all the naked ladies

As many of you loyal so-and-sos are already aware, I live in a land-locked Midwestern city characterized by frigid winters, infernal summers, and a transcendent amount of big-box retail. To add insult to injury, my town is populated primarily by:

  • Skunks;
  • Stinkbugs;
  • Dudebros;
  • Basic bitches;
  • Mediocre indie rock musicians; and
  • Fanatical weirdos with a primal and disturbing devotion to college football.

Still, in spite of all its flaws, I do love my city. It’s affordable. It’s easy to get around. Every place I could ever possibly want to shop lies within a 5-mile radius of my house. There’s culture if you know where to look for it. The schools are good. The people are nice. I have loads of friends and family nearby.

I’m happy here.

Nevertheless, there are times when my family and I need a break from this wasteland of fast food, strip malls, and aluminum siding. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that of the three of us, my husband feels the urge to get away most strongly. After living half of his life near the ocean, every day he spends away from the sea kills off a small part of him and his hot, tight body-boarding butt cheeks.

My husband his hot, tight bodyboarding butt cheeks.
My husband and his hot, tight body-boarding butt cheeks.

So we save our pennies, and journey to the West Coast whenever we can.

We spend the majority of our vacation time in San Francisco, as that’s the city my sister Cheeks calls home. It works out well. The menfolk spend their time doing outdoorsy stuff, and the womenfolk spend their time crabbing about having to do outdoorsy stuff.

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My sister’s boobs taking a nap in Dolores Park.

As many of you know, San Francisco is a very unique and diverse place, and in many ways it is the antithesis of where I live. Because of this, whenever my family and I go there, we try and do things that we can’t do at home. We visit Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park, Sausalito and Angel Island, Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District.

And of course, the naked bathhouses.

****record screeches***

Let me explain.

A few years back, when my son was four and AWFUL, my family was planning a trip to San Francisco when Cheeks assessed—quite correctly—that I needed some girl time.

“I’d like to take you to a spa,” she said.

“Omg. That sounds awesome,” I replied.

“I need to warn you. It’s a … different kind of spa.”

“What do you mean?” I asked warily.

“Well,” said Cheeks. “I haven’t been there yet, so I don’t know the exact details. But it’s a Japanese bathhouse. And you have to be naked.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahaha” I laughed.

But she wasn’t kidding.

Cheeks sent me a link so that I could read about the place. We looked over the web site together, spending about .000001 seconds reading about the spa’s actual services, and close to three hours laughing our way through the image gallery, which included pictures of:

“So you just sit in these baths, naked, in front of God and everybody?” I asked Cheeks.

“I guess,” she said. “There’s a whole bathing ritual you’re supposed to follow. I thought it could be fun.”

“Will there be dudes there?”

“No. The men go on different days than the women.”

“Huh,” I remarked.

“So what do you say?” asked my sister. “Do you want to try it?”

I hesitated for a second. Then I realized I was 37 years old and didn’t really give a fuck. “Sure.”

My family landed in San Francisco a week or so later. My sister picked me up at the hotel and took me straight to the spa, which meant I was filthy with travel grime, and badly in need of a shower. (After all, it’s only polite to rinse off before getting into a public bath with a bunch of naked weirdos.)

Fortunately, shower stalls were available at the bathhouse, so I stripped down and got into one. In the meantime, my sister also stripped down, parked herself on a nearby wooden bench, and began rinsing off with a pull-out faucet. The scene looked something like this:

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Guys. Stop. I know my art skills are amazing, but you’re just embarrassing yourselves with the constant bouquets and the fan letters and the endless parade of compliments. Seriously. Have some dignity.

Now at this point I feel I should mention that one of the rules of the communal baths is that everyone bathing must be as quiet as possible. Silence is preferred, but you can whisper to someone if absolutely necessary, as long as you do so at the following volume:

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10 is normal conversation. 0 is a piece of dandruff landing on a t-shirt.

There is even a mechanism for regulating the noise level in the communal baths—a small gong that bathers can ring to alert rude assholes that they are being too loud.

