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

Whoooosh!

I went out on a rare date night on Saturday. Not with the husband but with a girlfriend. To catch up, blow off some steam, and unwind. It’s crucial to unload onto a few good girlfriends so that the husband isn’t left alone to decipher all that femaleness.

We went out late night after the kiddos were put to bed. Well, hers, at least. Mine were probably negotiating one more story or one more drink.

It had been raining 100% of that day continuing into the night. We linked arms under my bigger umbrella and speed-walked into the theater after coming up on some decent parking. We laughed about my coat’s secret compartment. Perfectly sized to sneak in my contraband Twizzlers purchased from Target earlier that day while Christmas decoration shopping with the family.

As soon as Wendy Williams described this movie as a modern day version of Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard,” I was feeling it hward. Kevin, on the other hand, was relieved that I was able to go watch it with a girlfriend, sparing him from having to go with me one day if we were to get blessed with childcare again.

I was a bit nervous about our movie selection when I saw the kiosk at the theater spelling the title, “Beyond the Lites.” Thankfully, it turned out to be just the theater’s spelling, not the movie’s. I mean, it sure wasn’t going to win any Academy Awards but it was still enjoyable and just what we needed for a night out as two gals, as free as the wind for the next couple hours. A much needed break from running checklists, responsibilities and hyper-vigilance that can suck the marrow out of me at times.

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My friend drove me home after the movie. It was still raining steadily as she hooked us up with seat-warming amenities in her car.

It was around midnight and it felt so nice to be out. We were talking about different scenes from the movie when I shared a memory that the movie had triggered, of me and my high school sweetheart spending a day at the beach. Sounds like such a generic memory but while I was recalling it aloud to my friend who I’d only met after I had become a mama here in NYC, the memory became so vivid.

The intense emotions from that senior year in high school when I suffered from depression, what I was wearing – a faded button down GAP denim sleeveless over plain white Esprit t-shirt, and light brown Esprit shorts, squinting at the sun, redoing my ponytail in the ocean breeze, the seashells, how young (and thin) I was, how kind my boyfriend was, the sea air…

Suddenly, to keep from getting lost in my own memory and to keep our conversation flowing before I had to get abruptly dropped off, I forced myself back to the present by asking, “So, whaddid you think of parent-teacher conferences last week?”

That is when I experienced the WHO-OO-OOSH(!) of time travel. I truly felt like I had been yanked back into 2014 from two decades ago. Almost like a brain freeze sensation. Very Marty McFly.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I was 16 in my hometown of Los Angeles, mentally preparing to go off to college a moment ago and now I’m back in the passenger seat of a girlfriend’s car, a friend so grown that she has two kids and attends parent-teacher conferences!? THAT’S BECAUSE *I* am adult enough to attend parent-teacher conferences myself!? As a PARENT, not as a student!

Whoa, there, what, *I(!)* am a mama to two active boys who have names that we daydreamed about for approximately 39 weeks and why is it so cold? Oh yeah, because I’ve been living in NYC for nearly a decade! And I also have the babies’ daddy waiting for me at home, a husband who wears adult clothes like slacks and a Brooks Brothers work shirt everyday as he hoists his weary body onto the subway to get to his lawyer gig in Manhattan.

WHOOOSH!

The only other time I felt a similar sensation was when I woke up in the middle of the night to pee when we lived in Astoria (NYC). I was enjoying such a deep, yummy sleep that it took me a moment to get my bearings as I went to the bathroom. What day is it tomorrow? Weekday? So I have to catch the subway by what time again to avoid the crowds? Where am I? WAIT, WHAT!? Why do I have a huge belly? Holy…I am 34 years old and knocked up!? Happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life (see belly). I was just dreaming that I had to take my college finals again because I was one unit shy of graduating.

What a wild ride, these mind-freeze, time travel moments.

Life is wild. What a trip. Moves so damn fast. Not DURING the difficult moments of course, just after the fact.

I can hardly believe I am about to spend Micah’s FIFTH and Ellis’ THIRD Christmas with them. And that I’m learning how to create my own family holiday traditions. I mean, I even got us an Advent calendar, a Christmas wreath, and another live tree. Who am I!?

And now, once again, here we are, weeks away from a brand new year. 2015. Blank slate.

I hope I am fortunate enough to experience another WHOOSH as I unload my luscious-cheeked grandkids from their carseats to go swimming in the ocean with grandma, squinting in the sun.