I grew up in the Age of Prudery, which accounts for not having spent many hours of my life running around naked in spas. But that changed Saturday. I can think of two exceptions before my recent experience. My husband and I once had a mud bath in a Calistoga, CA, spa and also went for a bath and wrap in a mineral springs and spa in New Mexico. The latter had separate men’s and women’s sections and catered to those who suffered from arthritis. We were the youngest ones in the place and the center of attention. The elderly ladies kept barging into my screened bathing area and urging me to drink the arsenic water, for which the resort was famous. The wrap consisted of turning me into a mummy with towels and army blankets. The spa world looks a lot different these days.
Of course just about everything has changed since then, including me, which is why I agreed to a friend’s suggestion that she, another friend and I try out a full-service women’s spa.
We weren’t the only women who chose Saturday for a spa day. We and dozens of others went for the scrub and moisturizing package, which included a chance to try saunas, pools, moist- and dry-heat rooms (150 degrees) and a room to chill in (60 degrees with the wind blowing, posters of penguins and icebergs, and cool rocks to rest your feet on), while wearing light robes.
I found all these spaces quiet and relaxing. The excitement didn’t come until the scrub began. Picture two lines of padded tables — at least ten in each line — all covered in plastic atop which lay dripping, naked bodies that had just come from a “no swimsuits allowed” soaking pool. Each of us experienced about forty minutes of scouring by young women wielding exfoliation gloves. I’m going to be a lot lighter when I leave here, I thought, because I’ll have much less skin.
To distract myself from the sensation of being sandpapered, I concentrated on the techniques and rhythms of my scourer. I believe that if every technician had begun scrubbing at the same moment, someone standing on the sidelines would have observed something akin to performance art, perfectly synchronized arms and legs moving in the same direction at the same time. It came down to a scripted, well-rehearsed performance. Fast and efficient. From time to time the technicians would fling two pans of water over us, which explains why their uniforms consisted of bathing suits or shorts.
By the time my technician had exposed the second layer of skin she was ready to moisturize. Ever had warm olive oil poured over your entire body? It’s a strange sensation. I feared I would slide off the table. Next step involved rubbing honey and then cucumbers into my face. The treatment ended with the removal of the olive oil and passing a few minutes in the sauna to dry off.
So this is what a nudist colony is like but without the men, I thought, as I dressed. Not really a problem for me, since I’m blind without my glasses. One of my friends, who wore her contact lenses throughout said it had been an “eye-opening day on so many levels.”