Yes, you heard me right.

A GONG.

To hit with a mallet.

To keep the room quiet.

I’ll just let that sink in for a second.

Okay, back to the story. My sister and I were completely naked, in front of a bunch of completely naked strangers, and we hadn’t seen each other in a really long time. So naturally we were a little bit giggly and slap-happy. Don’t get me wrong—we were whispering—but apparently we were doing so at a volume above the acceptable level of “a single Kleenex landing on a marshmallow.”

We had barely been in the spa for 5 minutes when:

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Yup.

At which point we were immediately confronted by the angriest naked lady in the history of angry naked ladies.

“EXCUSE ME,” she hissed, at a volume MUCH louder than the acceptable level of a single air molecule drifting over a cotton ball, “YOU TWO ARE BEING EXTREMELY LOUD. YOU ARE DISTURBING THE ENTIRE GROUP. I RANG THE GONG AND YOU COMPLETELY IGNORED IT. YOU NEED TO BE MORE CONSIDERATE. I HAVE A CONDITION WHERE EVERY SOUND I HEAR IS INCREDIBLY LOUD.”

Managing not to say “do you also have a condition where every sound you MAKE is incredibly loud?”, my sister and I quickly apologized to the insane naked woman who was trying to achieve peace and serenity by bashing on a gong and yelling at strangers.

Ah. Tranquility.

We didn’t say anything to each other from that point forward. We didn’t want any more encounters with hostile ladies of the naked variety. In cowering silence and abject nudity, we began the following bathhouse ritual:

  • The steam room (120 degrees): This was nothing special. It was just a run-of-the-mill steam room—hot and humid and sweaty and boring. However, my sister did have a funny experience while in there, which she texted me later:

cheeksconvo2gif

  • The dry sauna (140 degrees): This was lovely for about 15 seconds. Then I became a desiccated mummy that had to gulp down 900 glasses of cucumber water just to stay alive.
  • The cold pool (55 degrees): I’ve been swimming off the coast of Maine in 55-degree water, so I thought I had this. But I was wrong. So, so wrong. The minute I submerged my nether parts, my naked labia cracked into a million tiny pieces, and with no bathing suit and accompanying mesh gusset to contain them, they fell off, floated away, and were never heard from again.
  • The hot pool (104 degrees): This was essentially a heated swimming pool, which after the cold bath, was just fine by me. Cheeks and I hung out here for some time, despite the elderly Asian lady who kept following us around the pool and STANDING REALLY UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE TO US. Still, incredibly old naked women with no concept of personal space aside, the hot pool was by far the best part of the ritual.

While we were sitting in the hot baths, Cheeks and I took notice of a woman walking slowly back and forth between the steam room and the dry sauna. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like a slow naked tennis ball.

We watched her FOREVER. She was completely fascinating. She was just doing what she was doing, being naked, giving no fucks, pacing slowly between two rooms, but never actually going INTO either one of them.

Then, suddenly, she had a turban.

Cheeks and I blinked. And looked at each other. And looked back at the turban. Where did it come from? When did she have time to put it on? Were the spa’s towels made of magic? Could they simply be willed into turban form? Or was the whole thing like a video game Easter egg, where if you walked back and forth over a specific area a certain number of times, you would unlock a turban?

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Cheeks’ rendition of the naked woman and her magic turban, as drawn on my son’s travel-sized magnetic Diego board. I think she’s saying: “Sup.”

After a while, it was time for Cheeks and I to go home. And the minute we set foot outside of the spa and were finally at liberty to laugh our asses off without being gonged into oblivion, that is exactly what we did. It had been such a weird experience that we couldn’t help it. But after a lengthy assessment, we both agreed that we had enjoyed ourselves.

10/10. A++++. Would bathe naked in front of people again.

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61 Replies to “all the naked ladies”

    1. Seriously, it was both awkward and awesome at the same time. There were things I really liked about it and things that were not so awesome, but maybe that was just because I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. I would totally do it again.

