, clothed, watching a White man sing and play his guitar for our kids while we accompanied him on our maracas, but there I was, buck nekked with my stomach rolls on display while this lady was covered up in her spa uniform.

Oh well, I wasn’t tripping. I just didn’t dole out my usual greetings because there is a time and place for that, and buck nekked at the Korean spa wasn’t it.

I was just relieved that there weren’t a series of bubbles floating up from under me in the still pool.

Relaxed Koreans eating American dinner after the spa

Relaxed Koreans eating American dinner after the spa

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