  1. I went to a Korean day spa – aka Naked Lady Spa – for my birthday around age 35. I happened to be standing there ass naked when a tour came through. Since I’m incredibly near-sighted and didn’t have my glasses on, I pretended that they couldn’t see me since I couldn’t see them.

  2. Sarah,
    I laughed my head off, thanks. If I’d been with you, I would have said,”do you also have a condition where every sound you MAKE is incredibly loud?” because I haven’t a filter! LOL! And when you got in the cold pool, I nearly busted a gut laughing. You and Cheeks are quite a pair and have way more restraint than me. Once I get the giggles, I’m done for. I would’ve been gonged right out of there.
    Fun post, kiddo! xoxo

  3. Thank you! I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. I think I might have burst a blood vessel in my eye by trying to be quiet and laugh silently while baby sleeps peacefully across the room. She wouldn’t take kindly to being disturbed. Talk about GONG…lol

  4. Snicker! I love the way you tell this!!! Because…GONG. I went to a Korean bath house (totally different. Everyone was naked, and NO GONG, so suck it, Sarah!) Once you get over how creepy they are, they really are awesome. My place had all of these sauna rooms of different flavors (pronounced flay-vahs) and by far the best was one made of these tiny red clay balls that were super hot. You would roll around in them, and if you were super immature (like my friend and I) would whisper-giggle about covering yourself in hot balls. Thank GOD there was no GONG in that room, ‘case we would have invoked its wrath, like stat.

  5. I am not sure I could keep quiet that long and pretty sure the gong would go off for me more times then not, but still definitely intrigued my curiosity!

  6. Loved this! So funny!
    And clearly you and your sister are brilliant, talented artists!
    You should sell your naked lady renditions, (Stick Figures by Sarah — and Cheeks’ Diego Board Doodles), for millions of dollars — then you buy your own spa filled with naked ladies who can talk as loud as they want to!

  7. Oh, your poor labia. Seriously, though, after the gong started going off, I would have had uncontrollable giggle fits and they’d have likely kicked me out in all my naked labia-less glory.

  8. I’ve always kind of wanted to go to a nude beach, just for the thrill of walking around in the open, under the sun, whilst being bare ass naked. This sounds kind of like that, but with other people’s sweat and body parts getting all up on you.

  9. I’ve been to the Korean spa here in Seattle and I love it. Was totally weirded out by the naked thing the first time. But after 5 minutes it became evident that every body type known to womankind was strutting her stuff. My confidence soared. Now every time I want to feel better about myself, I just head on over to the naked spa. For the record, our octave levels are not monitored.

    1. Yeah, it was nice that everyone there was just a regular woman, not giving a fuck. If older people with big ol’ fertility mounds and hair sprouting aplenty can get naked and not care, I could do it too. I got comfortable surprisingly quickly. Even with my sister there naked, which I thought would be weird, but it wasn’t too bad.

  10. Your sense of humor and story telling are amazing. I’m so glad I found your blog!

    Some things I read and think, “that was great,” and move on. But your writing inspires me… I’d sit here and read your blog all day, except my kids want me to take care of them and stuff.

    Lastly, sorry about your labia. RIP.

  11. I started reading this post when I was at a really long red light and I started laughing my ass off. Then the light turned green and I was like “noooooo!”. Once I pulled into the parking lot at work, I had to sit there and finish the post. Back in November I wrote about my own experience of getting naked at the bathhouse (in Russia). It’s now one of my top posts. But I’m pretty sure it’s only because people are always looking for porn with the key words “naked Russian girls”. Yay. Here’s the link, in case you’re interested:

    http://www.endearinglywacko.com/blog/getting-naked-at-the-russian-bathhouse

    1. I’m so glad you found me! I’m jealous that you got to go to a banya, I’ve never been. I’m going to check out your post!

      P.S. I anticipate getting a lot of freaks with the title of this post being “all the naked ladies” as well. Thanks for reading!

  12. Rowr! If naked cucumber man was there on ladies day — perhaps to do a little massaging or fetch and carry cucumber water and towels, I would totally attend! Maybe he was there, lurking in the shadows! Maybe that’s where pacing lady got her turban!

    1. If I had to guess, naked cucumber man is probably not interested in the naked ladies. But we could still look!

      And bahahaha at him “lurking in the shadows” and handing out turbans.

      Hey, just so you know, I’ve been keeping up with your blog. I might not always comment but I do always click through and read. 🙂

  13. I have been to a few Korean bath houses in Korea, and they are fairly noisy. No gongs for sure! And, the best part is the scrub down you can get after the baths. They use a rough cloth to exfoliate very thoroughly. If there was anything left of your labia after the cold bath, the body scrub would remove it. Your dead skin comes off in big rolls. Then they take buckets of water and dump it on you to wash away the yucky, dead skin. Then they massage oil all over you and give you a noisy hot towel massage, wash your hair, and if you’re lucky, you get a little milk facial. lol I loved it.

    1. I did a body scrub at this place but it wasn’t all that big of a deal. I could have done it myself. The people from the Korean spas seem to have liked their scrubs much more.

  14. So I would this but first I would brush up on the sign language my fried and i learned in grade school so the teacher wouldn’t catch us talking.

  15. While I was in the military, we had a port call in turkey. They also had a spa experience, and it was coed. They had everything you described, plus a giant marble room with always running water and big men with giant soap filled loofahs to scrub you down, and a massage right before you get dressed and leave. I too would do it again, but probably not the coed part at this point in my (post childbirth) life. :). Great story!

  16. This was awesome. Totally worth the wait since my work computer blocked it all week. Nudity! OMG. I’m a never nude like whatshisname on Arrested Development and I don’t really do spas. Even having the girl at the hair salon massage my ears when she shampoos my hair is too much physicality for me. But I did once go to a spa in Italy which had all the different sauna rooms and a mud room, where we almost lost a friend when he closed his eyes, and we all had to wear hairnets. The most surreal thing was that the decor hadn’t been updated in a while–either that or this area of Italy hadn’t—and the place looked like a mix between Logan’s Run and Clockwork Orange. It was wonderfully strange. Not close to naked crazy gong lady though!

  17. Oh my goodness, my kegels failed me again…I think I weed a little. An fantabulous post for me to be introduced to your blog. Imagine having the *cough balls to tear your guys a new one while standing completely in the nud! Some people were born desperate to bang the gong.

  18. *snorks so hard chocolate milk comes out of her nose*

    Wait…I didn’t even HAVE chocolate milk!!!

    This is so, SO so funny. I loved it. Love, love, LOVED it. Even though I pictured you naked the whole time. And your sister. And the turban lady. And the angry one.

    Was that your point?

    *still giggling*

    *wipes up chocolate milk snurk*

    I think my favourite lines were about cowering silence and abject nudity….or the slow, naked tennis ball. I can’t decide. I’ll take both.

    1. That woman with the turban was amazing. She was simply amazing. I can not stress how completely gobsmacked we were when that turban appeared. It was like she’d performed a miracle. She should be canonized, now that I think about it.

  19. In went to the same location last week and had no idea what I was walking into! I just landed from Boston and needed a long spa day before I made a three hour trip home from SF. I had the same experience as you with the baths and thought hey, when in Rome! I ordered a spa package but again I did not know what I was ordering. I had an amazing facial then after an older Japanese woman came and took me to another room. This room had wooden floors with a wooden stool in the middle and a small bath in the corner. She had me undress and sit on the stool. She proceeded to wash me down! Then she threw hot water on me rinsing me off. By this time I was totally into this traditional way. I had a 20 min soak in a tea bath then an amazing massage. This whole experience was different but definitely worth it! I came back home disappointed that I now have to give myself a bath!

  20. I actually went to the website and saw the pictures you wrote about. Oh this article made me laugh so hard. I too loved the comment about the cold pool because living in Canada our lakes are pretty darn cold so if your nether regions are exposed or vulnerable it literally feels like they disappear in the water. Thanks for the laughs I absolutely love the blog.

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